"I realize that unlike Japan or Singapore, the Philippines’ current mass transport system is not enough to accommodate the huge number of daily commuters."
From TMP President's Office / Hiro Okamoto's Facebook page
Toyota Philippines chief ditches car, commutes around Metro
(Philstar.com) - February 28, 2020 - 5:53pm

MANILA, Philippines — Despite being employed by the country's biggest car manufacturer, the new president of Toyota Motors in the Philippines started his first week in the country by commuting, all by riding Metro Manila's old and gritty public transportation system and while plying one of the world's worst traffic. 

Toyota's Atsuhiro Okamoto, who just took office this month, slipped into the congested Metro Rail Transit-3, rode a bus, took the jeepney and sneaked himself into the tiny tricycle going to Manila’s Tondo district, with photos of his travel circulating in social media. The Facebook post was shared nearly 11,000 times and got 27,000 reactions 11 hours after it was posted. 

Here’s what he had to say about his experience: "It's a good learning experience. I realize that unlike Japan or Singapore, the Philippines’ current mass transport system is not enough to accommodate the huge number of daily commuters."

"I would like Toyota to take part in this big challenge to upgrade the quality of life for many Filipinos," he said.

Toyota is the country's biggest seller of cars. In January this year, a total of 8,890 Toyota vehicles were sold locally, down 21.7% year-on-year, but accounting for 37.5% of total car sales during the month, data from the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines showed. 

Okamoto succeeded Satoru Suzuki, who finished his three-year term in December last year. Apart from overseeing Toyota's local operations, Okamoto would also likely navigate Toyota through a new and fewer tax incentives once the Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Rationalization Act is passed into law. The Senate is still hearing the bill, but Duterte administration economic officials want the measure to be passed this year.

But as with any new job, Okamoto said his commuting has its purpose which he called "genchi genbutsu" or "go and see" in English. Philstar.com contacted Okamoto for more comments, but has yet to reply as of this post.



Okamoto's home country, Japan, is the Philippines' largest bilateral donor, responsible for funding some of the government's "Build, Build, Build" projects such as the P357-billion Metro Manila subway which would traverse the congested 35-km stretch from Quezon City to Ninoy Aquino International Airport,  once completed.

The project, which will pass through key areas like the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig, is targeted to operate partially, meaning with few stations open, in 2022 while full operations will commence 2025.

The railway system is eyed as a long-term fix to Metro Manila's horrendous traffic that resulted into P3.5-billion in daily economic losses in 2018 data from the Japan International Cooperation Agency, an aid office, showed in 2018.

Groups such as the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) have earlier dubbed the country's problem as a "mass transport crisis", with the MRT-3 and two lines of the Light Rail Transit all breaking down at the same day last October.

LRT-1 runs from Baclaran in Manila to Balintawak in Quezon City, while LRT-2 is currently in partial operation from Recto in Manila to Cubao in Quezon City, after its three stations caught fire and are now being rehabilitated.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo tried commuting himself to try to prove Bayan wrong only for him to reach Malacanang after a nearly four-hour travel from Marikina.  — Philstar.com intern Gabrielle Ann Gabriel

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