Thursday, November 22, 2007

Hands In The Cookie Jar

The news report that the World Bank has recently rejected some 232 million dollars in loans intended for road improvements in the Philippines particularly in the province of Surigao del Sur came as extremely bad news for tens of thousands of people living in the Lianga area. The condition of the road sections serving the town and the surrounding municipalities have been especially bad the past weeks as a result of persistent rains and the equally persistent failure of the district office of Department of Public Works and Highways in Tandag to conduct adequate maintenance and rehabilitation work on many of the affected areas.

The World Bank board, according to the Wall Street Journal, allegedly cited bidding irregularities, procurement problems, excessive overpricing and other corruption issues and has reported asked the Philippine government to defer implementation of the road infrastructure projects pending further investigation and review of Phase 2 of the ten-year National Roads Improvement Management Program (NRIMP2) which was supposed to be funded by the above loans.

The dismal condition of Lianga's roads notwithstanding, the World Bank board's findings has merely brought out into the open a fact that many astute local observers here have been pointing out for so many years. That the reason for the delay in the upgrading and concreting of the road network servicing the municipalities of Marihatag, San Agustin and Lianga in Surigao del Sur has not been the lack of adequate funding support but the simple fact that the government's road improvement infrastructure program is so riddled with corruption and irregularities that even the World Bank cannot just sit idly by without stepping in to review, re-examine and make doubly sure that its money is going where it is supposed to be - into the building of concrete roads and bridges and not into the greedy pockets of both national and local officials as well as their cohorts in the construction industry.

Of course, the Philippine government is downplaying the significance of the World Bank board's decision and DPWH offcials are now saying that implementation of the controversial road improvement projects has not actually been canceled but have been merely "deferred" pending proper review, whatever that means. I suppose that when one has been caught with one's hand in the cookie jar, the best course of action is simply to deny the crime and say that the cookies are all still there, even if they have already telltale bite marks on them.

As the national government goes high gear into damage control over this issue, the focus for us here in Lianga shifts to our local provincial officials in the city of Tandag. What's up guys? What went wrong? Whose to blame for all this mess? And more importantly, were there other hands and fingers in the cookie jar too?

In the meantime, while we all wait for answers, the people in Lianga and its neighboring municipalities confront everyday the admittedly picturesque, if extremely bumpy, dusty and absolutely disgusting roads of our part of this glorious province and wonder. When will all our traveling nightmares ever end?

Or will it ever?

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:52 AM

    During my trip to Butuan this week, I was constantly reminded of your many comments concerning the state of the pitiful road conditions in our area. After 2 days of recuperation, my back is still sore from all the shaking that it endured. Indeed the recent rains have caused much erosion of the already torturous road conditions, and I, like you have taken note of the decision by the World Bank to review the loans. You know, corruption is prevalent all over the world, yet here in the Philippines, it seems so much more heart wrenching.
    I am an American who dearly loves all the wonderful family and friends I have here in the Philippines. I want to see all of them start to prosper economically; I hate to see all the economic hardships that they go though, sometimes just trying to survive. Many times I've reached out to help some of my friends during the hardest times in their lives and wish earnestly that I could help more than I do. But even though I do help sometimes, I generally think its' a bad idea to give money to people. It breaks my heart sometimes not to help some of my wife's friends, but to do so may break their will to go beyond the bounds of reason and look for ways to make a change in their life. I know that when one is given too much, it makes them not try on their own as hard.
    Maybe that is the problem with some of the government officials here in this area. They have gone many years expecting to buy their way into office, and have given up on doing the things that would endear the voters to re-elect them. How tragic that is! Government officials should be elected for what they will do to improve the conditions of the voters that elect them. Yet here we are with the poorest roads in the island of Mindanao, and the least developed natural beauty. I sincerely hope that your words are reaching the ears of the elected officials for this area and that they will soon take heed of their responsibilities’, to help those who put them in their offices. Until then its up to each of the individuals who live here to do the very best they can do to make things better. I hope we will soon see people working together to make a better place here in Lianga and its 13 Barangay's.
    Keep up the good work, your words and pictures, at the very least are enlightening many to the glorious natural beauty of both the land and the people of Lianga. You have a way of telling your stories to make them both eye opening and humorous at the same time. You talk of issues that are important and need to be said, and you say them in ways that are non-threatening to the people that need to hear them.
    Mark and Merejen