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OPINION: Of Mountains and Molehills

If there are two things we Filipinos seem to love, it’s travel and entertaining / dining. So for what it’s worth, here’s my two cents worth about how we Filipinos are always looking away or blinking at what’s staring us in the face; and secondly, how even if we know so well the adage ‘Don’t fix it, if it’s not broke’, we can never resist tampering with what’s already fine.



Denying the Mountain Exists
 

We love travelling, whether it be to local or foreign destinations; and the first step to achieve that takes place in an airport. Name me a modern city that achieves high levels of tourism, with an airport smack dab in the middle of the city. Hong Kong, Bangkok, Singapore, Osaka, Amsterdam, London—for obvious reasons of safety (both air and ground), for noise pollution, inner city air quality, and for a myriad of other reasons, these cities locate their airport at a reasonable distance outside the city. And here in Manila, even after so many ‘unfortunates’ have happened over the decades, we persist in talking about the continued viability of NAIA?

Of course the airport can’t just sprout in the middle of nowhere—efficient and dependable means of land transportation (roads, railway, etc) have to exist to support the air terminal; look at Hong Kong and Osaka as the examples we most likely have experienced. I like Clark and Subic, but the distance creeps to the side of daunting, unless one sees it as a catchment airport for North of Manila. While Bulacan is a plan in motion; I really don’t understand why we aren’t also facilitating Sangley as the logical option for South of Manila. It shouldn’t be an either/or proposition!

 

READ: Our City Airport Blues

 


If both Bulacan and Sangley are proposals that don’t require government financing, can we please allow both to proceed post haste? As they will survive and prosper based on how quickly they materialise, how efficiently they are managed, and how much they charge. The proponents will have to look out for themselves; and the ones who will gain, are us the travellers. As it is, we’re already looking at a window of no less than 5 years for either of these two to happen, so what are we waiting for?



Obsessing on Molehills


I’ve written in the past about the changing lifestyle of Manila, and the role the Integrated Casinos (IC’s) play in this shift, joining the malls as where we entertain and dine—how during special occasions and holidays, a good number of us plan with an IC in mind, and it’s no longer a mall by default. Evidently, these IC’s are now not just the domain of those interested in gaming, but a broader cross-section of the populace. Granting licenses and regulating these IC’s is PAGCOR. 

Chartered to regulate, operate, authorize, and license games of chance, games of cards and games of numbers, particularly casino gaming; PAGCOR is under the Office of the President. Under said Charter (presently covered by RA No. 9487), it generates revenues for the Philippine government’s socio-civic and national development programs, and helps promote our tourism industry. The distribution of its earnings is strictly mandated—from the National Treasury, to the Philippine Sports Commission, Board of Claims, the Early Childhood Care and Development Program, etc. Even the winnings of the PAGCOR-operated Casino Filipinos are covered by mandatory remittances. 

 


The 2017 total revenues of P59.85 billion are all accounted for via pie charts that showed P41.36 billion went to nation-building, with CSR programs, school-building projects, computer donations, and relief operations—a major beneficiary of said earnings. And yet, there persists a constant clamor for privatizing PAGCOR, or taking away their ‘operate’ function. Quite possibly, they look at envy at the yearly reports, as from P47 billion in 2015, it rose to P55 billion in 2016, under the inspired leadership of Chairperson Andrea Domingo. But would privatizing really be of benefit to the government, or does it to stand to lose more? Actual physical assets of PAGCOR would only reach some P1.38 billion, plus you’re possibly displacing the more than 4,000 employees. At least, as it is now, the Government maintains direct control of these revenues. 

Seems like it’s not National Interest at stake when people clamor for privatization—and this is a Molehill issue that should be buried.