We hope and pray for peaceful elections on May 9. When you are about to vote, remember this: you are voting for a candidate who you think will care the most for the people you love. A leader is not simply a personality. He or she will become very much a part of your family for the next six years. His decisions will affect the prices of food on your table, your experience when you commute going to work, and for the safety of your daughter and your wife, most especially at night. The candidate we will vote for could be the one in charge of protecting your family’s future. We need a leader who has a vision and a strong political will to initiate good planning, good architecture, and good governance, and one who will fight criminality, corruption, and climate change.
Running a country is not easy, that is a given. Fortunately, we have a country much blessed with abundant resources that whoever gets elected will not really be starting from scratch. In my previous articles, I have always emphasized the many advantages of the Philippines, from having one of the longest coastlines to its potential in human resources. Our workforce ushered the Philippines into being the most sought after location for the BPO sector. We also have many skilled professionals who are preferred by international employers and even royalty.
In my previous articles, I have also emphasized on the need to prioritize addressing corruption, criminality, and climate change. These are issues that affect everyone, including us professionals in the built environment. Corruption and criminality affect the ease of doing business or the soft infrastructure. We lose a lot of business as investors are turned off by the bureaucratic red tape, among others. Corruption could also affect the quality of buildings and structures being built because costs need to be offset some other way, like using cheap construction materials or foregoing necessary quality checks. For a country at the receiving end of the effects of climate change, this is very detrimental because we need buildings and structures that can withstand flooding, storm surges, and earthquakes, among others. Corruption, criminality, and climate change are threats to the great potential of our country to move from the third to the first world.
Progressive cities and countries have responded to these issues with more pragmatic or progressive laws, codes, restrictions, policies, plans, programs, and practices since the energy crisis of the mid-1970s ended. They are continuously adopting lessons learned from the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 of 2001. Yet our cities in the Philippines are still using outdated or obsolete laws, codes, restrictions, and practices in planning, zoning, building and urban development from almost 500 years ago (“Intramuros-Extramuros”), the Laws of the Indies to post-World War II, which have led to the fragmenting of our cities and disconnecting our communities from each other.
Leaders should have the vision to look beyond their terms. They should prepare for the long-term, especially on issues that will more likely influence the way we live in the next 20 years: growing disparities of wealth, solid waste management as well as visual pollution, air pollution, water crisis, energy crisis, smart growth, faster internet and better telecommunications technology, more households with single parents, expanded highway system to serve the “edge cities,” mixed-income and multi-family housing, terrorism and security, traffic and transportation, and urban renewal, among others.
Leaders must be the exemplars, not the exempted. To be a good leader, you must first be a good follower. Same goes for government buildings. These structures should not violate any restrictions and must be resilient to disasters. Leaders should also have the skills and the heart to implement social justice, and not selective justice. Too much bad politics often leads to analysis-paralysis toward improvements for agriculture, police and the armed forces, education, environment, health care, and infrastructure, among other national issues and concerns.
On May 9, we will have an opportunity to elect leaders who will lead us well into the 21st century. The world is looking at us, not anymore as the sick man of Asia, but as an emerging top economy. It has been predicted that the Philippines could be in the top 20 economies of the world by 2025. The Philippines used to be number two in Asia, second only to Japan, from the early 1930s to mid-1970s. Asian countries voted Manila as having the highest development potential then as the financial center of Asia. They voted Manila to be the headquarters of the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Our vote today will be critical for the future of our country. We can be a great nation again, free from corruption and criminality, and resilient to climate change.