The Big One

By Buddy Gomez

Posted at Mar 05 2015 05:03 AM | Updated as of Mar 05 2015 01:03 PM

Something new and big and bold is happening. The trajectory for Philippine progress is evident. It is soaring. The country is on the move forward for long-term beneficence albeit, obviously, not exciting enough to hog the front and center of prominent news coverage and, therefore, fails to grab the attention and interest of its beneficiaries--the people.

If over the many decades the endemic proclivity for politics in the Filipino has grown to epidemic proportions, do not blame our archipelagic genes. It is not in the blood. It is in the environment! A great amount of cause emanates from the dominant distortionate dose of interpretative news that is part of the daily diet dished out by much of media. While much of media compete for favors from the gods of circulation, their primary attention still continue to be riveted to the Mamasapano incident. Where I no longer find virtue, they perhaps see continuing revenue! Hardly treated exclusively and objectively as news, from day one the tragedy was inseparable from political rhetoric aimed at the person of the President. But the paper sells! Others, regardless of readership and simply by reason of their incorrigibly unsatiated lust for the President Aquino’s denigration and for throwing mud at him (if not throwing him out!), Mamasapano is the long lasting prevailing source of serial orgasms. When will it ever be enough?

In the meantime, the country’s single biggest infrastructure undertaking has been launched. Invitations to bid have been issued and the response from investors and risk-takers have been brisk and robust. A total of 24 firms are reported to have manifested keen interest. The price tag of the project is P123 billion!

The Big One

This is the Laguna Lakeshore Expressway Dike (LLED) project under the auspices of the Aquino administration’s Public-Private Partnership Project. Completion is expected in 2021. It envisions to provide a new highway on top of a dike that will ease vehicular traffic flow and alleviate floods that are presently the bane of the communities along the western shores of Laguna lake. There are two components:

1) A 47-kilometer expressway (from Taguig to Los Banos)-cum-dike, a six-lane tollway with 8 interchanges and access roads (Bicutan, Sucat, Muntinglupa, San Pedro, Binan, Santa Rosa, Cabuyao and Calamba). The highway’s alignment is 500 meters from the present shoreline.

2) A 700-hectare reclamation in the foreshore fronting Taguig and Muntinglupa, along which there will be 7 islands of half a kilometer wide and 15 kilometers long, the horizontal development of which will of course include roads, drainage and open spaces. From lakeshore to the edge of the reclaimed area, a water channel ranging from 100 to 150 meters wide will be created.

Folks, let loose your imaginations and start day-dreaming. What comes to me at the moment is the spawning of new businesses like, for one example, small watercraft manufacture (and ancillary services) that will feed new leisure and sports activities like boating! (And boating-tingan?!?) Levity aside, however, definite economic benefits will ensue. Of course, there will be savings in vehicular operating costs, vast improvements in passenger time and convenience. Appreciation of current land values (and therefore, resultant real estate tax revenues), not to mention added value produced by reclaimed land are givens.

First in urban renewal

Putting on my property development hat, it is my well considered view that as a consequence of the new upgraded neighborhood to be delivered by developments in the real estate created via reclamation, it will be very probable that more than any other area in Metro Manila, the eastern side of the Taguig/Muntinglupa geography facing the lake will be primed and ripe for urban renewal. It is logical that because market values will rise, the wherewithal for upgrades and reconstruction will become available. Support financial services will, as a matter of course, be part and parcel of the economic resonance that such a project will produce. The multiplier effect will spin. It is inevitable.

The hardcore of Bayan, Gabriela and other communist fronts, masquerading as caring and concerned advocates of the poor, champions of human rights and protector/guardians of Philippine sovereignty are advised to gear up for another show of force, another inane public demonstration. If they be true to their calling, that is having exclusively cornered the market for patriotism, this lakeshore project is yet another instance of unending imperialistic meddling by America. Therefore, it is an affront to Filipino national honor! You see, the feasibility study of LLDA was funded by the United States. To be specific, American taxes were expended via the United States Agency for International Development. Did you know that USAID is a CIA front? And that, indeed, is worth the imbecility of marching along Roxas Blvd and ranting with expletives at the gates of the U.S. Embassy!

The Capitalists in Action---the Real News!

The newsiest of newsworthiness is that, under normal conditions, the biggest names in Philippine business, the otherwise, normally winner take all / never yield aninch / we don’t take prisoners crowd, have come to a unity. A union of forces--together, arm in arm--to conquer the holiest of capitalist grails--profits! Ayala Land, Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Henry Sy’s Prime Holdings and Andrew Tan’s Megaworld have joined hands and formed a consortium called Trident Infrastructure & Development Co.. They will vie for the Laguna Lakeshore project and make it a reality should they be the winners of the forthcoming bidding. Each one takes a 25% participation. The pie is deemed large enough to yield sufficiently satisfactory action for each partner. (San Miguel and two other groupings that include non-Filipino international interests have likewise taken out pre-qualification documents). As an aside, I find it funny that this information was originally sourced from a Manila-based foreign news service and utilized by local news outlet-subscribers. Maybe City Desks ought to recalibrate its priorities and balance the front-page prominence of politics and crime with economic news on a daily basis, even if the rest of the item is ‘jumped'....continued in the inside business page!

Now, this display of unity is no miracle in human behavior. Among competitors, it is indeed a rarity. But with determination, they have done it. It is vibrant proof of what holding hands and goodwill can achieve. Of course, the venture is for profit. But nonetheless undeniably pro patria. If the ladies and gentlemen who engage in business combat as their daily bread can set aside the fierceness of their individual ‘grit, guts and gumption,’ imagine what this country can achieve! This consortium accentuates the Philippine business sector’s capacity to unite for the sake of national progress. In so doing, they have likewise cast a template for future undertakings.

And while I am at it, before I end, let me summon once more my penchant for out-of-the box ‘imagineerings,’ as I have done in past essays. How about privatizing the nation’s public works set-up, by contracting it out! Ask the Ayala-Aboitiz-Sy-Tan consortium to take over and run DPWH. After all, PNoy’s Public-Private Partnership has already shown a manner by which private enterprise can supplant and support the role of government. It can be done! Run as a private business for profit, this new regime will insulate and shield the DPWH from meddling predatory politicians, conquer inefficiencies and drastically pare down, if not eliminate permanently, graft and larcenies that still continue to be committed almost daily in the provinces. This, even if the Freedom of Information bill goes Rip Van Winkle’s way! We do not have to go whole hog, ante mano. We can start with the most corrupt DPWH region with the most corrupt districts.

I do not know how my dear old friend Department of Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio ‘Babes’ Singson will react to the proposal. This not a criticism of his performance as the Department’s supreme capataz because his personal integrity will continue to remain without blot. Without doubt, Sec. Singson is good but DPWH is bad. But I think I know what reaction Bayan, Gabriela and their fellow travelling ilk will spout with indignant brio. They will brandish placards that say: “ Surrender of Sovereignty to Capitalist Oligarchy!!!”

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