Comfort rooms nice to have

It will be awesome to have a toilet worth a whopping P3 million, even without a shower. Or one which has a shower and costing a staggering P4 million. But only if one just wanted to splurge. The former is planned to be put up at the Baywalk and Mendoza Park, and the one with a shower is to be built at the Honda Bay jetty where tourists congregate for island hopping tours.

These projects are the main items included in the 2017 supplemental budget request of the City government now being deliberated at the City Council. Note that they want those toilets done by end of this month of November, or before the fiscal year ends.

Using the Philippines Average Construction Cost as reference, which pegs current construction cost at a low of around P4,000 per sq.m. to a high of P12,000 per sq.m., we come up with a toilet at least the size of a basketball court, in tiles and all. Now that’s not possible at Mendoza Park, just because of the space requirement. Which means we may want to fit them with automatic flushing toilets from Japan or several jacuzzi rooms in each unit. Maybe we throw in a lounge area which has cable television and free wifi connection. The ideas are aplenty with that high budget ceiling.

We would like to see this happen, as it would be a first and will underscore the City government’s determination to draw in more tourists. There is nothing wrong spending good money on flashy comfort rooms. They are in fact an ingenious branding and marketing strategy adopted by successful establishments. The iconic Ka Lui Restaurant comes up to mind as having one which is not just a comfort room but an art gallery as well.

Even the Department of Tourism has identified as a strategy the putting up clean and well-maintained toilets as important to promote tourism.

The key words here are vision and strategy, something we did not see in the toilet budget. According to news reports, the amount was just plucked from thin air and there was no information available to City councilors how the figures were crunched. Reporters were simply told these will be discussed in the committee anyway.

There was also a separate request of P40 million for the purchase of construction equipment and tools. This seems to be in line with the current administration’s preference not to bid out public works projects but to do it by administration, which is supposed be cheaper on the part of government.

The vision and strategy behind the costly toilets need to be spelled out, if only because from the very outset the price tab is already bordering on silly. The DoT strategy is more practical and grounded. Let’s have toilets that are working, clean and properly maintained. They wouldn’t cost P3 million each. Kalui didn’t cost that much but got good Trip Advisor reviews.

We hope to see a robust discussion on this matter in the City Council sessions as they tackle both the incoming fiscal year’s general budget and this supplemental budget separately. The public needs to understand the rationale behind the budget and the programmatic direction that it supports. Someone needs to ask these things and other hard questions, to assuage fears and criticisms.

The only apprehension is that the entire chamber is a Kuridas team, monolithic in its present ways. The only apparent opposition is in jail for drugs charges. Still, we hope some of its members will rise to the occasion and demand for transparency, starting with probing the intention and rationale behind an expensive toilet.

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