THIS is the fifth and last of a series of articles on Australia. Hopefully, we can learn from that great nation Down Under, which is a legacy of the British Empire and still a member of the Commonwealth like New Zealand, Canada, Singapore and Malaysia.
My column last week (MT, April 30, 2015), touched on the ubiquitous open spaces in the cities and suburbs of Australia planted with trees and vegetation that we, Filipinos, are not used to in our country. They just have too many public parks for leisure and recreation that can be “tiring” to see. Even the public schools have vast campuses for the physical education (PE) and sports activities of their students.
The article cited the lack of open space and greenery at the 240-hectare Bonifacio Global City (BGC) in Taguig and the 244-hectare FILINVEST CITY in Alabang, Muntinlupa. It also included the 50-hectare McKinley Hills of MegaWorld Corporation beside the BGC, as well as the 74-hectare ARCA South of Ayala Land in the former Food terminal Inc. (FTI) that are both located in Taguig.
I failed to mention, however, the congested project of MegaWorld in the former Villamor Air Base just across the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA 3). The 25-hectare Resort World complex has a casino, hotel, shopping arcade, restaurants and office and residential condominium buildings, but no open space for any park. In fact, I do not recall seeing any tree planted there just like at the Ayala Residences project in Makati.
What is even worse with the Resort World project in Pasay City is that its buildings were built too close to the ramp going down from the Skyway. The same applies to its buildings across NAIA 3 that are just beside the elevated expressway under construction.
In both instances, the distance of the ramp and expressway to the MegaWorld buildings is only about two meters! Even from NAIA 3, the Resort World complex looks so close to each other and there can be safety and security issues that may have been overlooked. How MegaWorld managed to do it is another future article to be written.
What is very impressive in Australia are the clean toilets everywhere for the public with toilet paper and the liquid soap for washing of hands. There is also the ubiquitous hand-dryer; if there is none, there is tissue paper to dry the hands. You will find them in churches, public parks, gasoline service stations, shopping arcades and office buildings.
In the Philippines, particularly in Metro Manila and environs, there have been significant improvements in the public toilets in the shopping malls like SM and Robinsons and gas stations like Shell, Petron, Caltex and Total. The malls now have cleaner toilets and with toilet paper and hand-dryer. The same enhancements in the big gas stations, especially along the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) and North Luzon Expressway (NLEX).
The Philippine government can easily afford to build decent public toilets for its people, but it has not. My favorite Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) had a budget of P 200 billion last year and P300 billion for 2015. Yet with a combined budget of P500 billion for two years, the DPWH cannot even allot P50.0 million–or 0.01 percent of P500 billion–for public toilets along the national roads.
The DPWH recently announced its savings of P39 billion over 4.5 years from July 2010 to December 2014. But where did the billions go to? Not a single centavo for public toilets? Well, the savings went to the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) of the sanctimonious administration of President Benigno Aquino 3rd that the Supreme Court has unanimously declared to be unconstitutional in June 2014.
My article on “Impressions on Australia” (MT, May 17, 2015) touched on the tertiary education Down Under. Citizens of Australia have relatively easy access to getting a university degree because of student loan that can be obtained from the government that will only be paid once the borrowers start working. The same applies to enrolment to its Technical & Further Education better known as “TAFE,” which is similar to the technical institutes in Europe.
I wrote that the Philippines should have similar TAFEs offering two-year courses than the current four-year college courses the graduates of which have a hard time getting jobs. Courses to be offered should be what are needed and ensure employment after graduation, such as those related to the construction industry and other fields.
In the primary and secondary levels, there is something that I observed in Australia that had been overlooked here at home in the past decades. School there starts at 9 a.m. and ends 3 p.m. In short, the students are just in school for a total of six (6) hours. And it has worked well with the quality of education in public and private schools in Australia.
In the Philippines, the children go to school at 7:30 a.m. and classes end at 4:30 p.m.. That is a total of eight (8) hours in school and it has not worked. Why? Among others, the schedule means waking up as early as 6 a.m. and going home as late as 6 p.m. in the evening. Our own children told me that their classmates are still sleepy in class in the morning because they wake up rather early to be in time for school.
It would help the elementary and high school students in our country to have no more than seven hours in school like 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The same would apply to the teachers who would also have one hour more of sleep and leave school earlier by 4:30 p.m. Spending less time in school also means having more time with the family, especially with the parents who are after all the ones responsible for their children’s education.
Police presence and competence
Like on the subject of “Public Education,” I wrote on the police force Down Under in my earlier article on “Impressions on Australia.” You see the police, both men and women, on the streets in cities like Sydney, Melbourne and the capital of Canberra. You see them along the highways, as well on local roads doing patrol work or at the scene of traffic accidents that are immediately attended to. Their presence is seen and felt.
Even in mass media, the police there at work can be seen on television in the news and also read in the newspapers. In short, there is police presence and competence in Australia. Sad to say that what we have are the phantom police in the Philippines. The pathetic policemen here are either sitting inside their precincts watching television and/or texting with their mobile phones or chatting with each other.
So the question is why does the Philippine National Police (PNP) maintain and hire thousands of policemen, especially in the urban areas, when they virtually do nothing at all? The police force in Metro Manila does not even do traffic work like before because the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has deputized untrained local government’s traffic aides instead of them.
The policemen here do not even have the competence to do their job, such as writing a Traffic Incident Report, which I have personally experienced. I wrote letters about it to the PNP director-general, the National Police Commission (Napolcom) executive officer and the Interior secretary.
Unfortunately, there was no response to the letters except a phone call that I received from the office of then Secretary Jesse Robredo. With his death, the interest of Department of Interior and Local Government on the matter died, too.
There are many things that the Philippines can learn from Australia Down Under.