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EDITORIAL - Stressed out

Rushing to an event of the Department of Transportation in Taguig the other day, Undersecretary for roads Thomas Orbos used a motorcycle ride-sharing service to arrive on time. Orbos, who is also general manager of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, was publicly berated by DOTr chief Arthur Tugade for using the habal-habal, a service that has been banned from the streets of the capital region.

Orbos had to rush to Taguig from a meeting of the MMDA in Makati where he discussed ways of easing traffic in Metro Manila during the Christmas season. He would no doubt agree with a recent study that ranked Manila as the 10th most stressful city in the world.

There are other overcrowded mega cities so population can’t be the principal reason for stressful living. And there are poorer cities so the poverty level isn’t entirely to blame. But these two factors, combined with other elements such as unplanned development and weak governance, surely led to the poor ranking for Manila – or more accurately the mega city of Metro Manila.

Baghdad, Iraq took the worst spot, followed by Kabul, Afghanistan; Lagos, Nigeria; Dakar, Senegal; Cairo, Egypt; Tehran, Iran; Dhaka, Bangladesh; Karachi, Pakistan, and New Delhi, India. On a score of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most stressful, Manila scored 8.92. The parameters are pollution, traffic levels, public transport, financial status of citizens including debt levels, physical and mental health, percentage of green spaces, and the hours of sunlight the city receives per year.

The 10 least stressful cities are Stuttgart, Germany; Luxembourg; Hannover, Germany; Bern, Switzerland; Munich, Germany; Bordeux, France; Edinburgh, UK; Sydney, Australia; Hamburg, Germany and Graz, Austria. Many of the cities that scored high in the study also rank high in studies on sustainability, livability and the happiness index.

Tugade, in an expletive-laced scolding of Orbos, said he would not tolerate any excuse for using the illegal habal-habal. The DOTr chief has a valid point. But he should also consider the circumstances that prompted his undersecretary to take the habal-habal. These are the same reasons why the motorcycle ride-sharing scheme has become popular.

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In a mega city where traffic is atrocious and mass transportation facilities are hopelessly inadequate, people will take any accessible, affordable mode of transportation that can skirt traffic gridlocks. Arriving at one’s destination on time can ease the stress of getting there.

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