The word “government” in the Philippines has become synonymous with inefficiency and delays. At no point had this comparison became most felt than during the past administration. Government response to problems was snail-paced that Filipinos seemed to have taken this reality as part of life.
It’s as if the concept of common sense disappeared under the Aquino administration. The solutions were in front of them but they didn’t know how to go about it. The result was analysis paralysis or the absence of concrete action on tasks that needed to be done.
This is the reason why government seemed clueless on what to do with the “tanim bala” incidents at the airports and how to deal with the MRT mess. Because government had no capacity to solve simple problems, we now know why the issues of drugs and smuggling were left to grow to epidemic proportions.
Officials had a ready reason why things in government was at a standstill – bureaucratic red tape. Things were unable to move due to legal entanglements that tied the hands of officials. Public service and convenience had to take a backseat in favor of due process.
The Filipinos could do nothing but silently bear the inconvenience brought upon them by a corrupt system that favored incompetence. Fortunately, they have had enough of this injustice which led to the election of President Duterte who carried a populist tone in his campaign. And they were not disappointed.
Last week, Duterte issued a memorandum ordering NEDA to ease foreign ownership of businesses by liberalizing the Foreign Investment Negative List. The memo covers eight investment areas but the move was actually aimed at expediting the entry of a third player in the telecom industry.
The memo came after Duterte offered a Chinese company the privilege to operate the third telecom carrier in a bid to improve the country’s internet speed which is hampered by the duopoly of PLDT and Globe Telecom. These two companies didn’t see the need to improve their services because of lack of competition.
A National Broadband Network (NBN) plan hatched a decade ago by former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo would have solved the problem of internet speed but this was scrapped due to allegations of corruption that remained unproven. Come to think of it, how can corruption occur to an unimplemented project that hasn’t even been funded yet?
Without an NBN, the only way for internet speed to improve is the entry of a third player which President Aquino didn’t pursue as he is known to be beholden to the Ayala family that owns Globe. Here we see that things moved only if it served the interest of the powers-that-be. But not anymore.
Today, we see Duterte taking the bull by the horns. The government has partnered with Facebook to build the Luzon Bypass Infrastructure that will provide ultra high-speed broadband spectrum equivalent to at least two million Mbps, nearly equal to the combined capacity of Globe and PLDT.
So the problem of slow internet can actually be solved but wasn’t done in the past because the government wasn’t interested. Duterte, on the other hand, is now breaking up the duopoly right in front of us. Additionally, he promised free wi-fi in public places including waiting sheds.
The people saw decisive action and swift results in other areas as well like the drug war, the campaign against corruption and smuggling, the Marawi crisis and tax collection drive. The Filipinos who were conditioned on slow public service never thought that fast government action can be done.
Back in 2010, the National Competitive Council (NCC) launched “Arangkada,” a program meant to improve the Philippines’ ranking in the World Competitive Index. It contained recommendations like opening the economy to foreigners. The NCC wondered why there was no urgency on President Aquino’s part to implement its recommendations. Now we know why.