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Metro Manila Traffic Will Destroy the Philippines and Every Filipino Shares the Blame

etro Manila, once the premier city in all of Southeast Asia is now a "Hell-on-Earth" for the 12 million ill-fated souls forced to live in it. The rapid movement of people and goods that epitomize a prosperous, dynamic city is gone. The country's National Capital Region (NCR) is dying and when it dies, it will take the entire country with it.

It is estimated that three billion pesos ($64 million) is lost each and every day because of traffic. And left unchecked, Metro Manila may become uninhabitable well within a decade. So who's to blame? Here's a short list that includes you and me.

1. The Catholic Church. Philippine cardinals and bishops all the way down to parish priests and even lay ministers love to wield power then shun any responsibility for their actions. So they preach that all forms of artificial contraception is evil and when the country's population explodes as it has, all these holier-than-thou charlatans are nowhere to be found. As far as they're concerned, it is not their problem. When pressed for a solution, they fall back on their standard non-answer "God will find a way."

2. The three branches of government. People in this group are driven around in caravans with motorcycle escorts, lights flashing and sirens blaring. They never experience any traffic while riding around the city in their bullet-proof, late-model, air-conditioned, SUVs. So they're not even aware a traffic problem exists. Legislation that would have instituted proper urban planning or funded well-thought-out  infrastructure and mass-transit projects were never introduced, and if it was, never properly implemented. Roads throughout the metropolis are very badly designed and and poorly maintained. Many don't even make sense—a patchwork of work-arounds and make-dos that have been decades in the making.

 This is in large part because there is no long-range planning in the Philippines, everyone it seems is just interested in the here and now—remembering the past or planning for the future is just a waste of time as far as most Pinoys are concerned.

Also, legislation to make driver's education a requirement in school has never been passed. A law making this a prerequisite for graduation from high school should immediately be passed.

3. The driving public. It does not matter if it is dilapidated jeep or a late-model Porsche, if the person behind the wheel is a Filipino, 99 times out of a hundred, he or she is a lousy driver. Road courtesy  is next to non-existent in the Philippines. Everyone cuts everyone else off;  people drive on the wrong side of the road when it is convenient; motorcyclists weave in and out of traffic and drive on sidewalks; complete chaos! A Pinoy driver will block everyone behind him just to get ahead in traffic. If you want to witness kanya-kanya in action, drive around Metro Manila.

Because driver's education has never been taught in school, several generations of Filipino drivers have gotten behind the wheel without proper training or fully understanding the rules of the road. However it is essential that discipline and correct driving habits be instilled in all Filipino drivers. Road courtesy and strict compliance with all traffic rules, regulations, and laws must be at the very top of any to-do list to fix the country's traffic problem.

4. Jeepney, bus and tricycle drivers. These are oftentimes the worst offenders. They seem to have no regard for anyone else on the road. First of all, jeepneys need to be phased out and replaced with buses as we noted on a previous editorial (LINK). Only in third-world countries like the Philippines will you find these types of outdated, highly inefficient modes of public transportation.

5. Pedestrians and the general public. Even ordinary people cause traffic by walking on the street when they ought to use the sidewalk. Pinoys think nothing of walking on roadways even when sidewalks are available. Then again, many times there are no sidewalks because it is occupied by street vendors, or parked vehicles, or businesses that expropriate the sidewalk for their own use, or simply because the local government never bothered to put in a sidewalk. It is not unusual for a business to use not just the sidewalk in front of their location, but part of the public roadway as well. Thus a two-lane road will have just a single usable lane for cars to use.

And to the rest of us who see all these "wrongs" and keep silent about it, we need to change that bad habit as well. Let us all make our voices heard and demand change. Otherwise we end up condoning all the wrong that brought us to where we're at today.

Needless to say, Metro Manila traffic is one big...gigantic mess. We don't have all the answers but the problem must be addressed not only for the short term, but for the medium, and long terms as well. It will be difficult and everyone will have to share in the burden and the pain—everyone! Because at the end of the day, we Filipinos all share in the blame. But it must be done. And if it is to be done right, the country must have only the best and brightest minds addressing the problem. What we don't want to do is put all our efforts into an ill-conceived, half-baked solution. If no Pinoys have the requisite expertise for the job —and judging by the present traffic mess, none do—then let us seek out the best foreign traffic experts to solve the problem. And once we implement a solution let us stick to it and continue to improve on it—not just implement it for a year or two as is typical of our ningas-cogon mentality.

President Rodrigo Duterte is going to have a lot on his plate just with Metro Manila's traffic mess. We hope he reads some of the observations we point out above and we send him all our good wishes ... God knows he'll need it. Published 7/5/2016

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