What are the real problems?

Published by rudy Date posted on October 19, 2009

Over the weekend, one of our friends, Pastor Manny Carlos shared a statement that his hair stylist made about flood victims.

The man who happened to be one of the many people who lost “everything” during the flood was wondering what sort of help can they expect, since most of government’s focus has been for the homeless or the squatters.

From relief goods, evacuation centers, relocation and medical treatment, the truly poorest of the poor have received the bulk of government support and attention.

But what about the working class?

What about the skilled professionals? What about people who have paid taxes annually and have now lost all their appliances, live in ruined homes that require renovation equivalent to half the cost of constructing a new house?

What about people who have taken out housing loans, auto loans or motorcycle loans? How do we expect them to prioritize spending between reconstructing their lives, their homes, paying out loans and paying for the education of their children?

And by the way, where do we look to find out how much money has been sent by foreign countries and where do we find out who and how is spending all these donations?

You might say that: for a hair stylist he sure asks some high-end questions!

The truth of the matter is that so many middle class families, working class people and traditional taxpayers were wiped out by the recent flooding of Metro Manila. But as far as they are concerned no one is addressing their needs and whatever government is extending to them such as calamity loans and salary loans are rights they have earned and are entitled to as members of Pag-IBIG, SSS or GSIS.

30 day or 90 day debt relief from loans, life insurance payments etc are useless and sound more like a cruel reminder at a time when you can’t even tell if it’s safe to stay in Eastern Metro Manila for the rest of the rainy season.

A company driver lost his motorcycle to thieves but he has to keep paying for the scooter until the 24-month payments have been completed. Vehicles went underwater and mud, and owners have to pay tens of thousands to repair them while paying the 24 or 36 months installment on what are now fully depreciated wrecks!

If an “Act of GOD” or “CALAMITY” wipes out any claims for insurance, how come the same does not apply for the loans that covered those cars and motorcycles? Why do insurers get off the hook, the dealers get to continue collecting while the customer get crucified three times?

If the loss is due to and “Act of GOD” or “CALAMITY” shouldn’t the burden or the loss be shared by the same people who stood to benefit from the product or the transaction?

Residents who used to live in dream homes considered a prime real estate now have an address that is categorized as another flood waiting to happen. The question is: what kind of a break are we giving the working class?

A two-year no real estate tax payment policy does not address the reality of living on property that is now classified as “no real estate value” or “buy at your own risk!”

For starters, we should now have a law and a system that would require every community, town and city to meet certain standards and points proportional to the tax levels they charge for real estate, business etc.

The standard should require local governments to have a set number of services equivalent to a set number of people. They should first meet peace and order, air pollution, environmental stability and safety, medical and emergency services, educational facilities, parks and recreational facilities.

At the moment there is a big squabble between established cities and municipalities that want to be cities. But at the end of the day very few of those in the list or want to be in the list actually qualify. Now would be a good time to redefine the standard and the requirement. Taxes must be proportionate or relative to services and standard of living.

At the very least the cities and towns where the flooding happened should be made to change their tax schedules on real estate and business because they are unable to provide the required standard of services commensurate to their taxes. Let the National government make up for the deficit but relieve the tax payers from paying for a standard of sinking and not a standard of living.

As for education and health needs, the one thing that the floods made very clear is that most cities and towns hardly have any decent facilities or enough facilities. Only towns or cities that had a residing Senator in their place actually had big sports arenas or decent medical centers.

What I also can’t figure out is how local and national officials never did anything about construction designs in places that are ALWAYS flooded. Whether it’s Napindan in Cainta or Malabon, nothing has been done in redesigning houses, walkways and motorways to adopt to the ever present and ever rising high tides or flood water that happen several months every year.

City or town engineers as well as the DPWH always talk about flood control. Nuts! Before anybody trusts them enough to lend you money, most of their generation would be dead.

Why not redesign the towns so that houses can be made like those in Venice, designate certain areas that don’t sink as car parks, while the rest can be elevated walking, bicycle or scooter areas only while cargo can be moved around in the waterway. We need two systems not just the one we have lived with for generations.

In the end, it’s about finding solutions for the people and not making the people live with the problem! –Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star)

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