One lane misapplication causing misery
The one-lane trade routes formulated to relieve traffic and port congestion are misapplied today.
This has caused misery for the riding public, as well as the businessmen who create jobs and contribute to inclusive growth.
It is especially painful for farmers, whose produce is rotting because of the loss of markets, which further impoverishes them.
Two days ago, a food exporter who gets his produce from poor farmers every week told me he is already in his fourth week waiting for a shipping schedule. The shipping line cannot give him a shipping date because of the port congestion largely caused by the single lane misapplication.
There was previously no problem with the MMDA truck ban implemented before February this year. When the port congestion started to build up after the truck ban was tightened, a proposal was adopted that there would be specific trade lanes that could be used 24 hours and seven days a week (24/7).
This was commendable. It served the interests of both the riding public and the job-producing business sector. Traffic would still be contained because of the truck ban, but business could continue in a limited way through the trade lanes.
Then the misapplication started. The single trade lanes were interpreted to be the only ones that could be used by the trucks, even outside the truck ban hours. During the non-truck ban hours, the trucks could no longer move freely since they were limited to a single lane. This was never the intention when the single lanes were instituted. Recently, municipalities like Caloocan and Navotas have implemented their own single lanes on a 24/7 basis. Others may soon follow, which spell disaster if they are implemented 24/7.
During the slow non-truck ban hours, you will find roads with other lanes practically empty while the trucks queue up for very long lines. The flow of trucks is severely hampered. To join the single lane, trucks have to go to the start of the line and bunch up there, causing further bottlenecks.
Even more difficulties arise. First, when one truck breaks down or encounters an obstacle, it stalls. Thus, it then holds up the long line of waiting trucks. Second, every truck that swerves to overtake the impaired vehicle is caught and towed away because it has violated the single lane policy. Third, wreckers are poised to catch these trucks. In so doing, they occupy a lane that should otherwise be free.
The recommendation to have motorcycle-riding enforcers who will give tickets with harsh penalties which added to the congestion, instead of the wreckers, was turned down.
While some cities or municipalities will have less traffic because of 24/7 single lane, the rest of the metropolis is punished by this policy. But if this policy is used only during truck ban hours, it will not have these disastrous effects.
Priorities. The solution to this problem is to determine and act on the right priorities. We should balance the need of business to not lose jobs because of the current congestion. The other equally valid need is for the riding public not to lose precious hours because of the horrendous traffic mess.
While we must strike an ideal balance between these two legitimate needs, we believe the higher priority is not to lose the current jobs, even if this means much inconvenience to the public.
The first step is to have both the national and local government units follow the original plan of implementing the one lane policy only during the truck ban hours. During the rest of the day when traffic is light, the trucks should be allowed to seek the best way to deliver the goods so business can continue, and our jobs preserved.
The second step is to decide on trade-offs in a responsible way. While a figure is given estimating economic losses due to increased traffic, a common economic method is to multiply the loss hours due to increased traffic with the average income per hour of the workers. However, the workers inconvenienced by this traffic are not actually working during this time. On the other hand, the estimated business losses due to congestion are actual losses. We must keep this in mind when we compare the two numbers in deciding the best trade-offs.
At this critical time, we should keep in mind the primordial goal of not incurring actual economic losses and loss of jobs due to factors such as the misapplication of the one lane policy. We must now unite to achieve this goal, even if it means the temporary inconvenience of traffic. This is absolutely necessary for us to get back on the track of inclusive growth.
(The author is chair of Agriwatch, former Secretary for Presidential Flagship Programs and Projects, and former Undersecretary for Agriculture, Trade and Industry. For inquiries and suggestions, e-mail [email protected] or telefax (02) 8522112.)
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