Discarding our ‘Nato’ policy
Architect Jun Palafox was exaggerating in jest when he disclosed that he had “1,000 recommendations” on how to ease our traffic, but was probably serious when he attributed the previous administration’s snub of them to its Nato or “No Action, Talk Only” policy.
In fact, he was already diplomatic by not using “noynoying” in describing President Benigno Aquino III’s inaction during crisis situations.
But had his transport secretary implemented even half a dozen of them, the already-congested traffic condition then along Edsa would not have worsened into its present daily state of “carmaggedon.”
We can only hope that Transportation Secretary Art Tugade would soon heed some of his recommendations to make our travel to and from Makati to other destinations in Metro Manila faster and more comfortable.
A government entity should take the first step in implementing these recommendations. For instance, the Armed Forces of the Philippines could open up Camp Aguinaldo’s roads to all private motorists on weekdays and not only to the few who play in its golf course inside. Camp Crame could then follow suit.
They should be easy to implement, and the exclusive villages along Edsa could match them by opening up their own roads to the public.
Traveling along the heart of Metro Manila would then be much more pleasant.
This unselfish cooperation between our public and private sectors would be a model to emulate in solving our other national problems. After all, we now often talk about public-private partnership as the more effective approach in undertaking the country’s infrastructure projects because government alone cannot provide them.
Of course, adding more mass transit systems and making our cities more “walkable” are the true ultimate solutions to our traffic problem as what progressive countries had done.
We realize, of course, that these cost trillions of pesos now and will take years to accomplish even if they are acted upon immediately.
Somehow, we cannot miss noticing the parallelism in the deterioration of our traffic problem and the erosion of pensions of the Social Security System.
Both deteriorated gradually over the years, and while their solutions had been often talked about, they had not been acted upon.
For instance, we failed to build enough mass transit systems in anticipation of what our workers would need when they started commuting in huge volumes to and from their work every day. Consequently, they had to buy thousands and thousands of new cars that now clog our limited roads. Even if they had started paying road user’s tax, government had not augmented the kilometrage of our urban roads.
Previous administrations found it more convenient not to act on anything, fooling us into believing that they had saved money by postponing action on much-talked about mass transit system constructions.
With pensions, we simply kept quiet as SSS continued maintaining a stagnant system of contributions, contented that our salary deductions had become less and less a percentage of total pay and were not being increased to finance future pensions.
Admittedly, we were not willing to sacrifice any reduction in our present take-home pay in exchange for receiving higher pensions in the future.
Similar to the traffic problem, we failed to plan ahead for inflation-indexed pensions by not contributing enough. Thus, with meager contributions, our pensions had to be meager, too.
We now openly complain about the inadequacy of these pensions. And even if we had demanded immodestly a P2,000 pension increase from PNoy, we still don’t have any firm commitment from President Duterte that he would soon grant it.
That P2,000 pension increase would only be a palliative solution, anyway. Soon we’d be asking for another increase.
The lasting solution requires a contribution rate of 17 percent and the removal of the cap on salary from which contributions and pensions would be based.
But like the traffic problem solutions, they could only be implemented gradually in the next 20 years, not abruptly.
Workers would easily agree to higher contribution deductions knowing that they’d result in higher future pensions, but not the employers who had always resisted plans to increase contributions.
For instance, they also resisted the introduction of the now-timely unemployment insurance just because they had to fund it.
Employers’ consistent refusal to increase contributions since the establishment of SSS in 1957 had made our social security deductions one of the lowest in the world. They must have already confirmed this fact from their counterparts in Asia, the Americas and Europe yet they do not disclose nor admit it.
But they now are singing a different tune. According to them, pensions could not be increased because this would violate Section 4 (b), paragraph 2 of the Social Security Law, which provides that “increases in benefits shall not require any increase in the rate of contribution.”
Indeed, if this is their only objection now to the pension increase, then the P2,000 pension increase proponents at the Senate and the House of Representatives could easily amend this section accordingly.
And by acting now and by not talking only, we can finally solve the inadequacy of our SSS pensions.