We revisit an editorial
we wrote in 2004. Since its writing, traffic in the metropolis has not
improved and in many ways seems to have gotten much worse.
and balikbayans in Metro Manila are confronted with the dilemma of whether
to get behind the wheel and drive themselves around the metropolis or get
someone else to do it for them. For those
visiting from countries such as the US and Canada, driving in Manila can be
quite an unnerving experience. It quickly becomes apparent that motoring in
Manila operates on a significantly different paradigm.
Two elements combine to make driving a
decidedly tourist-unfriendly experience: first is the Filipino driver. Make
no mistake, Filipinos have excellent driving skills. They maneuver their
vehicles to within inches of one another without hesitation. Filipino
Driving habits are another thing altogether. They break almost every driving
rule in the book: they make sudden left turns from the far right lane; they
straddle lanes; they cut into freeway traffic; they stop wherever they feel
like; they jump red lights; they drive with their headlights off at night;
and they use their horns incessantly.
The second element are the roads in the
Metropolis. There is an appalling lack of roadway signage. Many street signs
are missing. Over the past decades numerous fly-overs and skyways were
built, but signage on them are for the most part dismal. Some highway
turnoffs have their their signs posted only on the turnoff themselves,
leaving the uninitiated driver little time to prepare for it. A far cry from
the driver-friendly freeways of the West. There is also a lack of
consistency in signage making some signs hard to read when cruising at
highway speeds. Add to this the lack of lane delineations on many roads and
highways. Even more egregious are lanes that suddenly disappear without
warning, forcing drivers to suddenly merge to adjacent lanes. The litany of
faults can go on and on.
But rather than simply complain about this
sad state of affairs, here's what we feel should be done:
1. Driving education should be a required
course in high schools all over the country. The reason Filipinos drive
the way they do is because no one taught them otherwise. With traffic
growing significantly worse in and around Metro Manila, proper driving
techniques will go a long way in alleviating some of the congestion and
traffic jams that plague the daily commute.
2. The National
government should step in and correct the many shortcomings found in the
country's roadways. It can start by demanding consistency in signage;
making sure highways have clearly delineated lanes; and making sure
warning signs or roadway markings are present to alert drivers of potential hazards ahead.
Making Philippine roads driver-friendly
will go a long way in making them Tourist and Balikbayan-friendly. If the
only way visitors can get around is to have someone drive for them, their
mobility becomes somewhat diminished. And let us not forget that their
overall experience in the country inevitably includes traveling from one place to another.
We'll have more to say
on this issue in the near future, so "stay tuned."
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