Vehicles for mountain barangays-A A +A
Friday, August 10, 2012
IT always follows. Energize a barangay and the market for appliances expands. Build good roads along populated areas and vendors of motor vehicles like motorcycles and four-wheeled contraptions rejoice. That’s the logic behind the bias of industrialized countries for funding support for infra projects in poorer nations. It’s good for their business.
Cebu City’s hinterlands were once a favorable place for waging armed struggle because these were utterly backward enclaves. When I lived there in the ‘80s, government neglect was so palpable I described the city as actually consisting of two worlds, one very urban and the other very rural.
The vicinity of Guadalupe church, for example, was the first world. Cross the boundary to Sapangdaku and up to Sitio Napo and the effect is jarring. The other world was one virtually devoid of basic government services. And it got worse as one penetrated the interior.
Roads were few, and these were narrow and roughened by erosion, and passable only by motorcycles and rusty vehicles that had seen better days in the lowlands. Barangay Bonbon to the west of Sapangdaku could be reached by vehicles using the circuitous route from Tabunok, Talisay to Campo 4 and down to the Mananga riverbed going inward. To compensate, footpaths abound in the hinterlands and walking for hours on very rough terrains was normal for mobility.
Things changed with the construction of the Transcentral Highway that connects the province’s main urban center to Balamban town in the west. Soon, speculators and businessmen, together with politicians, found the city’s hinterlands, with its relatively dense population, to be a lucrative source of profit and votes.
More roads were added to the old ones, some of them ending up being concreted. Cruising through the Transcentral Highway and realizing how urbanization has started to creep into the city’s hinterlands, I thought that if the rebellion were to flourish there, armed struggle should no longer be in the equation. With the new setup, the place could no longer effectively harbor a guerilla unit like the “kutang puthaw” of old.
With a better network of roads in place, the market for vehicles also expanded. Or how would one view the vehicle-buying spree of the administration of Mayor Michael Rama? Those brand new and expensive vehicles would not have been distributed to chiefs of the city’s mountain barangays had the place remained the neglected enclave that it once was.
One can ask, however, if the city’s hinterlands would be better served by the spending of millions of pesos for the purchase of vehicles whose use could end up benefitting only the barangay officials. I always believe that public funds should be spent on basic services and to pump-prime the economy of a place.
Basic services include health and sanitation (some mountain barangays don’t have a steady supply of water). Pump priming the economy includes the building of more farm-to-market roads or providing loans to farmers’ cooperatives or budding entrepreneurs in, for example, the cut flower business and the mango industry.
Value of vehicles depreciates and money for maintenance, especially for expensive vehicles like a Toyotas Hilux, becomes a problem in the long-term. Mountain barangays do not as yet have enough resources to support such luxury. But then, the elections are just around the bend and getting votes dictate the priority spending of incumbents. Rama is no exception to that, and that’s unfortunate.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 11, 2012.