"Some people were asked to give up their seats for some 'VIPs.'"
Back in the metropolis for the holidays, one is assailed by gridlock on the streets. Understandable because it’s the season for parties and shopping, but it always gets worse each year.
There are simply far too many vehicles and far too many people who have to commute from here and there. The woeful neglect of public transportation systems has taken its toll, and as hard as they try, transportation officials cannot do wonders within a few years.
I have always written in this space, and maintain the same view up to now, that government has to make hard decisions, and the first such decision is to build a national government center outside the Metro Manila area.
A massive project like that will take years to fulfill, but the decision to move out must be done now. And only a president like Rodrigo Roa Duterte, armed with an iron will, can do it.
With the former air force base of the Americans now being developed into a modern aerotropolis, Clark would be the most logical site for a new national government center. The basic infrastructure is already there, with proximity to the international airport being the top consideration. It would be similar to Washington D.C.’s National Airport in the city proper and the Dulles International Airport in Virginia.
Whether we build a new airport for the commercial and financial center which is Metro Manila or maintain the current Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Clark International Airport would be the one most proximate to the seat of government.
In the vicinity of Clark is the SCTEX and NLEX which will soon be accessible directly to the southern Luzon corridor through the connector road to SLEX and the NAIA. Then there is proximity to a major seaport, Subic, which is less than an hour away from Clark.
A rail system is already programmed to connect Clark to NCR as well as to Subic. Linked to the subway that will soon be built connecting Quezon City to Taguig, that should be enough to make the national government center near enough to NCR which we can retain as commercial and financial center.
How many people, after all, transact with national government agencies directly? Very few. We have regional centers, provincial offices as well where there are courts of justice, license-granting offices such as the LTO, and respective LGUs which is where the average Filipino transacts with anyway.
Various countries separated their national government center from congested commercial capitals in the past, all with great success. Brasilia in the late fifties; Ankara in Turkey from Istanbul; Ottawa in Canada and Canberra in Australia; Islamabad instead of Karachi in Pakistan; even Putrajaya instead of Kuala Lumpur for Malaysia. Why even Myanmar, so many notches less developed than the Philippines, recently transferred the capital from Yangon to Naypyitaw, five hours by land away.
The recent good news about how BCDA and CDA are transforming the former Clark Air Base into a modern metropolis with a Green City as centerpiece, and a privately-run and managed New International Airport within the term of President Duterte should give all of us confidence that transferring the seat of government there would be ideal and cost-effective.
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NCR will prosper even without the seat of government here. New York did not wither when L’Enfant planned and the federal government built Washington D.C. Ditto for Sydney, or Toronto, Karachi or Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. Kuala Lumpur thrives even if Mahathir presides in Putrajaya.
As for the fear that many government employees will be displaced, attrition should take care of that. Many of those who have houses in the NCR area are due for retirement anyway, and earlier retirement could be enhanced. It would also be cheaper to build homes in the Pampanga-Tarlac area where younger civil servants can still find real estate quite affordable.
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That news item about some bishops and priests being barred by so-called Presidential Management staff from the Balangiga Plaza before the President arrived may or may not have happened. An American who was there as part of the US-Philippine Friendship Society that helped in lobbying for the return of the bells said he did not notice anything like the papers said. The bishops were visible in the VIP section, he told this writer.
But then again, it is possible that the PMS staffer did not know his protocol properly. In the Villamor Air Force Base where the bells were unloaded from the US military plane that brought the bells back home, someone I know, along with others, were rudely “banished” from where they were already seated, because the section was reserved for VIPs.
The VIPs happened to be congressmen, and some of those barred from the VIP section were former diplomats who worked tirelessly in the past to have the bells brought back to our country. One of them was the Philippine Ambassador to the US when the Philippine government first made an earnest effort to get the bells back, during the time of Pres. Fidel V. Ramos.
Ambassador Raul Ch. Rabe, who is our corporate secretary, had to cut short an official trip in Taiwan, boarded an early morning flight Tuesday the eleventh of December to get to Villamor on time for the arrival. He was personally asked by Pres. FVR to be his personal representative in the ceremonies, as the former president was indisposed.
He was bumped off from his seat to give way to Secretary Ben Diokno’s “friends,” our dearly beloved congressmen.