Two challenges for the new government
The two related developments that were reported on the first week of the New Year pose a challenge to the incoming administration. The first was the report of the Commission on Population that the number of Filipinos would reach 104 million in 2016. The second is a dire warning from an American Chamber of Commerce official warning that Metro Manila would be uninhabitable by the year 2020.
The PopCom projection came even after the reproductive health bill came into law two years ago. The bump in the PopCom figures was based on the increase of reported teen pregnancies with girls as young as 15 years old already bearing children. The RH law allows family planning through artificial methods but contraceptives are not readily available to most women in the rural areas.
The grim prospect of the metropolis in paralysis is almost a reality but to say it will be uninhabitable in the next four years is a scary scenario to contemplate. It is real and staring us in the face. Metro Manila may not be a total wasteland but its quality of life could reach an all-time low. John Forbes, senior adviser of the American Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines, provides us with a few hard facts. Car sales will reach 500,000 units by 2020, exceeding the 300,000 units dealers had projected. Car volume consequently increases gas and carbon emissions, posing health hazards particularly to the respiratory system. The world is already witnessing this in Beijing and other major cities in China where residents wearing gauze masks have become a familiar sight.
Clean drinking water will become scarce, not just in poor rural areas but even in the cities with the residential high-rise condominiums competing for the most essential daily need of humans.
Metro Manila has a population of 12 million, a number that swells to 15 million during week days when workers commute from the periphery of the sprawling urban area. Without a mass transit system to move people to and from work, traffic could literally come to a standstill, thereby impeding commerce. Forbes said the solution is really in an efficient public railway system and more skyways to ease traffic on the ground. While the government is currently constructing the skyway from the Ninoy Aquino Terminal 3 in Pasay to Bulacan, the sheer volume of vehicles has already outpaced the number of roads. The Pasay-to-Bulacan skyway, not even halfway finished, is adding to the heavy traffic in the airport area.
Why the Aquino government started the skyway construction only in the last year and half of its term boggles the mind. Was government under spending programmed for release during the run-up to the 2016 presidential elections? Just asking.
A designated railway for alternate airport Clark has been suggested so that Central and Northern Luzon residents leaving for international flights need not travel all the way to the three congested Naia terminals in Pasay City. The Clark monorail project remains a pipe dream even after five and a half years of the Aquino administration.
A robust growth in the country’s population should not be as daunting when seen in the light of how other countries were able to harness human resources into engines of economic growth. China with its population of 1.371 billion and India with 1.288 billion prove people can power the economy and not burden it. Let’s not talk about China with its internal problems and its economy presently in a slump. India is the country to watch. With its average growth rate of 7 percent in the last two decades, India’s GDP grew to 7.3 percent in 2014-2015 and is expected to post a 7.5 to 8.3 percent growth in 2015 to 2016, according to the latest Wikipedia figures.
The surge in India’s economic growth can be traced to its strong service sector. Aside from hefty revenues generated by its business process outsourcing sector, it is a major exporter of information technology and software. These are areas where the Philippines is giving India stiff competition and the country’s human resources ranged against the English-speaking Indians even have the edge.
In the end, it all comes down to what kind of leaders we are going to elect in May 2016. Will they have the political will and resolve to pull the country together and bring it into the 21st century? A lot also depends on our voters. It is never enough to keep reminding our people that we deserve the government we elect.