Two transport-related items caught my attention last week that would show how government functions in the real, and not ideal, world. Both of these items, one local and one overseas (though this will surely land on our shores), emanate from government policies that capture intertwined interests from two separate government agencies and how, in the end, they could be resolved.
Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III apologizing for the No Vaccine, No Ride Program: We heard the many discussions on this program by the Department of Transportation with both those who are for it and those who oppose it as evenly distributed. But one voice among the many caught my attention and this comes from a non-transport personality, Secretary Bebot Bello of the Department of Labor and Employment. Secretary Bello took the cudgels for his department’s constituency as he apologized for the transport difficulties that workers faced because of DOTr’s controversial program. And I must say, it takes a real man to own a mistake. And more so, a real public servant to apologize publicly to his publics when need be. Rarely do we see this happen. Specifically, Secretary Bello cited the lack of information on the exemption of workers from the program. Workers make up the most of those who commute via public transport and also have difficulties getting vaccinated because of accessibility and mobility concerns.
5G and the Aviation Industry: What happens when a tech innovation that is supposed to benefit a particular industry poses a danger to another? Such is the case with 5G technology, the next generation wireless communications standard that assures faster Internet service, better and more secure mobile communications to its users and is now the focus of investments of telecoms companies worldwide, including here in the Philippines. This is nothing like the supposed interference of mobile phones in-flight. Major global airlines are warning about the dangers that 5G poses, specifically to planes on their runway descent, thereby putting in harm’s way the passengers on such flights. The reason for this is that 5G share the same frequency spectrum (3.7 to 4.2 GHZ) used by an airplane’s altimeter, the instrument that guides a plane on its path to an airport’s runway and tells how close the airplane is to the ground. This alone makes the prospect of frequency spectrum sharing a grave concern. In the United States, federal aviation regulators are in discussions with their telecommunications counterparts to resolve this issue as global airlines are bent on reviewing their flights to the US. Key concerns are the telecoms towers near airports and what distance is safe so as not to adversely affect planes that are landing. US telecoms companies such as AT&T and Verizon, however, cite that there had been no major incidents related to this shared spectrum and that more than 40 other countries have deployed 5G near their airports without any incident.
Which leads us to our situation here in our country where 5G service had been offered much earlier by our telecoms companies than in the United States. In almost all major airports nationwide you will see telecoms towers built nearby and definitely mobile communication traffic at the airports is heavier than in most places in the metropolis. It may be true that the 5G technology used here is older and slower, but it will still be more prudent if an oversight review will be jointly done by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines and the National Telecommunications Commission. Better to be overly cautious at this point.
Government agencies with different and sometimes contrasting interests will always be there. The problems stem from their intent, in so far as their concerned sector is concerned, to protect the interests of the greater majority of their constituencies. Inter-agency discussions to resolve such issues are standard procedures in government, but honestly, do they function pro-actively? In the end, some issues result in costly mistakes that could have been avoided had such talks been pursued more seriously. Key takeaways from these two items I cited: Resolve issues before anything bad happens; and if it does happen, apologize and fix the problem.
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