Traffic for discussion
The figures are downright frightening.
According to the website of the World Population Review, which claims to break down complex demographics into simple articles and data, the population of Metro Manila already reached a problematic 12 million in 2014.
Because residents of surrounding areas like Antipolo (Rizal), Dasmariñas (Cavite) and as far as Malolos (Bulacan) also come to the metropolis to work or do business or study, the daytime population in 2014 reached about 15 million.
The population density of Metro Manila, therefore, was even higher than those in Mumbai (India) and Tokyo (Japan).
Experts predicted that by 2020, the population in Metro Manila—the actual residents of the metropolis—would easily puff up to more than 20 million.
That will be only five years from today, thus we can expect the bad traffic in Metro Manila to turn to complete chaos.
What is the sole traffic authority in the capital region, the Metro Manila Development Authority, doing about it? For that matter, what is the Aquino (Part II) administration doing about it?
I mean, really, we just put the unbearable traffic problem as one of the topics for discussion in various meetings.
To think, MMDA Chair Francis Tolentino has been rather accessible to media, particularly during all those MMDA events. In one of those friendly interviews, he declared that Metro Manila was wrong in blaming him for the terrible traffic.
He said the population in the metropolis increased substantially in the past several years, while the government did not build a lot of new roads.
Of course he did not know that Metro Manila actually posted a “negative” population growth rate in the 1990s.
Still, nobody could ascertain whether or not our favorite MMDA Chair Francis was referring to the inaction of the current Aquino (Part II) administration despite all the ballyhoo over the supposed “infrastructure program” and the showcase PPP.
But who do we take to task for the worsening traffic problem—Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle?
And heaven help us if Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya decides to take the cudgels for the MMDA to solve the traffic problem.
Still, our adorable MMDA chair casually mentioned in media interviews his many brilliant solutions to the horrific traffic, such as his proposals for the four-day school week or the staggered working hours.
Nobody had the heart to point out that his perceived solutions were mere palliatives, designed to lower the number commuters in the streets, but hardly ever to address the number of vehicles—including the anarchic buses on Edsa.
By the way, it was also our lovely MMDA chair who wanted to close Edsa for one day to vehicular traffic, all because of an experiment: Let us make one side of the already chaotic road even on Sundays and holidays, exclusive to bicycles.
He also turned religious just to unravel the mystery of Edsa by asking a priest to do some “blessing” rites, similar to what we do for new houses or offices, albeit not for new bicycles.
Quick, somebody please tell our spectacular MMDA chair about the “Four Es” of traffic management—i.e. economics, engineering, enforcement and education.
The miserable commuters in Metro Manila hardly see those things in his supposed plans and programs that he and his staff loved to trumpet in media.
Anyway, mediocrity should only be what we get, when our dear leader, Benigno Simeon, aka BS, handpicked as “traffic tsar” somebody who was the mayor of the traffic-infested city called Tagaytay.
And our delightful MMDA chair, Francis, already turned into a politician who loved to hug the headlines.
By the way, former Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who figured in the latest presidential surveys, disclosed that our wonderful MMDA chair asked for Duterte’s political support in Davao for his senatorial ambition.
He recently brought MMDA-marked vehicles as his entourage all the way to Camarines Norte, because he just could not say “no” to an imperative task: To be one of the judges in a beauty contest.
Did he really think the beauty contest would be one measure to solve the traffic problem in Metro Manila?
Perhaps he considers this challenging assignment in Camarines Norte as remotely connected to his main preoccupation in the past few weeks: the fabulous “earthquake drill” on July 30.
To do the whole day metro-wide drill, our amusing MMDA chair, Francis, would even need an executive order from our dear leader, BS, similar to a special holiday.
Bet on it: He would get the order from Malacañang because of the rumored “sister-uncle” connection somewhere in the past of both our enthralling MMDA chair, Francis, and our dear leader, BS.
Anyway, the academe and the business sector have been talking about solutions to the traffic problem, while the government has been brandishing grand plans for the construction of roads, subways and flyovers.
Unfortunately the plans were only written on paper, if not in the minds of our officials. The plans were not even actual blue prints.
But by the looks of it, the Aquino (Part II) administration would have little inclination in the last year of the six-year term of our dear leader, BS, to lift even just its pinkie to alleviate our traffic suffering.
The only time the national leadership talked about the atrocious traffic in Metro Manila was when the Palace boys declared that traffic was a good thing, because it was the irrefutable sign of economic progress.
It would, therefore, follow that for the whole country to enjoy economic development, cities like Cebu, Davao and Tarlac would have to bear with similarly worsening conditions in the entire Philippines.
While we really needed strong-minded yet inspired national leadership to pay attention to the problem of poor infrastructure in this country, the guys down here already gave up on this administration.
The administration could not even solve its own problem called “underspending.” Basta, the Cabinet already sat down in two meetings to discuss it and, voila, the problem was considered solved.
Unfortunately, studies showed that Metro Manila alone—to solve the traffic problems in this place of 15 million people in the next 15 years—would need P2.6 trillion in steady investments in infrastructure.
Some 80 percent of those 15 million, by the way, actually take public transport like the unstable MRT.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.