Crimes increase as education, opportunity, and property decrease. Whatever spreads ignorance, poverty and, discontent causes crime…. Criminals have their own responsibility, their own share of guilt, but they are merely the hand…. Whoever interferes with equal rights and equal opportunities is in some … real degree, responsible for the crimes committed in the community. – Rutherford Birchard Hayes (1822-1893), U.S. president. Diary and Letters of Rutherford Birchard Hayes: Nineteenth President of the United States
Quezon is the promise land
In 1996 the legendary Gordon Wu and the slipform engineering expert Stewart Elliot of Hopewell Holdings were in town to personally sign the preliminary contracts (memorandum of understanding) in the construction of the South Luzon Expressway Extension all the way from Calamba to Pagbilao. Officials of Philippine National Construction Corporation were on hand in the signing. It was no doubt a flagship project of FVR.
There was much rejoicing from the side of Quezon delegation led by Governor Eddie Rodriguez as the historic inking spurred the engine revving of the province towards the high road to progress. Everyone who mattered in Quezon was in Malacanang except the now sitting governor, Willy Enverga, who was one of the congressmen then. His absence was never noticed, except now in hindsight.
No less than FVR lent his electric presence together with his cabinet biggies headed by Justice Secretary Tito Guingona. The message was loud and clear, everything was legal and above board insofar as the impact project was concerned. Within earshot, we heard FVR fancied ” let’s relocate the Philippine capital to Pagbilao ! They ain’t seen nothin’ yet! ” He flashed his trademark thumbs-up sign. Everybody followed suit.
Rightly so, because of the unmatched Hong Kong clone blueprint the duo Wu and Stewart presented to FVR and Rodriguez, a complex modern metropolis to rise from the reclaimed areas off Grande Island of Pagbilao. Once commenced, the project attempts to wipe out unemployment in Quezon and usher in the province to the forefront of development. We have reasons to rejoice.
It looked like everybody was focused on Quezon as the new gateway from China Sea . Quezon is the only component of CALABARZON with an enviable access to the waterways, the Pacific Ocean in the West, and in the South-eastern side, the China Sea . A world class port as part of the Quezon development plan would soon break the waters of Pagbilao. While there were talks of another port in Batangas, parallel ports were being pushed by the Wu-Elliot team on Pagbilao and Plaridel. A proposed viaduct would join the Pacific and Tayabas Bay in China Sea . ” Forget about Metro-Manila because Quezon is the answer. Metro- Manila should be converted into a museum” , we heard FVR uttered time and time again.
Those words were spoken not from sheer exuberance but from tenacity of purpose. Quezon was in the grand vision of FVR. For the most part of Quezon connects the most parts of Bicol, the Visayas, and Mindanao . Batangas has the limited access to China Sea and that is all. Hearing those words from no less than the President of the Philippines makes one break into goose bumps and of course understandably proud.
The experts were in unison that the soil and configuration of Quezon fit the bill as the site for massive world class processing and export zones. Quezon time has come. The best top soils are in Cavite , Laguna, and Batangas. By bulldozing this topsoil and converting the land into industrial and residential complexes, Wu and Elliot could not help themselves but protest to FVR. It was a mindless approach, they chorused as it destroys a farming basin. These provinces are meant for agriculture development. Whatever is planted in those parts grows. While in Quezon only the coconuts agree. By building the link expressway to Quezon, it is expensive alright, but forward thinking nevertheless as distance is overcome by the infrastructure. While Laguna, Cavite, and Batangas are nearer to Manila, Quezon’s distance on the other hand can be fixed by the construction of an equally vast 6-lane express way.
From Guangdong with love
Experience has taught them that this was so from the lessons of Guangdong , a China province north of Hong Kong . Guangdong is connected to Shenzhen and Hong Kong by a colossally broad highway built by the tandem of Wu and Elliot. They put up gigantic coal-fired power plants in Guangdong stimulating unprecedented development there. From the dusty countryside of Guangdong rose the magnificent cities of Guangzhou , Maoming, Mexian, Shenzhen, Shaoguan, Yangjiang and Zhanjiang that forever altered their skylines. Guangzhou is the main communication centre of Guangdong with generous amount of railways, highways, bridges, multi levels of flyovers and labyrinth of waterways . The transport conditions in Guangdong Province are of international standard. So far, the water transportation has been playing a very important role in its relentless development. The ocean shops go from Guangzhou or Zhanjiang to South East Asia , Africa , Europe and America , and more than 40 ports in Shanghai , Dalian , Tianjin , Qingdao , Nantong , Ningbo , Yantai, Fuzhou , Xiamen , Wenzhou , Beihai. Guangdong is also one of the provinces in China where the highways have been developed into the networks all over the province. And there are four railways: Beijiang to Guangzhou , Guangzhou to Jiulong, Guangzhou to Maoming and Litang to Zhanjiang . The air transport services are developing rapidly. Besides an airport in Guangzhou , there are some other airports in Zhanjing, Shantou , Zhuhai, Shenzhen, Foshan, Huizhou, Wuhua, Meixian, and Yangjiang which connect with all the large cities in China . There are more than 10 international airlines.
In just a little over a decade, Guangdong as an autonomous region like Guangxi is now an equally proud Asian destination within the league of Singapore and Hong Kong .
It could have been Quezon
But indolence and the fastbuck mentality ruined FVR’s vision and along with it the primacy of Quezon in the faithful hierarchy of plans in the CALABARZON. Some people are now poised to make money out of their alleged vested rights on the consortium.
The contracts were signed as early as 1996. The ground works were done. By Wu-Elliot estimation, the project is operational by 2000. All that was necessary was the implementation and passionate follow-up. All that Quezon needs is an action man. What we got unfortunately was a foul-up. Nothing came up for the last six years, and still and all, we face another uneventful three years.
We got a deadbolt
What we installed as a care taker is a veritable deadbolt. From the outside it seems impossible to get in. And that is precisely the whole point. We thought we were secure by fitting us a deadbolt for Quezon’s doorway, scaring away thieves. But we were mistaken. A deadbolt was installed all right, for him to raid our meagre possessions.
The wasteland that is Quezon
For the last six years he was crowing empty announcements, while the jobless remain as that. The sick are dying. Crimes are in the upswing. And the ignorant? Legions! Blessed are those in this blissful state.Quezon now attains the distinction as one of the poorest LGUs in this country along with Samar , Masbate , Siquijor, and Quirino. His sloth has irrevocably interfered with equal rights and equal opportunities painstakingly initiated brick by brick by his predecessors. It is only he and his moneybag together with a handful of contractors benefit from his rule. While the people, buffeted by unemployment, poverty, illnesses, and non-existent opportunity, sulk in the background. Joining the NPA is not a viable option anymore as it has coexisted with the government already. Besides, Marx fantasized of driving a Rolls Royce in his life time. Deng Xiaoping declared ” to be rich is glorious! ” And Lenin, Mao, and Fidel Castro are victims of the greatest hoax on earth. Joema Sison, Ka Roger and their ilk believe that this country or Quezon in particular is the perfect laboratory of the polemics of Marx and company. They might be proved right. The fate of Fulgencio Battista and Anastacio Somoza await the deadbolt.
The FVR episode remained a flickering dream for Quezon. How much time do we have? It is not true that time goes. We go.
We now find ourselves knee deep in the river but we are dying of thirst.