For the past decades, there is no institutional memory of previous benefits and recommendations to address urban ills, issues and challenges like rapid growth and urbanization, transport and traffic, infrastructure to address flooding, informal settlers, and access to major activity centers like business districts, among others. Government has been plagued by analysis-paralysis, most especially in terms of completing major infrastructure projects and implementing urban and regional land and water use zoning, such as the beleaguered 1976-1977 World Bank-funded METROPLAN.
After meeting several Cabinet Secretaries and a number of senators, I began to have high hopes for this government. They have been open and welcoming to unsolicited advice and recommendations. Completion and implementation of major infrastructure projects will be faster. Many in the government, I believe, have the skills, the passion, the heart and the courage to initiate the good change we need. The next five years may be our last opportunity for genuine reform and change.
The most important accomplishment in numerous government offices in the first 100 days I believe is the change in mindset. When we voted in the last election, we demanded a government with visionary leadership, strong political will, good planning, good design, and good governance—elements of progressive and successful countries, as I have observed in thousands of cities in more than 60 countries I have visited.
100 days: A change in mindset
Most of the accomplishments in the first 100 days are “soft infrastructure” — it is the thinking, the elements, and the operations behind the process and implementation of important physical infrastructure projects, such as the ease of doing business. This I believe is correct and crucial as this goes to the root of the problem why certain laws, projects, and policies are not properly implemented.
1. War against criminality and corruption
2. Peace and order in Mindanao
3. Job creation
4. Pursuit of inclusive growth
5. Poverty alleviation
6. Executive Order on the ‘Freedom of Information’ was signed.
7. Emergency 911 hotline and 8888 for corruption related reports implemented nationwide
8. The ease of doing business by reducing the number of days in getting business permits
9. Travel by plane only on economy class for all government employees
10. Strongly urging businessmen to end contractualization
11. Tax evasion of big businesses and known personalities are being pursued by the law
12. Extension of break time by government employees may be considered as a crime of estafa
13. Passport expiration extended to 10 years
14. Validity of Driver’s License extended to 5 years
15. Changing the approach and mindset in alleviating traffic congestion in the metropolitan areas around the country
16. Bus terminals along EDSA ordered removed to ease traffic
17. Upgrading NAIA Terminal 3
18. No more “Tanim bala”
19. Private sector committed billions of pesos for the development of drug rehabilitation centers
20. Malacañang opened its gates to the masses and to militant groups for them to be able to reach out to the President
21. Re-opening of the Malacañang of the South to lessen official engagements and to lessen cause of traffic in Metro Manila
22. Pursuing a better approach in achieving peace in other parts of the country
23. National Security Council convened with the past four presidents of the country
24. Abuse of power and misappropriation of funds by certain mayors and protectors are pursued by the law|
25. Ban the use of landmines by rebel groups in offensive military operations
The next 100 weeks
The next 100 weeks will be dedicated to addressing the most urgent national issues, and clearing the way for the construction of major infrastructure projects. The three critical over-arching issues that this government needs to confront, which I also believe cause delays and mistakes of developments, are: corruption, criminality, and cronyism.
Corruption pertains to under the table negotiations in government projects and procurements. It manifests in many forms, but most of the time it is done through kickbacks by over-pricing materials and initiating projects without a clear timetable for completion. In the years I served Dubai, the sheik and top government officials made sure that all transactions are transparent. Today, most permits and plans are submitted online and are replied to online so that concerned agencies are able to detect anomalies. Face-to-face interactions are limited.
There was also a common practice to immediately eliminate the lowest and highest bidder. In practice, the lowest bidder is suspected to have used lower standard materials and may not be able to complete the project on time. On the other hand, the highest bidder probably used higher priced materials and possibly connected to kickbacks.
Criminality points to the lack of law and order. It severely affects real estate value and potential investments.
For the past administrations, I’ve been sharing that criminality has a correlation to urban design, and land use and zoning. This includes bringing down high walls and implementing the principles of “eyes of the street.” Police can also make use of Crime mapping.
In the Harvard Graduate School of Design, it was shared to us that criminals are not afraid of walls. Crimes behind walls cannot be seen and there are no witnesses, such as the possibility of operating drug labs or ‘akyat bahay’ crimes. They are afraid of windows because of the number of potential witnesses.
Cronyism is favoring the oligarchs in getting most government projects. I believe that this prevents proper business competition that will spur innovation and entrepreneurship, and power and influence will be greatly given to a certain few.
Without addressing these issues, it will be difficult for our country to implement the correct plans that our cities and regions need. As we’ve seen in the past, projects that are marred by any of these three issues have sub-standard design, overpriced, and takes a long time to finish.