Bunga bunga. Its Italian for risque humor, usually the stuff of lunch time TV shows or after dinner attempts for stand up comedy. There was a time when our islands were governed in such slapstick, amateur style, when mangling Arrneow or the Queen's English was the order of the day. And much as many of us deplored it, a lot more of us gave the man the biggest majority vote in the history of Presidential elections.
He is so much like us
Why? Because he represents the aspirations of many of us: what we cannot achieve through hard work, we can achieve by sheer charm, back slapping camaraderie and the misfortune of others. He was one of us. He adores his kids and their many bearers. He takes care of all of them. He loves houses, good food, revelry, likes to party, swears, cracks jokes, makes money and is movie star tough who fraternizes to a fault. Declares war where others fear to. A ladies man through and through. A neighborhood walking withdraw-only ATM for favors and glad handing cash.
What is forgotten about ERAP is that he had a wonderful Economics team. He had a DPWH Secretary who saw that for such a large megapolis like Metro Manila, there were only a quarter of the required number of bridges spanning the Pasig. He had an NEDA chieftain who laid the ground work for globalization/free market policies that benefited the next 2 administrations with growth industries like BPOs that had no state subsidy. Not much credit is given him, but it was under his watch that the foundations of Build-Operate-Transfer of rehabilitation and virgin projects like the NLEx, SCTEx, SLTollway, STAR, NAIA-3, DMIA and the like were established. Perhaps, his recklessness and his loyalty to flawed friends was his undoing, but one thing about ERAP, he, arguably, was not into doing things Ningas Cogon.
Ningas Cogon. It has the elements of "brush fire" but doesn't exactly translate to the Biblical burning bush. A brush fire can reach catastrophic proportions like the annual conflagrations that hit parts of Australia, Alpes Maritime and California. Its scope is far more severe than Ningas Cogon. Neither does it always mean "spread like wildfire". On the contrary, Ningas Cogon is more like spontaneous instantaneous combustion, unsustained after a brief consuming fire.
Lady cops on EDSA
Ningas Cogon takes its name from the quick short-lived combustion of dry cogon grass. Here today gone tomorrow. Its a malady that afflicts local execution/enforcement of policy/statutes. Severely meaning business within the first day, deadly indifferent by next weekend. Take the case of the lady cops assigned to EDSA, the default government promenade to display themselves in action, where they were broadcast waving traffic to move on during the first days of this wildly popular new administration. Or does anyone remember them?
Not a chance
Poor gals. They were not even given a chance to shape up. Stuffed into skirts a size tighter, the deskbound gals could not even pretend to enjoy their job. Where was Gabriela when government was exploiting its lady employees? What chance did they have to ogled at by motorists while over their hatted heads were giant billboards with alluring starlets hawking the latest high rise residential tower. Thank God, after sweating their 15 minutes of Andy Warhol fame, the lady cop MTV-side show was, thankfully over. Ningas Cogon.
Not all Ningas Cogon end in a positive note, though. For a quarter of a century, Central Bulacan province has been clamoring for traffic relief along the congested Bocaue-Sta. Maria-Balagtas and Guiguinto-Sta-Rita-Plaridel corridors. The previous government started construction of 2 new interchanges on the NLEx. One links to Balagtas and the proposed North Food Exchange central market. The other links to the so-called Plaridel bypass. But for some reason, progress on these projects have either stopped or slowed down. Ditto for the Bocaue to Guiginto river bridge. Another case of Ningas Cogon? But then, one can always blame the former administration for yet another anomaly.
Thankfully, the year ends with a good number of programs that are consistently being applied. When was the last time you heard a "wang wang" [or federal siren] wailing? Usually a legitimate emergency sortie by an Ambulance but never anything else. Bravo!. And buses on EDSA? Though we would like to even see less of them - whether through a genuine culling of LTFRB franchises, a 12 hour number coding or even odd-even ban on them, efficient dispatch through RFID tags - we dare say that EDSA Christmas traffic has returned to more bearable levels of 2003. What is needed is to arrest those reckless drivers of non-air con buses who weave through all 6 lanes of EDSA and block lane 03, the middle lane, of EDSA-Guadalupe just to let passengers on or off, every night of the week.
Though we cheer the reduction of loading bays, further proving that the abuses of the excess buses were a fiscal drain on MMDA finances, we would like to see more fencing of median islands under the Balintawak to Trinoma LRT-1. More fencing of C-5- Taguig where just too many people cross wily nilly at night. Re-starting the installation of reflective lane studs on EDSA. Clearing out the vendors on the steel footbridges on EDSA-Roosevelt-Congressional. Creating a seamless network of footbridges on EDSA-Balintawak Cloverleaf and EDSA-West Ave.-Trinoma.
Examples to follow and not to follow
Even in the city, there are many activities that do not suffer the fate of Ningas Cogon. There are numerous nocturnal diggings of Maynilad and Manila Water which are always well fenced, well lit, well sign posted and manned by personnel in proper high visibility vests. Exiting the city, we witness the consistent high level of traffic enforcement, road maintenance and rescue services of the NLEx, SFEx, Skyway and SCTEx. FPIC's well managed oil pipeline repair shouldn't be delayed a minute longer if only the Legislature and the Judiciary didn't mess around with the Executive branch's role. This "high-minded principle" meddling cost a lot of poor day jobs at Shell and Caltex service stations closed by the oil pipeline shutdown. Merry Christmas indeed, thanks to the Supreme Court
A list longing for action
What we would like to see is quicker action on is the toll fee hikes on all the vastly improved expressways: SCTEx, NLEx, SFEx, Skyway, ACTEx and STAR. Raising train fares on all the city's mass transit railways. Faster R-o-W [Right of way] acquisition for the Luzon Avenue-Katipunan Avenue link. TPLEx to Gerona. Central Luzon Expwy to Rizal, Nueva Ecija. NLEx Package 9 to Maysan, Valenzuela.
No plate, no brainer
To put an end to the PNP's profiling of every motorcycle and car without a plate number as stolen, we need the 8-character longer plate numbers now. We need to kick start the Motor Vehicle Inspection scheme where the infrastructure is already in place and a national emission control standard to put an end to the highway robbery style shake downs by some local government units' anti-smoke belching teams.
Cute unto disaster
Its about time that the new administration governs by substance rather than sound bite and headlines for TV's 6 o'clock news. Cuteness of a celeb's love life is only for amusement. Meantime, we all wake up the day after Christmas or New Year with our neglected problems looming larger because of neglect.
The customer is always right
Our country has a long laundry list of delayed infrastructure investment and junkable mediocre motoring related regulations. PPP or Public-Private Partnership is the new government's battle cry. If it means what it says, then the public sector, cooperating with the private sector will no longer be labeled as crony-capitalism or corruption. The sign that those age old oligarchic maladies are no longer true is when the public sector becomes as pro-active and consistent in customer service as the prime examples in our private sector. The government is the biggest service producer in the economy, but we, the people, are their biggest customers. We have a right to demand better and more importantly, consistent service. Bunga bunga is only for laughs. Its not for running a country.