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
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
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.
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
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.