• Dolor, Nilda and PPA

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    Last month, I wrote about Manang Dolor, the Sinulog dancer at the Basilica del Sto. Niño in Cebu City who lived in a kariton, with a dog as her only family. The tides of life brought her deeper to poverty when her ‘home’ was dismantled by the city engineering personnel, and her dog, executed by the city veterinarian.

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    Dolor never had the chance to improve her situation. She died alone, her body found soaked in an abandoned building just beside the city hall.

    Moved by her goodness when she was alive, I asked one of my correspondents to locate her family but to no avail. When I came back to Cebu, another Sinulog dancer told me that Dolor’s body was taken to the San Fernando Funeral Homes.

    With that little information, I visited every branch of the funeral homes mentioned by the Sinulog dancer hoping to locate Dolor.

    I found a lone coffin in the Tres De Abril branch. It contained Dolor’s body. Unlike other wakes where Mass cards and bouquets of flowers abounded, Dolor’s didn’t have any. Her coffin was the cheapest. A single candle was the only light in the room.

    An old lady approached me while I was saying a short prayer for my friend. She walked with crutches made of recycled wood tied tightly to carry the old lady. The woman, who later introduced herself as Nilda, told me Dolor was a good friend. She was also her neighbor in the abandoned building where they took shelter for almost 5 years.

    Manang Nilda told me Dolor’s family name was Dela Cerna and that she came to Cebu from Leyte decades ago.

    Intrigued, I started asking about Manang Nilda’s condition. I learned that she is 69 years old and like Dolor, she used to dance Sinulog for believers. Manang Nilda also told me how she became crippled— she accidentally fell in an open manhole in the nearby pier.

    In the course of our conversation, I heard another story of Dolor’s goodness— Dolor used to bring her food when she could not sell candles. I was told Dolor made her improvised crutches, too. And now that Dolor is gone, Manang Nilda has to go back to selling candles but she needs real crutches so she can easily walk around and compete with other candle vendors, about a hundred of them.

    Hearing Manang Nilda’s story, I began questioning the agency tasked to maintain the pier. Why can’t the agency maintain safety within the port area?

    PPA was created under the PD 505 which was subsequently amended by PD 857 in December 1975. Their main mandate is to plan, develop, finance, operate and keep maintenance of the port. There are 591 national and municipal ports and 200 private ports scattered all over the country. The question is, are these ports well-maintained? Or just like where Manang Nilda fell?

    I have only visited a few ports in the country. I admit I have seen significant improvements in those I have seen several times. But how come there are open manholes left? It is likewise undeniable that there remain potholes in most port vicinities.

    Is it the lack of budget for cement overlay? That’s highly improbable. The PPA boasts of a 15 percent hike in the net income despite the issue of port congestion which last year.

    In fact, based on the agency’s website, the PPA’s net income after taxes reached P4.26 billion in 2014 from P3.70 billion in 2013. Port revenues posted a 25 percent hike from P9.99 billion in 2013 to P12.46 billion in 2014.

    So, why can’t PPA maintain safety within its compounds?

    Anyway, I think it is time we also look into the moneymaking activities of some PPA officials.

    There are more than 200 private ports in the country. To operate a private port, one needs a permit to operate from the PPA. A permit is valid for a year and is renewable annually. This, ports operators say, is where ‘real transactions’ happen.

    Part of PPA’s function is environment protection. This aspect is supposed to be considered in the grant of permit to operate and in the renewal of permits.

    But we have read about the permit to operate given to a mining company operating in Bolitoc, Sta. Cruz, Zambales, where a huge portion of the mountain was levelled down and made to appear a foreshore, to give way to the DMCI port. Despite its failure to comply with the requirements, DMCI was given a permit to operate. Its permit is likewise regularly renewed despite pending cases in court.

    Why? Maybe we can ask some people at the PPA. Sa magkanong dahilan?

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    * Catch me live on weekdays at DZRH 6:00-7:30 p.m. or you can reach me at npadilla79@gmail.com

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