Managing NIMBY: the good the bad, and the TBD
Understanding President Duterte #6
TBD means “to be determined”. As in the good, the bad, and the to be determined.
I suspect most of us fall into the common trap of what I will term “the intellectual NIMBY”.
NIMBY means “not in my back yard”. Take electrical power plants. People want them for the everlasting cheap energy, but “not in my back yard”. Trash dumps, loud karaoke bars, prisons . . . NIMBY. A person who is willing to thrust the problems off into someone else’s back yard is a NIMBY.
An intellectual NIMBY to me is someone who won’t accept an argument because it is attached to something they don’t like. So President Duterte may make a good decision, but we will find every reason to reject it because we don’t want it undermining the pile of hostility we hold toward the incoming President because of his language or blunt pronouncements that upset us, or his backing of death squad killings. We don’t want to accept any of his thinking at all, in our intellectual back yard.
This intellectual NIMBY means we never give the guy a break. We make him carry the burdens of criticism even if he does something right.
Rather the way crooks, political opponents, leftists and malcontents treated President Aquino for six years.
We become intellectual NIMBYs wanting the president to carry OUR burdens.
Well, it seems to me that is bad thinking. I mean, it is okay to run a tote board with positives and negatives, and even give the negatives a huge weighting . . . like on character or human rights. But if we are FOR the Philippines, we ought to rise above this personal enmity and look at individual decisions in terms of their benefits to the nation. We ought not shade a good decision badly because we don’t like the decision-maker.
If we do that NIMBY thinking all the time, we end up with . . . well . . . the Philippines, a land of bitterly posturing personalities instead of critical thought, and a nation in which people are almost never happy or uplifted by their government. Everyone is too busy pointing fingers or getting even.
I came to this point because I fall into that natural “anti-” posture. I don’t share incoming President Duterte’s values on human rights or public deportment (I prefer diplomatic speak over blunt trauma shock statements). And I don’t like one of the people he has been associated with lately. But I DO like his decisiveness, his reliance on subordinates for expertise, and some of his more recent statements or deeds. They tend to shake me out of my preconceived hostility shaped largely by press reports or social media . . . um . . . information.
Here are the three cases that made me reflect instead of judge.
Gina Lopez. My original bias against Gina Lopez as Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) was based on news reports of what appeared to be a purely political appointment, “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours, ABS-CBN.” Then I read about her credentials as a pro-environment activist and saw mining stocks drop like a rock after her announced appointment. I decided I liked the appointment because it may bring more environmental sensitivity to mining, forestry and the seas, and I would hope end the smuggling and corruption that has been rampant within the agency. Shock therapy. Modern thinking. Good.
West Philippine Sea. My original bias has been that President Duterte may be nuzzling up to China. Yet, when he sat down with the American Ambassador, he wanted to know explicitly whether or not the US would be with the Philippines. The gist of the question was, if the arbitration ruling comes down in favor of the Philippines and the Philippines seeks to occupy the islands and rock outcroppings that are internationally recognized as hers, would the US be there to back the Philippines? It is absolutely the right question for the President to ask. It was not a “roll over to China” moment, it was a Philippine Presidential moment. Nation’s interest first. Smack dab in the major dailies for China’s not-so-discreet agents in and about the Philippines to read. Good. I’d love to see President Duterte get “in your face” with China over their ambitions in Philippine territory.
Manila Traffic. The President seeks special executive authority from Congress to deal with Metro Manila transportation woes. My original bias was “here we go, the dictator is whetting his appetite.” Then I read the details of what is likely to be in the bill. Specific authorizations on bidding, reconfiguring the MMDA to be less bureaucratic, and ways to cut red tape . . . not troops marching into Manila. Ways to cut through the delays and nonsense that prevent this terminally ill patient from recovering. I changed my mind. If the particulars are well crafted, it is exactly what is needed. Good.
Now I know there are arguments to be waged in each area. Legitimate discussion points. But THAT can be good, too. Take DENR, to be headed by a secretary who greatly dislikes coal-fired power plants.
“Where do we get replacement electricity, Joe?” Ponder ponder. How about requiring every home with more than 100 square meters of floor space be solar powered above a specified wattage threshhold? How about building a massive solar panel manufacturing industry in the Philippines?
“But look at the mining industry stock market drop, Joe.” Well, hey, if that is the benefits of corruption and bad environmental work leaving the income stream . . . good riddance. And how are clean energy stocks looking?
Indeed, I’d even suggest that issues we have with President Duterte be compartmentalized into issues we can address and perhaps change. Two of mine are:
- Human rights (dignity for women, extra-judicial murder)
- Presidential deportment
If we just say I don’t like President Duterte and therefore I don’t accept anything he does, we never drive through to the thoughtful debates and creative solutions. We just argue on the surface.
And the Philippines remains a NIMBY nation.
Playing personalities one against another . . . with us helping out . . . instead of figuring out solutions.