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Breaktime: Let them eat ache

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Breaktime: Let them eat ache

/ 04:26 AM April 14, 2014

Okay, the media made a big fuss out of the kilometric queues of hundreds of wretched commuters at the MRT Edsa stations during rush hours, not to mention the unbearable congestion inside the MRT coaches, already bursting with humanity anytime of the day.

It was therefore a big mystery to the guys down here in my barangay why the Aquino (Part II) administration seemed to dismiss the MRT problem casually, as indicated by some carefree statements of the boys of our dear leader Benigno Simeon, aka BS.

For instance, the Palace blamed the overcrowded stations and trains on the population explosion in Metro Manila, which was the sort of inane excuse that we could only hear from some presidential relative.

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Of course, the Palace boys also blamed it all on the shift in the preference of the public from riding buses to taking other convenient transport like the MRT which, by the way, was the very reason why governments all over the world built mass transit systems in the first place.

Indeed, according to data from the MRT, the Edsa light rail system has been trying to make do with its rated capacity of 350,000 riders a day which, based on its daily volume of passengers, already breached more than 10 years ago.

Look at that—10 freaking years! And nothing has been done about it! Sure, boss, let us just blame the population increase! Let us do nothing at all!

After all, the public could still take the ache and pain: high prices of food, punishing taxes, the highest electricity rates in all of Asia, monstrous traffic jams, terrible roads, uncollected garbage, “kotong” cops plus their traffic aides, and pathetic mobile phone services.

To be fair, the boys of dear leader BS brought up one particular solution to the MRT problem: Let the public take the bus instead. This was rather similar to another famous statement in another place and time: “Let them eat cake.” You know, just let them suffer air pollution, not to mention the bus travel time that takes forever.

Other big cities abroad built mass transit systems as their answer to population explosion and traffic problems, because the whole world has the same problems as ours. Here, we already have the MRT system, but we cannot make full use of it.

Perhaps the public and, subsequently, the media could have been more forgiving of the Aquino (Part II) administration, despite the big letdown regarding the MRT, if the people could see how the administration was doing its level best to solve the problem.

In effect, the question is this: What did the Aquino (Part II) administration do these past four years to solve the problem?

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As things were, the public only came to know about the alleged extortion attempt by government officials, reportedly led by MRT general manager Al Vitangcol, as they allegedly tried to ask for $30 million from the Czech train supplier Inekon.

The boys of our leader BS also tried their best to defend the MRT boss Vitangcol, saying that all the problems in the MRT system could not be blamed on one man.

It is just that Vitangcol surely did not manage the system well enough to solve the biggest problem in the system, which was the obvious lack of trains and coaches, dating back 10 years which, in turn, was always the first thing that any average manager should have done: Just make sure you have the “supply” of the product you sell.

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Some tangible accomplishments, boss, are just what the Filipino public really needs, some infrastructure projects of steel and concrete, for instance, which can make the lives of the guys down here in my barangay a little bit better.

Take the P12-billion “port connector road” project that we reported last month. It is being undertaken by Manila North Tollways Corp., part of the Metro Pacific Group of tycoon Manuel V. Pangilinan.

As the company begins construction this month, many people are sure to look at the project as a blessing, as they do almost any construction of new roads, because everybody already knows that the only solution to our traffic problem comes from new infrastructure.

But let me try to support such a claim.

A few days ago, the same MNTC tapped for the first time the local fixed-income capital market with a P7-billion bond issue.

The company wanted to use the funds to finance the port connector road project. Take note: Retail and institutional investors jumped at the offering.

The bond issue was oversubscribed by more than twice, meaning, it was a big hit.

And this was an infrastructure-related debt paper, mind you! Really, the business community is now willing, ready and able to support worthwhile and credible infrastructure projects.

According to Rodrigo E. Franco, MNTC president and CEO, the bond issue actually gave investors the “opportunity” to invest in a project that would have a significant development impact.

MNTC targeted the bond offering for the construction of the 5.65-kilometer stretch, called Segment 10 of the North Luzon Expressway, which would connect MacArthur Highway in Valenzuela City to C-3 Road in Caloocan City.

It would be a four-lane tollway running along the PNR commuter train tracks, featuring a skyway over the railroad.

It is actually the second phase of the NLEx expansion, the first being the 2.4-kilometer expressway between NLEx and MacArthur, now nearing completion and expected to open by July.

Based on the MNTC schedule, Segment 10 may be completed in 2016, perhaps in time for the last hoorah of dear leader BS, before he steps down from office, making the road project a rarity in his administration. You know, an infrastructure project.

Anyway, as its name indicated, the “port connector road” was meant to serve the huge volume of truck traffic at the Port of Manila, precisely to speed up—and hopefully cut some costs—the transport of goods to and from the port areas.

MNTC claimed that the new segments could actually accommodate more than 30,000 of those gigantic cargo-handling trucks a day. Obviously, the project is meant to decongest the narrow streets of flood-prone areas in Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas and Valenzuela.

In other words, people can actually see some results.

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TAGS: Al Vitangcol, Aquino administration, congestion, connector road, Infrastructure, MRT, MRT problem, rail transport
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