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Opinion

Wang-wang

EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star

If you’ve been in Metro Manila’s main thoroughfares and even in our nooks and crannies often enough, it’s very likely that you’ve experienced having your trip – whether you’re driving or using public transportation – shamelessly and abruptly interrupted and cut by a convoy of vehicles with police escorts. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve experienced this.

These wang-wang riddled convoys symbolize a huge part of what’s wrong in this nation of 115 million, then and now – stark inequality, audacious sense of entitlement among the powerful few and the lack of care or concern for fellow Filipinos.

EDSA

You especially feel the pain when this happens along EDSA because the country’s busiest highway is where you really get stuck during rush hour.

The meme that has been going around captures it well: “Kung gusto mong makasama ang mahal mo sa buhay ng matagal, idaan mo sa EDSA.”

Actually, EDSA is a microcosm of what’s happening everywhere else in the country.

Rules are bent and lines are blurred for a powerful few while ordinary citizens are stuck in a system that is wreaking with inefficiencies.

As the English historian, politician and writer John Edward Dalberg-Acton famously said, “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

The Philippines is a testament to this.

What we have is a society that is deeply divided between the rich and the poor, the powerful and the underprivileged.

And the gap is stark and telling.

And so I very much welcome President Marcos’ wang-wang ban. Thank you, Mr. President!

Credit, indeed, goes to Marcos for reviving a policy last seen during the time of president Noynoy Aquino.

“All government officials and personnel are prohibited from utilizing sirens, blinkers and other similar gadgets that produce exceptionally loud or startling sound, including dome lights, blinkers, or other similar signaling or flashing devices,” according to Marcos’ Administrative Order No. 18, which Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin signed on March 25.

The order also restricted the use of protocol license plates, with judges losing the privilege.

The move is part of efforts to ensure road safety and better manage the worsening traffic in Metro Manila with businesses, especially the Management Association of the Philippines, recently sounding the alarm on our traffic woes.

According to Marcos, exempted from the order on sirens are official vehicles of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, National Bureau of Investigation and Philippine National Police as well as fire trucks, hospital ambulances and other emergency vehicles.

That no wang-wang policy seemed mundane or irrelevant when Noynoy Aquino announced it during his presidential inaugural address in 2010.

But he said it was a message against VIP entitlements and those who want to jump the line at ordinary people’s expense.

When his term ended in 2016, the throngs of wang-wang users made a strong comeback.

There was a revenge of sorts among entitled people. Actually, in some ways, the Duterte administration seems characterized by that. The so-called Davao group of businessmen lorded it over, snaking through Metro Manila’s streets with their long convoys and police escorts – literally and metaphorically speaking.

Now, at least, there will be a bit of order once these convoys and their wang-wangs are gone.

Traffic, a state of calamity

But Marcos should also look at private users of police escorts. If I’m not mistaken, a private citizen can hire police escorts with their wang-wangs and sirens to navigate the roads and cut through others stuck in traffic.

Speaking of traffic, removing the wang-wangs alone – although a step in the right direction – will not be enough to solve our traffic woes, now collectively dubbed by MAP as a state of calamity.

There are other immediate solutions. A reader, Alex Serrano, who is a retired engineer, has some suggestions.

These include a two-day a week car ban, which could reduce volume by around 40 percent; adoption of a staggered work schedule and an increase in the number of P2P buses to and from major areas such as Valenzuela, Fairview, Marikina, Antipolo, Pasig, Bicutan, Sucat, Alabang, etc.

Long-term solutions I deem would be effective include decongesting the National Capital Region by creating new growth areas elsewhere.

It is important to do this now before Metro Manila implodes.

There are several options, including tycoon Manuel B. Villar’s Villar City in the south and in the north, the still under-utilized Clark business district in Pampanga and, somewhere closer, tycoon Ramon Ang’s aerotropolis which is rising in Bulacan.

We need a major change in mindset so that we’re not fixated on just setting up offices in Makati or BGC.

The government can encourage a lot of movement outside Metro Manila by providing tax incentives and other perks as well as building big-ticket infrastructure.

If and when this happens, NCR may start to decongest and the economies in the provinces would grow faster. As The STAR’s columnist Boo Chanco said, we need a new NCR.

There’s still a long road ahead before that becomes a reality, however, so for now, I’ll just look forward to driving in the busy streets of Metro Manila without being so rudely interrupted by audacious wang-wang users.

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Email: [email protected]. Follow her on X, formerly Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at EyesWideOpen (Iris Gonzales) on Facebook.

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