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There may 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 España 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 Goddess 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 Rosa in Caloocan. There must be many more like them in the farther reaches of the country.