Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Who cares about the environment?

A group of real estate brokers, subdivision and socialized housing developers called on the Senate to stop the passage of the proposed National Land Use Act outlining new policies on land use and development.” [Manila Standard Today, 12th Feb 2013] And writes former Senator Atty. Rene Espina, Manila Bulletin, 11th Feb 2013: “. . . based on historical records . . . many of our appointed officials who were supposed to plan out and expedite the reconstruction of a new City of Cebu and Manila [after the US Armed Forces defeated the Japanese Imperial Army in our country] by approving a new city plan became instead the leaders of the status quo [underscored]. This was true of what was then the Cebu City Planning Board. Some of its members were real estate owners. Thus when there was an attempt to build new modern roads that went through the demolished burned buildings, the city planning board would object to its implementation. Indeed we lost a golden opportunity to have roads that would be better suited to handle the traffic of the future.”

The gap of almost 70 years between these two events didn't matter. The human condition still sought to prevail. And it appears we are big fans of "the status quo”! And we are unmistakably paying the price, like it or not. We want to be the next Asian tiger? But are we prepared to unequivocally challenge the status quo, for instance? Do we know where we want to be and commit to pursue the common good? We kick and scream about the absence of "inclusive growth" yet we all feel like privileged? It is either below our rank or we are poor Juan de la Cruz and deserve compassion? To our horror we have been witness to silent anarchy but anarchy nonetheless because we have ignored the rule of law? Yet we remain proud of our faith but which is why a Jesuit friend would simply ask: "Is it "plastic"?

"It's more fun in the Philippines" was how a friend tried to liven up the predicament we were in: driving along SLEX from Alabang on our way to Greenhills to respond to a mutual friend's dinner invitation on a Friday evening, we kept driving along South Expressway as heavy traffic prevented us from making a right turn until we found ourselves closer to Santa Mesa then Broadway and from there took Ortigas. People probably don't notice it anymore, particularly property developers, but "density" is the word – and it would apply to Baguio too where we visited a couple of weeks earlier or to other metro areas elsewhere in the country. (And no wonder respiratory ailments are on the rise.) And the following Tuesday, as luck would have it, traffic on C-5 turned it into a virtual parking lot that we missed a 6 PM appointment. And driving from Bonifacio Global City one morning and again one evening towards Ayala Avenue would indeed confirm that "It's more fun in the Philippines."

As my friend would recall, it's not only us in Metro Manila that are paying the price, people in Compostela paid a heavier price. They had visited twice as a group to provide medical and other assistance to families who were still housed in temporary facilities – and in some cases had family members perished in a recent storm ("Pablo".) Their group (that included rescue teams from Malaysia) would lament that Manila seemed to have forgotten about Compostela – as they themselves experienced heavy rains, and flooding, when they were there. And then we read real estate folks are again defending the status quo, fighting land-use legislation! When will we recognize that the 21st century demands dynamism, not status quo?

In the meantime we expect to be the next Asian tiger? There is no free lunch! Yet free enterprise doesn't mean free-rein as the world witnessed how Western greed (which coincidentally went manifest in the housing-credit bubble) brought about the Great Recession. But can we declare ourselves pure especially given our disregard of the environment – while at the same time failing in our fundamental responsibility of nation-building . . . of the common good? Are we doomed? Until we realize that there is no one to pass the buck to . . . except to our children and our children’s children?

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