A geography of 7,016 fractured islands, even at low tide, has pay-offs. It offers insights into how potentials for 21st century advance is sapped by 19th century misrule. Mactan Island is an example.
Cross one of two bridges, spanning the narrow Mactan channel from Cebu. And you’re in Lapu-Lapu city — a burg of 292,530 people, the flawed 2007 census claims.
Natives bushwhacked the explorer Ferdinand Magellan here in 1521. Today, Lapu-Lapu hosts 142 factories in economic zones. Watches, computers, etc. account for 9 percent of our exports. Over 40 thousand workers shove daytime population density to 3,581 persons per square kilometer. One out of four have college degrees.
Economic spin off from Cebu’s port is substantial Daily, 668 planes fly out of Mactan International Airport. On the East Asian Migratory Flyway, 97 species of birds make pit stops at Olgando islet, off Mactan.
Voter’s names also fly out. Those critical of Lapu-Lapu city hall have found their names crop up on registers elsewhere.
Over a quarter ( 25.6 percent ) of homes lack toilets. Ambulant peddlers haul murky water into 17 percent of Lapu-Lapu homes. Export zone firms pay tankers to fill their cisterns. New wells siphon from already-crumbling aquifers.
In Metro Cebu, 1,928 rusty streets symbolize corrosion of governance. Mayor Arturo Radaza and Mandaue city Thadeo Ouano snapped up P365 million worth of overpriced street lamps for the 12th Asean Summit. Only 41 lamps function today. Both were suspended for the scam.
These 1,928 “mute parables of graft… reek of collusion by multiple parties,” former Central Bank Jose Cuisia told businessmen. Get on with the prosecution, Cuisia prodded a feet-dragging Ombudsman.
A graft overhang normally instills fear to tread in recklessly. But Lapu-Lapu councilors rushed in. They handed Radaza, still necklaced with unresolved charges, “authority to negotiate and enter into contracts with investors for a P10.2-billion Mactan North Reclamation and Development Project.
By a 10-to-1 vote, they authorized him to “open a credit line with any universal bank or accredited financial institution to fund the project” This blank check.” is for a 400-hectare mega port, industrial and business park.
The sponsors didn’t present a design plan, Councilor Junard Chan protested. Also missing were environmental and economic impact studies for Barangays Ibo, Buaya, Mactan and Punta Engaño of Lapu-Lapu’s eastern coast.
“Ang pasiyang walang taros / Sa pagsisi nagtatapos,” the Pilpino proverb warns. “Rushed decisions end up in regrets” “It was obviously approved in a rush,” Chan explained. “I am not opposed to the project. But we have to be transparent. ”
Give it to Mayor Radaza. He never claimed transparency was his strong suit. The Asean lamp scam is only the more visible fraud. Others scams have been shoved under the rug.
For buying P23.4 million worth of Pentium 4 computer clones, at. double their cost in legit computer shops, Radaza and 18 others were sued. The case is pending. Nor were those who funneled Girl Scout funds into a congresswoman’s private account sanctioned.
The 2007 Mactan Island Chamber of Commerce and Industry survey reported: “12 respondents said the mayor himself made the demand for Money. “One of the mayor’s assistants” demanded the grease for release of license, permit or clearance, 15 respondents claimed.
Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia insists the Regional Development Council pass on the reclamation proposal. President Gloria Arroyo already announced approval in 2004, scoffs City Administrator Teodulo Ybañez . “Rights have been established” Disapproval would “subject the President to ridicule.”
Really? Here’s the first commandment of “trapo” politics at work: “Thou shalt always take the name of thy boss in vain.” The election virus spreads meanwhile.
Who’ll implement this reclamation program, if it takes off? The mayor plans to run for Congress. Madame Paz Radaza, but of course. It will be a “Mom and Pop” show. They’re the rule in a country dominated by dynasties, like Macapagal-Arroyos or Osmenas.
In the pink of health, Mrs. Radaza will campaign vigorously. She resigned earlier from Rural Bank of Subangdaku for “health reasons.” An Inquirer report (Jan 12), on the Legacy scam, says that bank collapsed from P1.2 billion worth of “ghost loans.” Cebu Daily News reported (May 21) depositors queued up to file Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation claims.
Bank scams and reclamation “blank checks” are valid election issues. Add to that what Commission on Elections’ Lionel Castellano told Cebu Citizens- Press Council: Comelec is looking for reasons why voter’s registration, in Lapu-Lapu, slowed to a crawl. Most centers register 200 voters a day. But in Lapu-Lapu, it’s down to 100. Only 50 are accommodated mornings.
Another 50 are listed in the afternoons, not in schools but in city hall.
Election integrity hinges on reliability of registration process. Findings by Comelec and Philippine Insurance Deposit Corporation, should provide a useful input for 2010 campaign debates, especially on fractured islands.
“It seems a dreadful indignity to have a soul controlled by geography,” as George Santayana once observed.