The Philippine Star

We have two letters that were sent to this column writer in the interest of airing their views on two important topics. First is by Deo Contreras who is reacting to Congress’ plan to take over mining licenses. The second is from Junbo Borromeo’s who is reacting to the government’s proposed jeepney modernization program. Please read on.

Mr. Contreras writes: “We cannot help but comment on a disturbing plan of the House of Representatives to take over licensing of several businesses including mining. The economic success of countries like Singapore, Norway, Hong Kong, etc. is due to least government intrusion into businesses or a hands-off policy called “laissez faire.”

“Government bureaucracy, red tape and incompetence bog down the financial growth of an economy. If we just look at our Congress nowadays, it does more investigation of corruption shown on media in aid of legislation.

“Turning to the mining business, since the earliest Philippine Bill of 1902, mining activities have always been delegated to the President and the government agencies handling natural resources and mining.

“It is a specialized and technical business activity and profitability depends on such factual variables as grade of minerals, amount of mineral deposit, techniques on how to mine at the optimum and the international prices of metals, not to mention foreign exchange rates as most minerals are exported to buying countries.

Expensive, unruly and unrealistic

“Just imagine the Congress of the Philippines doing all these activities before a mining license is given. It will require congressional staffs of experienced technical people to advise the 200 plus congressmen, and will be adding another layer of bureaucracy in Congress. The exercise will be expensive, unruly and unrealistic.

“Congress will be a legislator and implementor of a law it made. There is conflict of interest here.

“What is the current issue against mining? If it is environment, them why not copy the way the US does it by creating an Environmental Protection Agency under the Office of the President which will absorb government agencies like the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) and related agencies.

“Our Department of Energy (DOE) exclusively handles mining but in energy only. Yet DOE does not have an in-house environmental agency unlike the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

“The EMB independently evaluates energy contracts and agreements.

“Why not create a strong environmental agency under the Office of the President to immediately respond to environmental concerns on mining of both the non-energy and energy minerals?

PUV modernization

This one is from Junbo Borromeo. He writes: “Congratulations on a well-written column (“A New Face for the PHL Jeepney”). I think you have put together a persuasive endorsement of the PUV Modernization Program, an initiative that, as you put it, is “a couple of decades late.” I might add, more than a couple of decades late.

“I have always wondered why we continue to call the jeepney ‘the symbol of Filipino ingenuity,’ when, from the end of WW2 until today, the jeepney has not undergone any improvement, innovation, or development other than an increase in size and the shift from war surplus jeeps abandoned by the US Army, to engines and drive trains from used Japanese vehicles.

“In contrast, look at what Indonesians did with the Toyota Tamaraw, the Philippines’ proud entry to the Asian Utility Vehicle competition of the Marcos era.

“In my frequent visits to Indonesia during the three decades of 1980, 1990, and 2000, I observed how the Tamaraw inspired Indonesian carosseries or automotive builders (the equivalent of our Saraos) to improve on the Tamaraw and produce their own ‘fully pressed body’ vehicles.

“The ‘fully pressed body’ meant they were using hydraulic presses to create bodies with curved fenders, hoods, and so on. Contrast that with the typical jeepney, which has sharp corners (pinukpok lamang ng latero).

“Toyota Indonesia, or PT Toyota Astra, produced their own version of the Tamaraw and called it the Kijang (Bahasa Indonesia for ‘deer’). This was soon exported to the Philippines as the FX, which Filipinos adapted as a public utility vehicle (PUV).

“The FX proved successful because it was better looking and safer than the jeepney but, more importantly, was air-conditioned. Note how the jeepney design prevents it from being easily air-conditioned, although I have seen a few crude attempts at sealing off the wide-open sections of the typical jeepney.

“The Revo followed the FX. It was a more refined version of the Kijang. Finally came the Innova. In fact, there have been two major improvements in design since the Revo.

“Although my version of the Innova’s history may be more anecdotal than factually accurate, one might wonder why our Indonesian neighbors were able to evolve the Tamaraw, a Filipino design, into today’s 2017 model Innova, while the jeepney has remained pretty much what it was from post-war days, albeit with a longer wheelbase.

“I suspect if we had not given the jeepney the status of ‘symbol of Filipino ingenuity,’ someone would have consigned it to the garbage heap of progress many decades ago. But to disparage the jeepney might prove an insult to the Filipino self-esteem, and so the jeepney lived on.

“Hopefully an enlightened and creative campaign by government agencies will disabuse people’s minds of the ‘sanctity’ of the jeepney and replace it with another icon more inspiring for future generations of Filipinos, offering a vision for a safer, practical, economical, and ecologically-sound public utility vehicle for tomorrow.”

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