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10 little things to make the year new

After the Christmas triglycerides and excused holiday indulgence, reality bites back. “Easing into the new year” is a nice thought, but not realistic, I’m afraid. Not with the big ticket items of the Tax Reform madness, and the mad talk about federalism, to name a couple. This Sunday though, I will first make a side step and take on some little things which, added to your own, can surely make our days better, and even change a culture:

1. Faster toll barriers, please.

I rode a taxi in Japan and felt emotional because the fare was tearfully expensive. When the cab approached the toll barrier, I felt the cab was in high speed but it wasn’t slowing down. I can’t remember now if I screamed but the toll barrier lifted up and out of the way before we hit it. The Japanese cab driver politely appeased me that “barrier can, up to 60 (kph), we passed 40 (kph), very safe”.

That, of course, is not the Philippine experience, where you need to slow down below 10 km per hour and be ready to make a full stop because the toll barrier may not lift at all. Can our toll operators invest in faster barrier technology? Rules compelling RFID may not even be needed because people will surely want to use toll that feels like a “pass through”.

2. More booths for faster ingress, anytime.

The most difficult part of arriving home from a foreign trip, sometimes, is getting through immigration. I think that unlike typhoons, the deluge of people from foreign flights can be better predicted and prepared for. Just more booths and immigration officers when needed, even in the wee hours of the morning please, when it is most difficult.

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It wouldn’t be off to mention the same request to the most patronized shopping malls. Automated parking machines at the entrance is okay, but two or three machines in a row to make the line of cars shorter and entry much less of an ordeal is what loyal patrons ask for.

3. Put a trash bag inside your car.

I would step on the gas and try to catch up with the guy who threw trash from his car to give him a piece of my mind. But my wife would remind me “hey, it’s a Sunday”, so I’d let this one pass. If they think the inside of their vehicle is immune from climate change, wait ‘til the next flood that can make both their garbage, and their car, float. I preach to the wrong audience here, but can you help me advocate for garbage bag inside the car?

4. Multipurpose hall instead of street parties.

Closing the streets for a party or special event is illegal, as well as permits that allow these. Multipurpose halls, even humble ones per barangay, should be available without fees to residents to allow them a proper venue for events, on a first-come, first-served basis. If a venue is not available, the streets still cannot be claimed for private use. The MMDA would use a wrecker to pull illegally parked vehicles. Parties on closed streets are much harder to miss.

5. Let those obstruction tickets flow.

My driver parked along Paseo de Roxas while waiting for me. When I arrived, he received a ticket from a blue uniformed traffic enforcer. He was not even given a chance to just drive and go around the block. The officer was deaf to pleadings as well. We were inconvenienced but I found the move and the ticket admirable. If only obstruction of traffic ticket was issued every time anyone illegally parks, even momentarily in the streets, even without the wrecker truck, it will change behavior – as it changed mine.

6. If we cannot add trains yet, please fix the elevators and escalators first.

Our train stations have designated areas and bays for women, PWDs, and elderly passengers. Those are helpful, if you do not make them walk up the stairs due to defective elevators and escalators. Hong Kong has far greater volume of commuters and their escalators work. What’s stopping ours? And what is stopping the government from putting some in LRT stations?

7. Cover the overpass and walkways.

So much rhetoric during campaigns about improving public service yet very few minded the extreme heat from the sun, or the rain that people endure when using the overpass walkways, not to mention sidewalks. I know of people who would use Uber or Grab just to cross the nearby corner because of the unpleasantness of the required short walk. If local government officials want to serve the common man, talk no further and build those covered walkways all over. We can even live with the “epals”, but build those walkways, and be remembered for a good deed.

8. Picky, smelly taxis that complain of the competition.

When a cab approaches you with an open window, that means a negotiation is about to happen and you only get in if the driver agrees. This is a clear violation of their public service franchise. When you are taken in and the cab is smelly, they’re saying: “who cares about you, you’re only a passenger”. So I have little sympathy for these kinds of cabs. Until they shape up, the LTFRB must give maximum support to Uber, Grab, and the rest of these crowd-sourced “cabs” to give the public proper treatment and value for money.

9. Servers, pay attention please.

I was in a restaurant in Mexico, and I noticed that whenever I move my head, the waiter approaches. I found the waiters stand in alert position with heads moving left to right waiting for the next customer gesture. Here at home, in many fine dining restaurants I go to, you can almost forget the fine dining protocol of “just establish eye contact” with the waiter to call him. You need to raise your hand determinedly, as if begging to be called in class recitation, and if that doesn’t work, then you call him. I often see waiters engrossed in “chika” with each other, unmindful of their guests. Yes, they take care of you well enough, only when paying attention. But they should be reoriented that paying full attention is their job, and “chika” is not.

10. Less arrogance in government service.

There are many good, kind men in government service whom we deal with. But those who display arrogance and flex authority to ignore merits also abound. No one should need reminding that it is the taxpaying public that pays for government service. And government authority resides in the people and all power comes from them. It’s never the reverse. Those who think that this principle is no longer applicable will do well to reconsider. Because time will show and tell, as it always does, especially when one’s time is up.

How about you, my readers? Would you share with me your 10 little things?

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Alexander B. Cabrera is the chairman and senior partner of Isla Lipana & Co./PwC Philippines. Email your comments and questions to aseasyasABC@ph.pwc.com. This content is for general information purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional advisors.

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