There many be many more wide-open facilities out there

THE  front-page photo last Saturday of three toilet bowls standing side by side, without partitions,  in  a public toilet of the Philippine National Railways (PNR)  station on España  St., Manila, may have brought some smiles to the faces of some readers who must have wondered   how strangers  may have socialized during  all those moments of urgent need.

But the photo actually exposed for all to see how  a big portion of a  R296-million budget for toilet facilities in the country’s transport  terminals may have been  misspent under  the previous administration’s “Kayo ang Boss  Ko” project.  The project  was  launched  in 2012 to build and improve some one thousand toilets in airports, seaports, train stations, and bus terminals all over the country.

The Commission on Audit in its 2017 report  said  only  that half of the projected toilets  had  been completed by December,  2017. Another 254 were left  unfinished and 87 were abandoned altogether.  Three toilet bowls without partitions were found at the Espana  PNR station,  another three were  found on the  Caloocan-Dela Rosa  line,  and  probably in  some other  sites where the contractors   decided  to reduce costs at the expense of  common  decency.

It  will  be easy enough to determine which of the  four national contractors are responsible for the open toilet  facilities. The Department of Transportation of the new  Duterte administration led by Secretary Arturo Tugade will have  a more difficult  job  in  determining how the national  project  ended the way  it did. The  COA report for 2017  blamed “poor project management” which  could not have happened without some government involvement,  either  through neglect   or outright collusion.

The national project  was supposed to have been completed by  the previous  administration and  “expediting  the project’s completion was not  an option for us,” DOTr’s Communications Director Goddes  Libiran said.

What  the  DOTr  can do now is to inspect  all  the toilet facilities  nationwide and  see  what  it can do to a least install partitions and provide some privacy  for  the wide-open  ones   like those  on  España in Manila and Dela R osa in Caloocan.  There must  be many more like them in the farther reaches  of   the country.