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January 14, 2011
More, Better, and Sooner
I had much cause for celebration last December 30, the penultimate day of 2010. In
traveling to my hometown, Sto. Tomas, Batangas, for a family celebration, I had the greatest
pleasure of using the just opened SLEX to STAR (Calamba-Sto. Tomas) expressway. This was
the culmination of a wait of more than ten years for the construction of this road which is just
about five kilometers traversing the foothills of the majestic Mount Makiling. Believe it or not,
this extension of the SLEX connecting Calamba to the STAR Expressway had been
"inaugurated" five times by three Presidents. For one reason or another (mostly right-of-way
legal problems), it took more than ten years to complete it. You can't imagine the hundreds of
hours I had wasted being caught in traffic along the narrow road connecting Calamba to Sto.
Tomas, Batangas where you have thousands of employees of factories and of college students
traveling during peak hours. This was also the only route taken by buses and trucks going to
Quezon, Bicol and to the Batangas port. What could have taken as long as half an hour to travel
on that fateful day of December 30 took me exactly ten minutes.
This pleasant experience gave me the hope that under the leadership of very competent and
honest people like Secretary Rogelio Singson of the Department of Public Works and Highways
and of Secretary Jose de Jesus of the Department of Transport and Communications, the next
five years will improve on our past record of building strategic infrastructures that will enable
the economy to grow at 7 to 9% in GDP annually. As regards, infrastructures--especially roads
and bridges--the slogan should be more, better and sooner. I have no doubts that the present
Administration will be able to deliver, especially as they implement aggressively the PublicPrivate Partnership arrangement. Abundant financing, both local and foreign, is available for
infrastructures. What is needed is for the Government to improve implementation by removing
the obstacles that result from red tape, corruption, and incompetence. As regards the last cause
of delay, I sincerely believe that much more can be done by really competent public officials to
follow strictly the principle of eminent domain when private property owners put roadblocks (no
pun intended) to the construction of infrastructures for the common good.
Thanks to the thorough research work done by the foreign chambers of commerce in
coming out with their publication called Arangkada Philippines 2010 (A Business Perspective),
all of us have been provided with a list of the roads that should be constructed in the next ten
years (hopefully sooner). Some of them are in different stages of completion. These are the
Cavite Coastal Road extension, the Manila Skyway Phase 2, the NLEX to C-5 Connector, the
NLEX to Tondo Connector, and the TPLEX (Tarlac to La Union). In addition to these, more
should be started as soon as possible and finished in record time. These are the Cavite-Laguna
(CALA) Expressway, the Cebu-Mactan 3rd Bridge, Cebu-Bohol bridge, Davao to General
Santos expressway, Danao to Talisay expressway, Cebu, LRT 1 provincial bus terminal to
Cavite, Manila Connector (Skyway to Tondo), Metro Manila Tollway C-6 (Lakeshore Dike to
NLEX), MRT 7 provincial bus terminal to Bulacan, NAIA Expressway (Phase 2)--NAIA to
Coastal Road, North East Luzon Expressway, SLEX 4 (Calamba-Lucena) and STAR northbound
lanes (Lipa-Batangas City).
I enumerate these identified roads to be constructed in the next six to ten years to alert both
local and foreign investors what are the solicited projects that they should consider in which to
invest. As the Aquino Administration already has announced, unsolicited projects are being
discouraged. There are more than enough projects considered essential for the success of the
Medium-Term Plan of the Government. This list will also encourage both national and local
officials that have special interests in the regions in which the roads are located to actively lobby
for the immediate implementation of these projects. The foreign chambers have done their job of
singling out these projects. Other business people and NGO officials should lend their voices to
the clamor for more and better roads and to get them to be completed sooner. I hope we can put
the sad experience of the Calamba-Sto. Tomas expressway behind us. All of us deserve better.
For comments, my email address is [email protected]