Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Spent the first day of spring shoveling snow in the clinic parking lot. Guymon needed the moisture badly and in the 2 hours that I spent clearing the 6 inches of snow I thought how lucky the Philippines was in having 80-90 degree weather the whole year round. From an economic perspective, think about the amount of oil and gas that we don't have to convert to heat, think about the many layers of clothing that we do not have to wear, think about the time we can all productively spend outside. One more important reason-advantage why we do not need a tremendous amount of money to keep the citizens contented.

But instead of taking full advantage of a blessing, we have managed to create large problems like squatting which is prevalent in the Philippines. Because of our warm climate, anyone can put together cardboard walls and roofs using indigenous materials and live wherever it is convenient. There is little respect for property rights. Try taking one of those decrepit train rides and you will wonder how many people live next to the narrow tracks. Sanitation is awful and accidents occur frequently and living conditions are atrocious and you would think that the government would clear all these illegal dwellings. Yet because of decades of compromise and opportunism, these squatters have become rich mother-lodes of votes and have become untouchable. Never mind the hazardous and even life-threatening conditions in what are fondly known as "condominium units" underneath bridges just as long as these poor people deliver a solid vote. The steady erosion of property rights results in demoralization among landowners and can you blame a squatter for not caring for the land that is not his own? The common good has been set aside.

The State needs to exert major efforts in relocating these unfortunate people. While the Philippines is not a huge country, there remain large tracts of undeveloped land that may be converted into safe and clean communities that will encourage citizens to become productive.

Leadership requires political will that must enforce existing laws which protect the common good. When there is general failure to demonstrate respect for fundamental rights, leadership loses its mandate to unite the people towards shared goals. The current crop is way too compromised.

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