In this month, we saw a tragic ending of a hostage situation in Manila. A disgruntled former police officer hijacked a bus loaded with tourists from Hon Kong (HK). As televised live from the scene, the Philippine National Police (PNP) botched the job and ended this siege with a stunning loss of 9 lives after a chaotic SWAT assault.
We certainly have watched too many Hollywood style SWAT scenes that might not reflect real life operations. However, when a SWAT team decides to storm a seized vehicle, it is reasonable to expect that it will happen just like lightning and thunder, and lasts only for seconds. Only that can ensure the gunman needs to make split second decisions and the resulting casualty can be kept to the minimum.
Unfortunately, the PNP’s SWAT team displayed astonishingly to the world their lack of trainings and equipments. Not only the hostage taker was provoked unnecessarily and the assaults lasted for far too long to allow the shooting rampage to take place inside the bus. It is unbelievable that they used only sledgehammers to break the reinforced windows, which took several minutes.
The capability of SWAT of the police is part of a country security infrastructure. The insufficiency of infrastructure does not come as a surprise for the Philippines. I once went to dinner in a pretty decent neighborhood of Manila. A thunder storm occurred and it rained heavily for about an hour. After I was done with the dinner and stepped out of the restaurant, the whole area was flooded to above the ankle. As a result, all the roads along with potholes, curbs and ditches were out of sight. Walking to my car became tremendously hazardous. One might think this could have been caused by the unusual large volume of rainfall. However, according to the locals, there is nothing unusual about it. It happens all the time after thunder storms due to poor sewer systems.
As indicated in the article about IMD world competiveness rankings, infrastructure is listed as one of the items used in appraisal. HK is ranked 2nd worldwide, which also means HK has good infrastructure. In contrast, the lack of infrastructure in the Philippines has given a serious blow to the Philippines’ tourism industry due to this deadly hostage incident. We cannot give a better illustration of how infrastructure will impact on a country’s economic competiveness. All the live videos speak loudly for the importance of infrastructure and all countries around the world should also learn a valuable lesson from this painful experience.