By Joe Zaldarriaga

Joe Zaldarriaga is a veteran, award-winning communicator immersed in public service within and beyond the energy sector. He has more than 30 years of experience serving the country’s biggest electric distribution utility and is involved in a number of public service functions, as member of various committees on public safety, power supply security and electrification. Concurrently, he is a prominent figure in the Philippine communications industry, as Chairman and Past President of the US-based International Association of Business Communicators Philippines (IABC PH). He is also an awardee of the University of Manila’s Medallion of Honor (Dr. Mariano V. delos Santos Memorial) and a Scroll of Commendation, a testament to his celebrated years in public service exemplified by outstanding communications.
Joe also shares his opinion and outlook on relevant national and consumer issues as a columnist in several prominent publications and is now venturing into new media via hosting a new vlog called Cup of Joe. Previously, Joe was a reporter and desk editor of a Broadcasting Company and the former auditor of the Defense Press Corps of the Philippines. A true green Lasalian, he finished with a degree in Asian Studies specializing in the Japan Studies program at De La Salle University, Manila, where he also spent his entire education.

Partnerships between the government and the private sector have historically been proven to be an efficient and effective pillar of economic growth and continue to do so, not only in the Philippines but in other parts of the world too.

While the government crafts policies and implements regulations, it is the private sector that largely drives innovation and economic enterprise in any industry. Beyond fulfilling their assigned roles, the success of public-private partnerships rests largely on the balance observed by both parties in keeping the synergy alive and healthy.

This is simply the effective and respectful way to do it.

So, when the government attempts to disrupt such synergy, it goes without saying that the result is an imbalance –a roadblock that ultimately only burdens the Filipino people.

News reports of state-owned Public Estates Authority Tollways Corp. (PEATC) efforts to take over the management and operation of the Manila-Cavite Expressway (CAVITEX) have raised eyebrows after its officer-in-charge, Dioscoro Esteban Jr., moved to remove the rights of Cavitex Infrastructure Corp. (CIC) to manage and operate the said tollway.

The case has reached the court.

Esteban earlier this year formalized efforts to ease out CIC from the operations of CAVITEX by filing a petition for a writ of mandamus before the Court of Appeals for the full transfer of the operations, maintenance, as well as toll collection in the said tollway to PEATC. He also asked the court to require the CIC to transfer CAVITEX operation contract services to the PEATC.

Following his plea, the CIC filed before the Ombudsman a criminal complaint against Esteban for violation of the anti-graft and corruption law, as well as perjury, usurpation of authority, and slander. The CIC also questioned Esteban’s filing of the petition using private lawyers instead of the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel, which is in charge of safeguarding the legal interests of government-owned and/or -controlled corporations, such as the PEATC.

While the legal merit of this case is up for our judiciary to decide, this issue has dawned on me the poor appreciation of the role of the private sector in public service.

More than anything, the private sector should largely be viewed as an enabling partner of the government in efficiently realizing its programs for the benefit of the Filipino people.

The private sector offers its vast expertise, resources, as well as technology in various undertakings with the government to the benefit of the communities they serve and our national economy.

When issues or problems arise from public-private partnerships, takeovers should not be an option at all since doing so defeats the very purpose of collaboration.

It should also be emphasized that reports or rumors of government takeovers – whether with or without merit – do nothing to inspire investor confidence in our country but only discourage potential private partners from working with our government.

Rather, the government should ensure that sufficient regulations and measures are in place to allow the private sector to deliver the much-needed public service while still remitting the correct fees to the state and adhering to the set of rules for their operations.

After all, encouraging private sector investment and having more public-private partnerships form part of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s 10-point economic agenda, which should serve as the overarching policy of all government offices.

Veering away from this policy would simply be a disservice, not only to the administration but to the Filipino people, as well.

Moving forward, I hope that the general effectiveness of public-private partnerships in bringing to life much-needed programs and projects for the Filipino people will continue to transcend other interests.