Urban ‘praning’ | Inquirer Business

Urban ‘praning’

/ 11:59 PM November 25, 2015

It has just all added up.

First, there was a study done by multinational auditing firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) on the role of urban centers in member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec).


PwC, reputed to be the world’s largest professional services firm, operates in 157 countries.

The study could very well be indisputable. It showed that our two largest metropolitan areas, Metro Manila and Metro Cebu, were somewhere at the bottom of the PwC ranking of Apec urban areas.


It weighed such things as ease in movement of people (i.e. mass transit and airport), how connected they could be to each other and to the world (i.e. the Internet and mobile phone service), how the government took care of their health and welfare (i.e. number of hospitals and doctors), and the overall order of the environment.

Metro Manila and Metro Cebu scored badly in all criteria.

In other words, the “quality of life” in the biggest urban centers in the Philippines was nothing the Aquino (Part II) administration should crow about.

Remember, too, that these areas are the most important business hubs in the country. Metro Manila alone accounted for 37 percent of the total gross domestic product in 2014.

The PwC study simply confirmed the main beef of the business community—the weak infrastructure in the country. Still, the Aquino (Part II) administration insisted that the country already “overflowed” with infrastructure.

Based on news reports, the private sector representative in the National Competitiveness Council, Guillermo Luz, did not contest the findings of PwC. He just blamed the mayors for the messed up Metro Manila.

The mayors nevertheless had no role whatsoever in planning the airports or the rail transit systems. They also don’t have the answers to the high cost of food and electricity here, or perhaps even the pathetic broadband signals.


Admittedly, the guys down here in my barangay would readily blame the mayors for the unruly street parking, which they allowed even in congested streets.

To think, Metro Manila LGUs have been earning huge amounts of money from the hourly street parking charges for more than 40 years now, collected by uniformed LGU personnel at that, without any accounting or auditing.

Nobody could really trace how the mayors used the billions of pesos collected in street parking.

Anyway, when our leader Benigno Simeon, aka BS, spoke before the Apec CEOs, he also blamed the cute administration of Gloriaetta, forgetting that he has been in office for more than five years, without any major infrastructure project to show to them.

In another Apec function, our leader, BS, changed his mind and blamed the judiciary for the “delays” in infrastructure projects under his administration. He can only be vague, saying Apec “facilities” could not be finished on time.

Just exactly what Apec “facilities” those were was the biggest mystery to the business community. Perhaps it’s the “airport skyway,” seen to connect Naia to the Pagcor gambling never-never land in the reclaimed area. It’s hard to say!

The airport skyway, a project of the San Miguel group, was the brainchild of Pagcor during the cute administration of GMA. But the delay in its construction had nothing to do with the judiciary.

From what I gathered, the San Miguel group and its contractor, DMCI, were trying to finish the airport skyway project in time for the Apec summit, perhaps even just for show.

But then, even if it was completed before the Apec summit, the project could not have solved the traffic snarl in the busiest parts of Metro Manila that was caused by poor planning for the summit.

I heard the delay in the airport skyway had something to do with “right of way” issues. The Aquino (Part II) administration allegedly forced DMCI to go ahead with the project with the assurance that the “right of way” was forthcoming.

Another agency—the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA)—would not give the “right of way” for some parts of the plan. The design, approved by the Department of Public Works and Highways, would affect the LRTA property in Pasay City.

Back to the PwC study. While it put the Philippines in a bad light in this modern field called “urban planning,” our leader BS tried to redeem his administration with statistics.

In one of his speeches, he noted the infrastructure budget of the government in 2010, or at the start of the Aquino (Part II) administration, was only 1 percent of GDP, meaning, it was less than P100 billion a year.

According to our leader, BS, after his five years in office, the infrastructure budget increased to more than 4 percent of GDP in 2015, or some P500 billion a year.

He forgot to say the big jump also meant the government budget doubled from P1.5 trillion in 2010 to some P3 trillion in 2016.

Sure, the guys down here in my barangay could only believe our leader BS when he said he bombarded the yearly budget with allocations for infrastructure projects. That is also probably the reason why the administration still wanted to kill us with taxes after taxes.

But the statistics cited could only anger the people of Metro Manila. As it turned out, the Aquino (Part II) administration had the money for those infrastructure projects. Why could we not see any of them then?

The quality of life in Metro Manila, as confirmed by the PwC study, only got worse under this administration. Proof of this is the existing Metro Rail Transit (MRT) system.

Like it or not, any administration could not afford to ignore the country’s constant, almost never-ending need for infrastructure upgrade, being the lifeblood of commerce and industry.

Metro Manila accounted for almost 40 percent of the GDP. This meant 40 percent of the economic activities in the country would suffer from the poor broadband signal, for instance, which was also adjudged the weakest in the region.

Yet the BPO sector, which relies on efficient broadband service, managed to post spectacular growth in the past five years of this neglectful administration.

The questions remained: Would the government take the PwS study seriously? Would it do something about the quality of life of its citizens, particularly in big urban areas?

We could only hope. It has already been predicted that the population in urban areas would only get bigger in the coming years.

In 1950, for instance, only 30 percent of the world population lived in cities. This went up to more than 50 percent last year. About 30 years from today, it is seen to hit 70 percent.

And our government would not even care to formulate a master plan to prepare our urban areas for such an eventuality, particularly this escapist administration that is still trying to fool us into believing that our country was already overflowing with infrastructure.

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TAGS: Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, Business, economy, News, Pricewaterhouse Coopers
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