Traffic woes: We also have ourselves to blame

SPY BITS - The Philippine Star

Traffic continues to be a serious issue not only among long suffering daily commuters, but even for economists who say the horrible traffic in Metro Manila is going to be a major headache for the next government since it could affect economic growth.

Traffic costs us an estimated P3 billion a day, and many have also warned the messy situation in our roads will make Metro Manila uninhabitable – that is, if we all don’t die first of stress, stroke, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other illnesses related to pollution.

Roads now resemble huge parking lots with vehicles lying idle for minutes (or even hours in several instances), and this situation does not only happen in major thoroughfares like EDSA, Commonwealth or C5, but even in small side roads where vehicles are allowed to park on both sides of the street.  The fact is, there is hardly any hour of the day now where there is no traffic, and it can be worse during weekends when number coding is suspended and everyone wants to go out and visit malls and other places of entertainment.

A lot of schemes and suggestions have been tried and tested to improve the situation, but so far, nothing is working. We all know an efficient mass transport system like the MRT can do a lot in easing the congestion in Metro Manila but people are not holding their breath due to the numerous problems and controversies attached to the MRT.

To be fair however, it is not entirely the government’s fault why we are where we are today as far as traffic congestion is concerned. In an article by Celeste Ann Llaneta published at the UP Forum website, she cites the voluminous number of vehicles in Metro Manila as an aggravating factor because road space remains limited. Number coding has also spurred the growth of the car industry with people (those who can afford it) buying an extra car to alternate during coding days. And when a new traffic management scheme is introduced, for instance carpooling where only vehicles with at least three passengers are allowed on the road, you can be sure Filipinos will use their “creativity” to skirt or go around the regulation – like dressing up life-size mannequins to make them look like passengers, an MMDA engineer ruefully said.

Studies also show that for a megacity like Metro Manila, there should be at least 8,000 kilometers of road network, but based on Metro Manila Development Authority data, there is only 5,000 kilometers of road network – which brings up the problem of land use and zoning. Unfortunately, development in many areas has been allowed without consideration for proper land use or zoning, with good road networks not factored in by developers.

“The traffic problem in Metro Manila is a manifestation of inadequate or lack of sound urban planning,” observes the MMDA’s Alex Ramon Cabanilla, citing the huge tracts of residential developments in Quezon City whose residents work in Ortigas or Makati. Which is why as early as 5 a.m., you can already see southbound traffic getting heavily congested, while the northbound traffic is still moderate. “We have not managed our land use planning well, nor have we done much by way of zoning and development controls,” he adds.

Admittedly, population density is an aggravating factor, with Metro Manila residents now estimated at 15 million. However, we have to remember that the “day population” is actually bigger with many people living outside Metro Manila (both from north and south) commuting to Makati, Alabang, Ortigas, Pasig, Quezon City. Among the proposed solutions to decongest Metro Manila is to decentralize by spurring growth and development in areas outside the National Capital Region, for instance putting up satellite offices of key government agencies or private businesses to lessen the number of those traveling to the metropolis.

It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out – Metro Manila is becoming uninhabitable city due to a confluence of many factors: the lack of sound urban planning that has resulted in poorly designed cities do not have proper road infrastructure, the influx of people that has made the population balloon in the last decade, the resulting traffic which also aggravates the poor quality of air in the metropolis which contributes to lung-related illnesses that can lead to death.

Canada a good example of environmental preservation

Environment groups are hailing Canada for unveiling a milestone agreement that would protect over nine million acres of rainforest in British Columbia. Under the agreement, 85 percent of forest within the Great Bear Rainforest – which is half the size of Ireland and considered one of the world’s biggest temperate rainforests – has been declared off limits to logging. Only 15 percent of the area will be available for logging that would support local jobs.

It took about a decade of fighting and protesting and lobbying by environment groups against timber companies before the agreement was finally arrived at – which will go a long way in protecting the area which is home to the spirit bear – a rare black bear with white/cream colored fur and claws – as well as aboriginals belonging to a group that calls itself First Nations.

Canada has been making great strides as far as environmental preservation goes, with Ontario having declared in November an end to the use of coal for electricity generation.  Just recently, Canada also stopped the conditional registration of pesticides to promote transparency in the pesticide industry and make sure that all pesticides allowed in the market have undergone strict scientific testing and review to make sure they are not harmful to the environment.


Email: spybits08@gmail.com


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