OpinionsEye OpenerStuck and stalled

Stuck and stalled

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In his keynote address to the 6th Annual Multi”‘stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals, Rajiv Shah, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, said that “COVID-19, and the inadequate response to the pandemic, have divided the world in two, between those countries primed to move on from the pandemic and those mired in it for the foreseeable future.”

His statement made me think of Dumaguete City, and where we are or where our local government is bringing us to. Are we ‘primed to move on’? or are we going to be stalled and stuck with ‘dreams of grandeur and loftiness’ for a very long time?

With the continuing debate on the 174-hectare reclamation issue, everything seemed to be floating and without a definite destination.

While religious and civic groups remain helpful towards their covid-afflicted fellowmen, while schools continue to provide education to young learners despite connectivity problems, and while artists (from different fields) carry on their intelligent and satirical compositions to wake people up — still we don’t know what the end will be on this reclamation rumpus, making us all feel apprehensive and restless.

Which led me to wonder again. At the height of the pandemic, when almost everyone is hungry, frustrated, and fidgety about the future, aren’t we supposed to have a new mindset and redefine our focus? Scale our purpose to give people the opportunity to not just get back on their feet, but also to thrive in the midst of uncertainty to an economic transition that would lead us to a contemporary digital, environmentally-stable economy?

Yet, we are ushered in to a potential future where only the rich can survive and where only the well-connected can thrive. A future where fishes and corals die; a future where there will be regular floods, and a future where job vacancies will only be for those who are born from distant lands.

What am I saying? We’re supposed to be investing in public health but we are NOT.

Our local government and the leaders who were sworn to protect us and pave the way for us to lead better lives are giving importance to things that we really don’t need. Like the 174-hectare reclamation project.

While other cities are trying their best to lessen the negative impacts of the pandemic by filling up urgent infrastructure gaps in healthcare, communications, and logistics, while they are trying to address issues in accessing basic services, such as education, water, and sanitation, our local officials are terribly busy trying to convince people why we need to have yacht clubs, malls, department stores, and high-rise condominiums.

Instead of this huge, new and very eye-catching project, our focus must be on existing problems and work to solve them.

And if we really want to have malls and condominiums, why don’t we utilize our vacant and idle lands? Or perhaps upgrade existing infrastructure that are no longer functional or recycle assets. It isn’t necessary to kill our marine life and doom coastline residents to constant flooding later on.

Given the human and social elements involved with pandemic-related disruptions, the local government must invest in socially impactful infrastructure. I am certain there will be investors for this kind of projects, those who are looking to allocate their capital to initiatives that generate broader benefits beyond just financial returns.

Hopefully, these megalomaniac tendencies of our leaders will not bring us to a space where we will be stuck and stalled for the rest of our lives.

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Author’s email: [email protected]

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