If there is one thing that remains constant in the lives of those commuting and driving in and around Metro Manila, it is the heavy traffic that seems to worsen unbelievably day after day. The situation has gone from the usual rush hour chaos to the surprising buildup even during weekends and odd hours.
With the huge amount of time that people in the Metro lose to travel, so many factors are being affected, including the citizens’ health, productivity, and finances.
Public Officials Make their Own Move
Amidst the regular traffic rants seen on social media daily, public officials have been pushed time and again to find ways to finally put a stop to this. Some suggestions made sense, while some caused netizens to wonder what these people were doing in the government in the first place.
Valenzuela City Representative Sherwin Gatchalian, for example, once again raises the call to ask potential vehicle owners to show proof that they have their own parking space before they are allowed to purchase a vehicle. Gatchalian filed House Bill 5098, otherwise known as the Proof of Parking Space Act.
When this move was first publicized, netizens had mixed feelings about it, especially the ones living within some of the most congested cities in the greater Manila area. After all, not everyone has the amount of space that those living in less congested areas have. Gatchalian insisted that his suggestion made sense because vehicles parked on street sides tend to obstruct regular traffic flow.
Senator Richard Gordon, on the other hand, has a different say in the case.
Looking at a more wide-scale solution, he suggests that factories, commercial establishments, and other significant industries should be moved to the neighboring provinces where there is more space. This is a practice that has always been done in other countries, where airports, malls, and other huge commercial and industrial infrastructure are built away from business districts and residential areas. Because of this, traffic is distributed evenly across several places.
Aside from sending some of the traffic away from Metro Manila, Gordon also sees this as a chance to help nearby provinces boost their economy. Of course, he also emphasizes the need for hospitals, schools, and other similar facilities to be opened in these areas to allow the small towns to have the capacity to sustain the onslaught of people as an effect of the developments.
On Insensitive and Reckless Remarks
Of course, knowing our government well, there will also be a flurry of words that are insensitive and reckless that stirs up the crowds even more. One such example is Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya’s controversial remark.
In a televised interview, he says that traffic is not ‘fatal’. He further explains his side and says that it is ‘not burdensome to the daily lives of people’.
It is only natural, therefore, that the people who lose up to 4 or 5 hours each day to traffic reacted almost instantly. After all, it is not pleasant to hear someone who they believe should have direct responsibility over the problem dismiss their lost time as something that is not burdensome at all.
Senator Pia Cayetano was quick to respond on behalf of commuters and drivers all over the Metro, saying that it is no wonder at all that traffic is getting worse if the DOTC chief himself does not see the problem as a burden.
“Sir, if it takes an employee 2 hours to get to work and another 2 hours to get home, that’s half of the work day IN TRAFFIC. Those are productive hours that could have been spent elsewhere,” Cayetano posts on her Facebook page.
Abaya then issued a public apology on August 20, admitting that his remark was insensitive. He went on to ask for the public to be more patient and understanding.
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, who is after the Presidency, also had his share of negative comments as he says that traffic is actually a ‘high-class problem’ in a speech he delivered in Cebu last August 12. He says that the rise in traffic is a reflection of the 260,000 vehicles added to the number of cars around Metro Manila, which is something that arises from prosperity.
Valenzuela Rep Gatchalian says that this is a twisted way to look at the situation.
Facing the Consequences
Abaya blames the LRT2 extension project. Roxas blames prosperity.
As for the rest of Manila, they equally distribute the blame towards the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulating Board (LTFRB), the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the Land Transportation Office (LTO), and the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA). The latter actually takes a huge chunk of the blame hurled by netizens, with calls for MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino to resign from his post.
Regardless of who’s to blame, Metro Manila starts realizing that there is truth to the warning given by the Japan International Cooperation Agency’s warning to the government last year. According to JICA, traffic is expected to worsen this year and every year after that, with traffic costs shooting from P2.4B last year to P6B in 2030.
In the meantime, the citizens continue to face the consequences everyday as they lose two to five hours of their time each day to traffic. And it’s not even Christmas yet.
Special thanks to Inquirer.Net for the main image.