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Traffic of cancer

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Terrible disruptive road accidents do happen in Metro Manila, where this cancer called heavy traffic seems to have already become part of daily life, accepted by all as an inescapable part of life, including the Aquino (Part II) administration, no longer famous for its “no-more-wang-wang” solution.

So I just have this little innocent question: Does the Metro Manila Development Authority keep records of its reaction to major accidents that can paralyze traffic in huge parts of the metropolis to a complete standstill?

Possible answer: Nobody knows.

Recently, for instance, a dump truck that was obviously overloaded with gravel just decided to, well, overturn on the vital flyover on C-5 early in the morning.

Reports said the accident created chaos on all roads—big and small—serving the CBDs in Makati, Taguig and Ortigas, just when people were going to work. From what I gathered, the authorities took at least eight hours to clear up the mess.

Again, eight long hours!

Do the MMDA, DPWH, DOTC and PNP have some sort of an “immediate response” team to deal with such accidents that are always certain to create traffic mayhem through endless chain reaction all over the metropolis?

Our beloved authorities basically rely on “wreckers” operated by some private groups that somehow obtained “official accreditation” from the MMDA.

Thus, in this metropolis of more than 12 million people, where traffic moves at a snail’s pace of 15 kilometers an hour on its busiest thoroughfare called Edsa, those ill-equipped wreckers pass for our “immediate response” team.

By the way, the MMDA came up with an innovation to stop the accidents on Edsa. Its head asked a Catholic priest to conduct a “formal blessing” of the road. To quote the MDDA boss, the authority was calling on “Divine Providence” to stop the accidents on Edsa.

What a solution!

*   *   *

According to a recent news abroad, 22 people were killed in an oil truck accident, where 100 others were injured and caused millions of dollars in property damage. It happened early this month in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Reports said one of those killed in the accident was a Filipino, noting that people actually died because of the intense fire from the explosion.

Unfortunately, another Filipino was involved in the accident, the truck driver himself, named Robin Kebeng. He was put in jail to face charges. But he blamed it all on the truck and its faulty brakes. He claimed the truck was not properly maintained.

Other reports speculated that he could have fallen asleep behind the wheel, or that he did not have enough experience in driving trucks carrying highly flammable materials.

Still, another awful report said that Kebeng’s cousin drove another fuel truck behind that of Kebeng as part of a convoy, and noticed fuel leaking from Kebeng’s truck. The cousin supposedly sent Kebeng a text message on the mobile phone, warning him of the leak. Fearing for his life, Kebeng allegedly jumped out of the fuel tanker.

The unmanned tanker then slammed straight into a flyover bridge and exploded.

*   *   *

Similar accidents involving gasoline trucks happen in Metro Manila. Thankfully, apparently because of the “formal blessings” of major thoroughfares, no deadly explosions have occurred. So far…

But still, even without the explosion, people have already died in accidents involving fuel tankers. Only last month nine people were killed, while nine others were injured, when a bus owned by “Victory Liner,” loaded with more than 40 passengers, collided with a fuel tanker on the Maharlika Highway at the Science City of Muñoz in Nueva Ecija. The tanker driver and the bus driver died, but most of the fatalities were bus passengers.

As I said, it was perhaps out of pure luck that the tanker did not spill fuel that could have caused an explosion, which certainly would have caused more casualties and destruction.

The point is, well, perhaps it is time for the authorities to come up with measures to arrest the increasing number of road accidents involving monstrous trucks and buses.

For instance, does the government apply some sort of screening for those bus and truck drivers, similar to an accreditation process for other critical jobs such as plumbers and electricians?

Methinks that, precisely because those bus drivers put lives in their hands, they have to undergo more stringent standards to test their skills. Bus and truck drivers operate huge machines that can maim, or even kill, people even in minor accidents.

What more the drivers of fuel tankers!

It is possible that the terrible accident in Riyadh could have happened here in the metropolis, which has its share of notorious drivers. According to official figures of the Department of Transportation and Communications, ill-trained drivers actually account for about 85 percent of vehicular accidents.

And while we are at it, does the government even conduct periodic inspection of the trucks, particularly those carrying combustible substance or deadly chemicals? How are we to know that the trucks are not in some advanced state of disrepair?

There ought to be a law on them.

*   *   *

But then again, the wonder of it all is that, in this metropolis where more than 75 percent of commuters belong to the low-income class (i.e., the poor), we just love to transport huge quantities of fuel by truck.

In many other countries, including the United States, fuel pipelines are considered to be the ideal mode of transporting oil products. Why? The authorities believe that pipelines are not only more efficient but they are also, above all, safer. There are more than 200,000 miles of oil pipeline in the United States alone, operating for the past several decades with little problems.

In this metropolis, we also have pipelines that carry big quantities of oil and other products over long distances, particularly the 117-kilometer line between Batangas and Metro Manila.

The line supplied more than 50 percent of the fuel in the depot in Pandacan (Manila), considered the most important depot in the country. The depot alone can supply fuel to about 500 gas stations in Metro Manila and close to 2,000 others in northern and central Luzon.

The pipeline was closed in 2010 through a “writ of kalikasan,” issued for the first time by the Supreme Court, because of the leak in the basement of a condo in Makati, which was shown to have been caused by the line.

But the pipeline operator, First Philippine Industrial Corp., already plugged the leak, aside from cleaning up the soil and groundwater in the area. To top it all, the company even installed more preventive measures.

Thus, the Department of Energy already asked for the reopening of the pipeline, pointing out that tests confirmed its “structural integrity.”

We are not using it now. We prefer those dangerous fuel tankers that add to our traffic woes.


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Tags: Environmental Issues , fuel pipeline , Philippines , Road Accidents , traffic management



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