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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Excuses, excuses

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“When, pray tell, will our oh so busy legislators finally act on the National Land Use law, re-filed in every Congress since the 1987 Constitution was ratified?”

Passing the blame is a standard bureaucratic malaise.

Next to that is the frequent resort to explanations that are full of bureaucratic jargon that the ordinary man will find hard to comprehend. Excuses, excuses…

This is once again explained by the Chocolate Hills brouhaha, where netizens noticed, and photographed, a sprawling resort complete with a half-Olympic sized pool beside one or two of the famous geological wonders.

The sight of the resort sticks out like a sore thumb against the natural beauty of the hundreds of stubby hills that look like chocolate “kisses” when the summer dries its grass.

Sometimes I wonder why Hershey’s did not use it in its television commercials, wrapping the hills with its signature colors along with a caption of its Philippine location.

That would have made LOVE the Philippines pale in attracting travelers, and at Hershey’s expense even.

But creative advertisements aside, why did DENR and its attached agencies, like the EMB and PAMB allow such structures to be started at all?

Why did the LGU give a building permit at all?

Why did the provincial government not even take notice?

What about the DOT and TIEZA, which have a marked presence in the republic of Bohol, its secretary a native of neighboring Cebu at that?

Now that netizens have made it viral, everyone and his mother jumps at the blame game, with agencies passing the buck from one to another.

The poor businessman who invested a few millions, likely hard-saved, is left with a white elephant, and goes bankrupt.

How in heavens did he or she get torrens title to the land, courtesy of the Land Registration Authority, when the area is a protected site?

The owner’s fault, which is not a crime, is having bad taste.

Plus, ignorance of the law, or rather, our regulatory layers intended to confuse, perhaps for corruption, and definitely, as built-in excuses for negligence and incompetence.

Which brings me to another point: when, pray tell, will our oh so busy legislators finally act on the National Land Use law, re-filed in every Congress since the 1987 Constitution was ratified?

If we had that land use act legislated, would abominations like those unsightly structures in Bohol exist?

Would Mt. Apo in the Cotabato-Davao borders be defiled with structures?

Would land developers and quarry extractors poach on land reserved for environmental conservation?

Would rice fields and salt beds be turned into subdivisions?

***

And now we had to legislate a Salt Industry Development Act to save a dead industry, again because we need to convert land for the unchecked population growth which keeps increasing the demand for dwellings.

It may be a little late in the day, but thank heavens for small mercies. Our salt industry was killed ever so slowly through decades of negligence and disregard.

Even in the president’s home province, traditional Pasuquin fine salt has been imported from Australia since many years ago.

But why do we need to put up another agency for salt industry development, when the DA has hundreds of regional directors beneath its wide, wide wing?

There is for instance, a dairy industry agency and a carabao center that has been around for decades, but we still import 99 percent of our milk requirements, while India milks its buffaloes to feed its billions.

Of course we know cows and buffaloes lactate better in cooler climes, but cross-breeding and technology has improved through the years.

Still, our DA maintains so many bureaus and agencies which serve little purpose except to collect personnel salaries but fail to produce even incrementally on their mandates.

***

Some relief will be provided to us citizens by the new modernized passport application and renewal system recently signed into law by the president.

It will allow the DFA to provide offsite and mobile facilities and streamline their procedures.

This follows a Duterte innovation where passports were given a 10-year life instead of the previous five years, and made Philippine passports in sync with worldwide formats.

Now if only NAIA could be improved quickly by the private sector, and its four terminals inter-linked for passenger convenience, as we await the completion of the Bulacan aero-city complex.

Ideally, NAIA, as I have always maintained in this space since 2016, should be eventually mothballed, with its 647 hectares converted into a 147 hectare park, seven times larger than Luneta, bigger than New York’s Central Park, and the 500-hectare remainder transformed into a modern business park.

Our newly-minted Finance Secretary Ralph Recto has thankfully proposed this as a way to increase revenues without further taxation.

Vision plus coordinated planning, please!

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