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ROUGH CUTS | Ambivalence takes the center stage

THIS month a year ago, Mindanao, specifically in the Davao and Cotabato Regions, was hit by a series of 3 strong earthquakes averaging about intensity 6 in places closest to the epicenter. Davao City was lucky the strongest shake was hundreds of kilometers away. And while the impact would have been devastating to the city if the epicenters were near in this highly urbanized metropolis, still the destruction of the successive temblors in areas like Mlang, Kidapawan, Koronadal and General Santos City in the Cotabato region; and Digos City, Kiblawan, Magsaysay and other nearby municipalities in Davao del Sur brought havoc to the residents, and naturally, the economy of the areas mentioned.

The earthquakes’ damage in Davao City though, created some chills in its residents considering that the most affected were high-end-high-rise residential condominium structures built by a well-respected property development company. Its consequence was immediately – and still is – felt by the city’s booming property development business. There was an immediate slump in the sale of condo units and a hesitation of some unit owners to continue paying their accounts. This situation developed because most buyers were entertaining thoughts of the possible low level of quality in the building construction.

Meanwhile, in the badly affected less urbanized areas the local governments had been scrimping money from various sources just to rebuild public infrastructures. While the national government was quick to come to the rescue of the quake hit cities and municipalities, the assistance did not come in handy because there were budgetary limitations and other administrative requirements in fund disbursements.

So, it behooves on the local government units to fend for their own rebuilding. Private enterprises were of course also struggling to keep its heads afloat. But slowly, a year hence, the recovery of the economies of the affected cities and municipalities by the three strong earthquakes in October last year, was very much on the way. But even as their economies started to get on its feet came early this year the even more devastating phenomenon, the global health pandemic brought about by the deadly CoronaVirus Disease 19 (CoViD 19). It’s worse than ten or even 20 strong earthquakes hitting ten or 20 different places at the same time.

The world’s economy has not only been put on a stand still for the last ten months but also pushed down into deep regression. The October earthquakes’ devastated areas in Mindanao naturally suffered similar to the rest of the world hit by the present pandemic. In other words, the areas in Mindanao whose economy was shaken literally by the three earthquakes, are now being brought to its knees. We hope that the present global health crisis is not a man-made pandemic as some people have theorized and would want us to believe. Yes, there are those claiming to be “experts” and are in the know, who are using the social media to advance the idea that the CoViD 19 emergency is a “plandemic” conceptualized by globalists politicians and businessmen allegedly in order to control the world’s economy and politics. Of course it is a different story in the case of earthquake incidence. Nobody is claiming to have advanced knowledge when and where the temblors are going to happen, although all government and private volcanologists are one in saying that a “big one” could happen in the Philippines. Everyone however, is fervently praying that it would not come. Or if ever it happens, it strikes in an area or areas where the impact of its wake is not devastating to lives and properties, as well as in the economy. After all, the CoViD 19 effect on the people is already too much to bear. For now, we can be certain that Mindanaoans are hoping that they’d only be remembering those October 2019 triple earthquake hits. Somehow, their memory of the deadly July 1976 tremor and tidal wave that smashed Cotabato City and its nearby municipalities into smithereens has already vanished into oblivion.

-oOo-

On the early evening of October 15, 2020, the first day of the re-imposition of the liquor ban and the 7:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. curfew in Davao City, vehicular traffic on certain city roads appeared to have gone into bedlam. A picture of the traffic situation on Quezon Boulevard in downtown Davao City posted on Facebook the day after, showed the mess reminiscent of the first few days of the imposition of martial law by then President and dictator Ferdinand Marcos in September 1972.

As early as 5 in the afternoon all roads going outside Cebu City and those in neighboring cities like Mandaue, Lapulapu, and the then municipality of Talisay, were crowded with vehicles all wanting to go home beating the much stricter and menacing curfew imposed under the military regime. We were still in college then and were working on night shift with the Freeman newspaper in Cebu.

We had to leave home on Mactan Island as early as 3 in the afternoon to catch up with our 3 subject night classes that end an hour before curfew time that starts at 9 in the evening, after which we proceed to report for work at the newspaper office.

But no, the scenario Thursday evening last week at Quezon Blvd. was not a product of martial law. Clearly, it was a situation created by the motorists’ inability to immediately adjust to a situation that was an outcome of the city mayor’s Executive Order 55 re-imposing and making the curfew hour start much earlier and longer in duration – from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. the next day.

Clearly the traffic mess created on certain city streets was indication that the information dissemination of the Executive Order was wanting. That is, that the dissemination process may have hit some snags somewhere that it did not reach the knowledge of all those who are to comply with the mandate of the EO. Or, if at all it reached the intended target, there might be certain instructions that were not clearly comprehensible to the people. Or there could have some confusing issuances by other government agencies in relation to the EO of the mayor. One such order came from the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) XI. The LTFRB directive wants public utility vehicle drivers to ply their routes even during curfew hours so that those working on night shift can have rides going home or going to their work places. Yes we agree that the mayor’s EO has provided for exemptions as to who can be outside their homes during curfew hours. But what percentage of the city’s population are those who work during the night? Besides, drivers and operators of public utility vehicles know that the number of passengers allowable to ride remains limited, and the minuscule volume of people working during night time would not even fill the authorized seats. Thus, they know only too well that complying with the LTFRB directive is kind of agreeing to a clearly losing proposition. Will they then take the risk of further diminishing their already extremely low income as an offshoot of the pandemic? Indeed in times of crisis even the so-called experts in emergency management become purveyors of ambivalence. They may not know it, but that is what is happening in the ground.

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