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Rough Cuts | After COVID-19, it’s ‘need’ over ‘want’

With all the government’s initiatives, coupled with the people’s support, and with our strong faith in God, the deadly COVID-19, will eventually end. When? May be in a longer period of time, or it could be sooner than expected.

And with the deadly disease already a pandemic it cannot anymore be denied that the economies of nations are already as “informed” as many of its people. The Philippines being one of those hardly hit in the Southeast Asian region, has its economic gains under the Duterte administration virtually blown into smithereens. What with almost every economy-related work activity in a standstill. It’s all “cash out” from the government’s coffers as well as from the pockets of the Filipinos.

Thus, for the government and the people, what could be the most prayed for thing is the early end of the pandemic and for the country to be able to go back to its former normal situation even if this would mean undergoing serious adjustments under the so-called “new normal.”

But we believe that once normalization sets in, it is imperative that our leaders and we ourselves must learn from whatever lessons left us by the crippling health crisis that has been inflecting the most serious damage ever on the fundamentals of our economy.

And thinking of lessons that must be learned from the country’s experiences in its fight against the health and financial pandemic, we could not help but be reminded of a spiel in an international television network.
“Make, create, innovate.”

Yes, members of households with cable or satellite television installations could not have missed this kind of “stinger” that is without doubt, an invitation to do battle with the usual or status quo.

And here is this other phraseology that we came across being said by a character in a movie we saw on DVD: “Competition sires innovation.” Where does innovation lead to? Where else but to a continuously improving quality of service and facilities?

We find this applicable to the present situation in the sea ports of the Davao Region, and perhaps in the entire Philippines, especially when the country’s economy is back to normal and on its feet again. We say it is, because the global trade by then will be maximizing efforts to recoup lost opportunities for revenues. That is why we see the need for our government to make the country competitive in both the import and export businesses. Thus the Philippines needs to have facilities and services that can assure fast movement of outgoing and incoming goods so our businessmen in the export and import trade cannot be haunted with apprehensions that they could not meet commitments with their buyers or suppliers.

That is why we believe that when the COVID-19 pandemic is over there has to be serious re-evaluation on the shelved Sasa Port Modernization project in our own Davao City. There may now be an urgent need to revisit the many reasons cited by both the proponents and opponents of the project.

We also think that it is imperative for the local government and the other sectors that are opposing the project to take a hard look on the basis of the objections.

Of course we would consider the official rejection of the city government of Davao through a resolution of the City Council as the strongest opposition voice. Primarily, the councilors cited what they claimed as the absence of consultations and the failure of the proponent the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), now the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to coordinate with the local officials regarding the planned project.

The second biggest stumbling block in the Sasa Port modernization project is the opposition of a good number of businessmen in Davao City citing again the lack of consultations and above all, the alleged overpriced cost of the project. The sector of the business community opposing the project thinks that with the huge cost the would-be port operator, or the one who will win the bid to implement the project through the government’s Public-Private Partnership scheme, will escalate the fees for the use of the new port and its facilities. As a consequence, according to the position paper of the opposition, the port users will suffer. And they claim that this will also impact on their overhead and subsequently their operating cost, and finally, the end-users of their merchandise.

Other groups in the rejectionist business sector are those that have heeded the call of the government itself to invest in the construction of private seaports to help ease the problem of lack of berthing spaces and storage facilities in the wharf areas. So far there are at least four such private businesses that answered the call of the government.

Of course their similar position is understandable. They feel their port business would be destabilized or put on shaky ground, primarily because what they immediately see with the move of the proponent DOTr is that a formidable competitor is out to dislodge them. What with the proponent agency being the government regulator of port operation!

But then, what is the ultimate goal of governance but the interest of the public in the long term. And public interest here could not be taken to mean something else but that of every sector of the population. And these are the businessmen, the ordinary man on the streets, the government itself and all other stakeholders that stand to be affected, positively or adversely by the project.

But the RDC XI has officially endorsed the project although such endorsement carried with it certain conditions. And who are the members of the RDC XI? They are the various national government agencies, the LGUs in the Davao Region, business, professional and civil society organizations, and of course other known stakeholders.

Now we go back to “competition sires innovation.” What are we leading to in citing the phrase?

It is our take that when the COVID-19 is out and our government has to start rebuilding its collapsed economy it should take advantage of the reinvigorated local and global demands for products and services.

Hence, the only way for our country in general and our Davao City in particular, to be in the competitive position is to restructure the prioritization of development programs especially in infrastructure. The government has to pursue projects that will allow the country to compete with its neighbors.

As for Davao, we firmly are of the opinion that the modernization of the Sasa port and innovation of its operating processes is much more the need after COVID-19 than the multi-billion Samal Island-Davao mainland bridge which we consider still a “want” by some people and politicians.

Isn’t it easier to live minus the “want” than not having the “need?”

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