By Melito Salazar Jr.
In the last few weeks, media has been trumpeting the preparations for the ASEAN Summit and Related Meetings starting November 13. The objective is to have a safe, convenient, and secure environment for the ASEAN and world leaders that include US’s Donald Trump, China’s Xi Jinping, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. The focus is on them and their delegations. One wonders, what about the Filipinos who are not just inconvenienced by the arrangements but some who are going to suffer loss of income?
The mayors started by suspending classes in Metro Manila and neighboring environs. Could not good coordination with the ASEAN 2017 Organizing Council pinpoint the areas affected in terms of venues of the meetings and the routes to be taken to and from the airports and the hotels? In this way instead of a general suspension of classes, it could be limited to the educational institutions within these areas and along these routes. Parents pay for their children’s education and they should not be short-changed.
The Duterte administration followed the mayors by declaring holidays in Metro Manila and environs from Nov. 13-15. Again, could they not have been more specific as to which areas? Will Quezon City, Marikina, San Juan, Mandaluyong be areas for the Summit and Related Meetings? Why not just declare holidays for Manila, Makati, Pasay and Parañaque? Holidays mean no income for the “no work, no pay” workers. Three days of lost income is devastating for Filipino workers already in the poverty line or close to it. With all the government funds being used to make the ASEAN Summit a success, can’t the Duterte administration spare some to pay these workers who are going to lose their income?
I saw photos of workers sprucing up the Roxas Boulevard seawall area. I believe this is also happening along the routes of the delegation and most probably in the vicinity of the CCP and Mall of Asia complex. It is good that our visitors will see the area at its best. But why only when we have visitors? Isn’t making our surroundings clean and beautiful a daily task of government and the community?
Along the routes to be traversed by the delegations I am sure part of the 60,000-strong ASEAN security will be deployed both to secure the safety of the visitors and ensure speedy and comfortable travel. For those of us who daily suffer the delays and see unmanned intersections adding to the traffic jams, we would wish to be treated too like these visitors. We are asking not for police escorts but for all major thoroughfares and alternate routes on a daily basis to have assigned policemen to direct traffic and ensure a smooth and continuous flow of vehicles.
Security will be tight to ensure no attempts (robberies, physical injury, etc.) are made on any of our visitors. On a daily basis Filipino citizens are vulnerable to these dangers. Yet we do not see police patrols plying our community streets. Foot patrols are virtually non-existent. Yet aren’t Filipinos as important as the visitors? Aren’t we the ones funding the police forces with our taxes? How many local communities have to hire security guards for their areas and make each village a protected enclave?
It is good to put our best foot forward. But the Duterte administration and the local government units should not do it just for the visitors. It is their duty to do it every day, for the Filipinos, who are their bossings!