ROUGH CUTS| Two popular laws welcomed, opposed

LAST week President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed two very popular measures which many had been hoping will eventually become laws.

And yes, the President knows that even some of his economic managers were lobbying for a veto because they sensed some major problems in finding money to fund its implementation — the one granting tuition-free education in all state universities and colleges (SUCs) in the country. But there is nothing his economic managers can do now and Congress as well but make some alignments in the 2018 national budget to ensure that the loss of tuition in SUCs can be supported with funds from the national government coffers.

From the reactions of students from the University of the Philippines, of parents and even Cabinet secretaries of Departments engaged in social services delivery, we can say that there is jubilation in welcoming the free tertiary education law. Of course there are always those skeptics. Like the head of the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) who is suspecting that the free tuition in SUCs includes a provision that gives preferential guarantee for private universities and colleges.

According to NUSP’s Mark Vincent Lim, the Free Tuition Law for SUCs does this by providing a loan program for students of private universities and colleges. He claims this will ensure profits for these private institutions since this student loan facility will prevent students from transferring to SUCs.

The same NUSP official suspects that the purpose of the implementation of this law which is to help see through the education of the less privileged could still be negated. He seems to have no trust in Duterte’s economic managers who are the ones tasked to craft the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR). Lim thinks they would manipulate the IRR to make it “compliant” to the primary reason of their objection.

The other very popular measure that the President also signed last week is the Zero Deposit Law for patients brought to hospitals. This law mandates hospital management that patients brought to the hospital should be attended to, admitted and given the necessary medical intervention even if they could not yet make a deposit of the amount set by the hospital management. To many, this one is a very welcome law especially for the poor majority who could not immediately raise the money demanded by private hospitals as deposit.

But even before the euphoria on the good news could die down the Philippine Hospital Association (PHA) is already threatening the government with a suit in the Supreme Court questioning the constitutionality of the new law as amended.

According to the officials of the PHA they learned from experience that the hospital ends up losing money because once patients are administered the necessary medical intervention and provided the required medicines the hospitals cannot “sequester” a patient once he or she is healed and cannot pay. The patient has to be discharged.

Well, as we love to say, any innovation that will be introduced, more so if it is in governance, its over-all effect is always anchored on the number of potential beneficiaries. But then again, there will also be sufferers. Thus, the real measure therefore of the goodness of the innovation’s effects is when the beneficiaries far outnumber the sufferers.

May be the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo era vintage phrase “Moderate your greed” for profit should apply here. We mean, to the private hospital owners and managements.

-ooOoo-

With the cancellation of the Mega Harbour offered Sta. Ana Port and Davao Coastal Development Project by Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, the city stands to lose a world class and highly competitive trans-shipment sea port.

This is because one of the components of the said P39-billion project is a modern wharf that would be built in one of the four islands that will be created by reclamation of the seashore from Agdao up to Bucana.

We believe that the best way to compensate for this loss of a very economically critical infrastructure project for the city is to pursue the aborted P19-billion Sasa Port Modernization Project. It may be recalled that this earlier port project was also effectively steamrollered by a well-organized opposition group composed of such powerful business associations as the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (DCCCII), the Mindanao Business Council (MBC), private sea port investors like the Floirendos and the Razons, and of course the local politicians who believed then that the cost was over-bloated.

But with the termination of the Mega Harbour deal earlier signed by then Mayor of Davao City and now President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte, we believe that the only viable alternative project for Davao City to be offered as a major transshipment point is modernized Sasa Port.

Yes of course, the cost must be recomputed. And once a new commercially viable cost of the project is determined, there should be no more turning back. After all, this is a national government project, not that of the local government.

Frankly, we believe there has to be certain elements in personal and even corporate pride that shall be given up if Davao City is to be highly competitive with other major sea ports in the Philippines and in neighboring countries.

Posted in Opinion