Last week, a contractor of the Department of Public Works and Highways started clearing the area in front of the office to prepare it for a road widening project. Because the government was going to expropriate some land, a bit of demolition had to be carried out.
The contractor's backhoe was tearing down an abandoned building beside our office building and when it turned its attention to a wall within our property that we had agreed would be demolished as well, it took out the telephone lines in the process. As we were in the newspaper business and that sort of work has become totally reliant on the internet to survive, we had to quickly get our lines of communication back online.
The thing about telephone and internet service in today's world is that you need to call a contact center before you can make an appointment with a repair crew that will then be dispatched to fix your problem from 24-48 hours. There would be no Visayan DAILY STAR the following day if the phone lines and the internet connections that had been severed were not quickly restored so we immediately called the telco's hotlines for help while at the same time trying to temporarily fix the problem.
Because our internet connection was served by simple copper wires that had been cut by the clumsy demolition job, our trusty utility guy and I were able to figure out a way to DIY it back into service. It was just a matter of identifying which wires were cut and connecting them back together until we got a dial tone and the modem got its signal back. I don't know how the newspaper's issue could've survived if we had been forced to DIY the repair of a fiber optic connection.
As we were fumbling through the tangle of wires and troubleshooting our way through what would've been a disaster for any media company in today's hyper-connected world, I realized how the DPWH and all the other utility companies need more coordination when they are working.
We would've been saved from undue stress over a potential operational disaster if the utility companies had an agreement with the DPWH where the utility companies can quickly deploy service crews whenever the contractor inevitably takes a utility out. I'm pretty sure that our case where we lost phone and internet connections with the swing of a backhoe's arm isn't an exception and with all the road widening operations that have been taking place, a protocol should've been established by now to ensure minimal disruption on the lives and operations of citizens and businesses whose property is already being expropriated.
The DPWH and their contractors should know that heavy equipment don't mix well with telephone lines and water pipes but it seems that they don't care what happens as long as they do their job of building new roads. On the other hand, the utility companies that should prepare special response teams for areas being affected by construction work have been leaving it to the affected homes and businesses to fend for themselves. Even with the very real risk of service interruptions, affected customers still have to go through the usual channels where service crews take more than 24 hours before showing up. This kind of response time would've been unacceptable for the severed internet connection of a newspaper like the Visayan DAILY STAR. It would've hamstrung a hospital or a government office, or it would've caused great inconvenience on households.
This absence of coordination is why the DPWH leaves utility poles standing in the middle of their freshly concreted projects. The people there cannot be bothered to talk to the utility companies regarding their schedule so they can just all work together, one time big time. The people working on the road will do their thing and then leave the site, their own work done but the project thoroughly unfinished as the public waits for the utility companies to break the road again so they can move the poles.
This same absence of coordination is why abusive squatters reclaim newly widened roads as soon as the heavy equipment leaves the construction site. The government has been spending billions upon billions to widen roads but nothing really happens because those newly concreted thoroughfares are turned to patios, carinderias, talyers, and talipapas because the local government does absolutely nothing to ensure that the project is properly used.
This coordination is something a properly functioning local government should look into. The local government can force the DPWH and utility companies to work together. Barangay officials should be blamed for allowing their constituents to squat on public property but they don't care because their other constituents are too meek to care.
A person needs good hand and eye coordination to be able to function properly. Without it, we wouldn't be able to perform simple but essential tasks such as feeding ourselves. When will the different parts of our government start learning to coordinate?*
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