No traffic crisis?
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - October 15, 2019 - 12:00am

Brig. Gen. Bonifacio T. de Castro (Ret), Philippine Military Academy Class 1979, wrote that I missed out one death at the PMA due to hazing (see my column of Oct. 8). Killed was Cadet 4th Class Manuel Salas on Feb. 13, 1978. Salas’ death, according to Gen. de Castro “deprived the award of the Chief of Staff Saber to the Cadet Corps Commander (Baron), the late Cadet Nestor Fernando, PMA Class 1978.”

Here is the general’s letter: “Four days before the end of their plebe year, on Feb. 13, 1978, the Bravo Company lay on their backs as their upperclassmen dropped shell puts – heavy metal balls – onto their bare stomachs.

“One of the plebes, Cadet 4th Class Manuel Salas, was killed. Another one hemorrhaged and almost died: Alan Purisima, who went on to become chief of the Philippine National Police from December 2012 to February 2015.”

There could be other victims of sadistic upperclassmen or senior brods’ hazing propensities, but we shall not know them unless concerned readers bring them to our attention.

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 I find it amusing, if not incredible, that Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo would say, as he did say, that there is no transportation crisis. Commuters, he said, should leave their homes early so they can reach their places of work on time. To prove his point, he decided to commute from his home in Quezon City to Malacanang, in Sta. Mesa. He left his house at 5:15 a.m., walked 15 minutes to a jeepney stop, then took two other jeepneys, and finally reached Malacanang at 8:46: a total of 4 hours, 30 minutes. He was grinning from ear to ear as he was shown on television saying the trip was easy, and fast enough. He asked why people are saying there is a transportation crisis, in fact, he said, there is none. 

One only has to see the televised jampacked, turtle-moving vehicles on EDSA – a whole-day occurrence – and see how wrong it is to say there is no transportation crisis. We more fortunate ones suffer as we crawl from Roxas boulevard to Cubao for three hours – and yet we are riding in air-conditioned cars. How much more suffering daily commuters riding buses and jeepneys everyday go through?

I’ve spoken with accountants and janitors working in the Senate – how they have to leave their homes at Fairview at 4 in the morning (a long time before Mr. Panelo suggested they should leave their abodes early), reaching their offices at 8, then leaving their offices at 5 and reaching home at 9 in the evening. They’re so used to such a daily regimen they shrug their shoulders and suffer in silence; there’s nothing they could do as they would have no other means of commuting, as they have to get to work to live.

For sure, the transportation situation has terrible effect on families. Parents hardly have time to bond with their children. When they reach home, they are tired to the bone, they want to go to bed, in fact are too tired to eat dinner or to go to sleep; too tired to hug their kids and sing them to sleep. And they have to wake up at 2 to prepare breakfast then set out to the street to wait for a ride to the office; some take three rides to their destinations, and are already too tired from the heat and pollution and long rides to perform well in their tasks.

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The cost on manpower’s well-being cannot be underestimated. But what effect does the traffic situation have on the economy? According to CNN Philippines, the economic cost of traffic congestion may rise.

CNN reported that in September 2018, a study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), said the country is projected to lose P5.4 billion to traffic daily by 2035 if no interventions are made in Metro Manila.

JICA had previously estimated that the Philippines loses P3.5 billion daily due to traffic congestion.

The latest figures come from JICA’s Follow Up Survey on the Roadmap for Transport Infrastructure Development for Greater Manila Capital Region (2017). The updated roadmap has been submitted to the Philippine government.

Easing Metro Manila’s traffic congestion has drawn possible funding support from agencies like the JICA. 

“Aside from investments in infrastructure building, JICA is also supporting the Philippines ease traffic congestion to help make urban areas like Metro Manila and surrounding areas more livable, and encourage investments into the Philippines,” said Yoshio Wada, JICA’s chief representative to the Philippines, in a press statement.” 

“Transportation, among other things, is an element that can help the Philippines sustain its growth and economic gains,” he added.

     JICA is currently working with the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to develop a five-year action plan to ease traffic woes.

 The cooperation arm of the Japanese government’s developmental assistance division is also working with the Philippine government on the Malolos-Tutuban North-South Commuter Railway and the Metro Manila Subway projects.

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Several reasons have been given to account for the traffic jams in Manila. Senator Sonny Angara proposes improving the ferry traversing Pasig River that would carry passengers to their destinations; this would reduce the number of passengers depending on land vehicles. Architect and famed urban planner Felino Falafox, has proposals to address the congested Manila street problems, that will hopefully be made available to this column.

But the fact is that the number of vehicles in the city far exceeds the capability of road space. And yet, there is a flood of cars and motorcycles, offering reduced prices. 

 A 2019 Asian Development Bank (ADB) study reported that Metro Manila is the “most congested city” out of 278 cities in developing Asia.

As of August 2019, the Land Transportation Office reported that there is a total of 1,644,932 registered motor vehicles on the roads of NCR. A quarter of all motor vehicles nationwide are packed into NCR.

As of 2018, the number of cars travelling along EDSA (251,628) dwarfed the number of public utility buses (13,356).

Public utility buses comprised only three percent of total traffic along EDSA in 2017. Private cars took up 67 percent of road space. However, that did not stop the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) from implementing a provincial bus ban dry run last August.

There were many who expressed approval of President Duterte’s asking for emergency powers to solve the traffic-jammed EDSA. But legislators did not approve a possible martial law-type system. So the president gave up. “Let EDSA remain as it is for the next 20 years,” he said.

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Email: dominitorrevillas@gmail.com

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