OPINION: The greatness of the Duterte presidency....

Buddy Gomez

Posted at Jun 01 2016 11:54 PM

...may very well rest upon the new President’s ability and fortitude to flex political will and skill in solving the national malaise which is Metro Manila! 

Without providing flesh, as usual, President-elect Duterte has vowed “economic growth outside saturated NCR,” (National Capital Region) and has called upon investors to direct their attention towards the provinces. “My first big project,” Duterte announces, is a “railway for the Philippines.” 

It is unlikely, however, that his vision of “train lines connecting Manila to Nueva Vizcaya….Sorsogon and Batangas,” and a system “for the whole of Mindanao,” will have materialized when he steps down in 2022, let alone bring succor to the traffic woes along EDSA and C-5. (It will get worse!) 

I am more hopeful of a trans-Mindanao railway, completed and functioning before the end of his term, but only if he is able to stake his first railway tie by January of 2017.

READ: A mass transit system that goes around in circles

Metro Manila is inextricably, hopelessly immobilized and in chaotic congestion because of unabated suffocating and strangulating overpopulation. It is a severely overloaded system, a horribly abused space beset by every urban ill imaginable. 

READ: More on the malaise and 'malas' of Metro Manila

Dreaming of trains from and to Manila will not spell deliverance from her daily roadway calvary. The situation, long neglected and longer foreseen, has called for the unheeded omnibus approach leading to one exclusive, absolutely inalternable, objective: decongestion and population dispersal. It is the only solution!

Only the National Government can inspire, launch and achieve such an existential socio-economic reengineering endeavor. The private sector will always partake of and participate in opportunities opened to them by government. 

The government (this time, the Duterte administration) must jumpstart the exodus towards new and farther off locations of all departments, agencies and instrumentalities that no longer require, or never did require in the first place, a Metro Manila presence in order to serve its public purpose or justify its existence. Likewise with private enterprise. I invite you to play mental games and identify such departments and businesses.

With firm confidence, let me posit. The pursuit of such policy and action plan--decongestion and population dispersal--can be the single most potent job- and wealth-creating economic stimulus the Philippines will ever witness. 

As an inevitable consequent beneficence, aside from new property values and concomitant venues for new taxation arising in points of destination where there are none today, massive new employment and new businesses/commercial activities will inevitably evolve far away from Metro Manila. 

The endeavor will facilitate the highest productive use of pump priming. Ultimately, decongesting Metro Manila will achieve redistribution of presently burdensome population and spurring opportunities for growth in frontier areas. It is not only smart economics, it is smart politics!

AFP TO THE RESCUE

The presence of all the GHQs (general headquarters) of the Army, Navy, Air Force, the Marines and the Coast Guard and all their principal camps and offices in Metro Manila is irrelevant to their existence and objectives. Think about it. These facilities do not have to be in Metro Manila. 

READ: AFP faces 'Bayan o Sarili' moment: Saving Metro Manila

Furthermore, the vicinities of these camps are surrounded by rundown neighborhoods of unhealthy informal settlements where most enlisted men and families are ‘squatters,’ without hope of a better quality of life. Is this a decent way by which the defenders of the nation are cared for? 

(How I really wish we could at least approximate the appreciation and esteem the USA renders unto their men in uniform and veterans. That’s not colonial mentality. That is love of countrymen sincerely expressed in well-earned and deserved recognition and respect!)

The ultimate key to Metro Manila’s humane decongestion and intelligent redistribution of its population is in the hands of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). And why should the AFP be the vanguard of this exodus? Because they are the best available solution to the malaise of Manila! Because they are imbued with the spirit of discipline, like no other branch of government. It is their creed to obey when commanded. 

READ: De-imperializing, de-magnetizing Manila with AFP as vanguard

Saving Metro Manila becomes a patriotic engagement that will award them better living conditions. The AFP by the sheer initiative to relocate can and will trigger the salvation and rebirth of a metropolis already in extremis, creating physical space for redevelopment, rehousing, gentrification and new infrastructure. 

In this respect, it is the military that marshals the greatest good for the greatest many! The AFP provides the indispensable, inescapable twin to a win-win solution! The AFP’s greatest moment…..the conquest of urban blight, in time of peace!

METRO MANILA WITHOUT MILITARY CAMPS 

Imagine if you will, and I beg you to. Metro Manila without military camps! The Army centered in Nueva Ecija where the great expanse of Fort Magsaysay is in readiness. The Philippine Navy logically repositioned somewhere in the Visayas. Villamor Air Base and the core of our Air Force strategically relocated somewhere in Mindanao, with the bulk of our Marines not too far distant. (We will deal more specifically with these ‘dream’ possibilities in future discussions.)

READ: Manila is forever, Villamor Air Base is not

The relocation of these camps will mean the transfer of people and payroll, families and camp-following social and commercial support services and all requisite ancillaries. Transporting ready-made self-contained economic communities become the nucleus of development in their new locations. Thus fulfilling President-elect Duterte’s wish to see investments in the provinces--the more equitable reallocation of economic growth opportunities.

MANILA CAN REMAIN IMPERIAL

In June of 1994, a 9-page recommendatory document entitled “The Need for a National Urban Policy Covering the Decongestion and Dispersal of Metro Manila: Rationale and Samples” (this was not the only such recommendation) was presented to the Office of the President. Receipt was acknowledged but the proffered schema remained in sad fallow. 

There might have been superior and supervening concerns eclipsing the memorandum’s thrust which obviously at that time was not regarded as urgent, much less a priority. (An actual project was in fact identified during President’s Estrada abbreviated incumbency.) And then, upon the onset of this outgoing administration, another attempt at promoting the same concept was made. 

The looming malaise unappreciated, decongestion and dispersal remained non-urgent and therefore, again, not a priority! And that is where Metro Manila is at today. Knocking at the “gates of hell!”

This avowed outlier, non-conformist new President of ours, who so proudly fashions himself to be such, brings along with him, whether he is aware of it or not, a never-ever-tried opportunity for a genuine paradigm change in the life of the nation where everything is of, by and from an overburdened yet inordinately domineering Metro Manila. 

In fact, never before has such possibility been more patent and potent. The enormous difference? The ‘provinciano’ populist apparition of a devilish Duterte, who just might be the archangel of meaningful change! 

Manila can remain imperial but she must shed off excess and unwanted fat! There awaits the potential greatness of the Duterte Presidency! 

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.