Road clearing

By: Manuel “Boy” Mejorada

ILOILO CITY, like all other LGUs in the whole country, has been busy conducting demolition activities of illegal structures on public roads and removing illegally parked vehicles in compliance with the order of President Rodrigo R. Duterte in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July 22.

A memorandum-circular issued by DILG Secretary Ano has set a time-table of 60 days for LGUs to substantially comply with the order. It comes with a stern warning that LGUs that fail to carry out the directive will face administrative sanctions. And from the tone of the pronouncements coming from the Palace, the punishment could be as harsh as removal from office.

This is not the first time such an order to clear public roads has been issued. But it’s only now that we are witnessing a serious effort to obey the order. Apparently, everybody knows that the President means business, and nobody wants to put his political will to test.

Last weekend, I saw pictures of the Iloilo Terminal Market, or more commonly known as the “Super”, in a drastically different profile: the sidewalks and floors were spankingly clean. In other parts of the city, the LGU has substantially removed illegal structures that occupy sidewalks, and even roadways, that had for decades become permanent fixtures.

What this tells us is that when there is political will, even the seemingly impossible tasks can be done. It’s really a matter of flexing the government’s law enforcement muscle and sending a message that nobody is above the law.

This road clearing exercise can bring about long-term reforms in the entire government and society.

President Duterte has shown he will stop at nothing to make sure his directives are carried out. His foul mouth has become an effective instrument in coercing the bureaucracy to do its job.

Once the roads are cleared, the government can then focus its attention on untangling the traffic mess in major urban centers, particularly Metro Manila.

There is already a move to relocate the provincial bus terminals that dot EDSA in Cubao to the periphery of the national capital region. This part of EDSA is where we see horrendous traffic every day, especially during rush hours. By the mere act of getting the terminals out of the area, much improvement can be expected in the traffic situation.

Slowly, the attitude change that President Duterte is injecting into the national consciousness is taking root. All these actions translate to embracing discipline as a way of life. Filipinos have a nasty habit of doing what is convenient for them, even if it causes great inconvenience for society as a whole. By enforcing the law, Mr. Duterte is bringing back the people’s respect for law and order.

The campaign to restore order through road clearing, to include illegal parking, can be viewed as “baby steps” for a nation trying to catch up with the rest of the ASEAN region in terms of economic progress.

At first glance, the connection might not be apparent. But as our people learn to follow rules, and our society begins to do things the right way even if it means a little sacrifice for individual Filipinos, then it won’t take long before we see changes that will usher in a new era of progress for the country.