Mindboggling and alarming was the pronouncement made recently by no less than an official of our land transport agency, LTO Assistant Secretary Vigor Mendoza, who said that more than 65 percent or 24 million vehicles, which have previously been registered are now unregistered or with expired registration. Worrisome as well is the fact that the government, mostly LGUs and government agency regional offices, owns many of these unregistered vehicles. This should not be the case, given that they are the ones that are supposed to uphold our laws.
I am for the revival of the mandatory Reserve Officer’s Training Corps or the ROTC. I am of that generation that had to go through that program as part of the tertiary education curriculum some 30 plus years ago. Instead of going to the malls, our weekends were drill days, complete with the fatigue setup and the crewcut hair. Generally, as kids of that time, we never wanted it, and never were clear on why and what we were preparing for. For most of us, we just wanted to get it done and move on with our education. Admittedly, there were also many shortcomings of the ROTC program then, as well as abuses.
I always look forward to overseas trips, whether it is for a vacation or for official business. I would definitely prefer travelling with my family but there are times you need to travel on your own. On such trips there are many things to learn, and take in and hope to bring back home. I am currently in Tokyo for business purposes and despite several trips to Japan in the past, I still can’t help but be amazed by this country.
Road accidents remain to be a major concern in the Philippines. The Philippine Statistics Authority indicates close to a 50 percent increase in road traffic incidents in a 10-year period (2011-2021), with road traffic accidents as the leading cause of death among Filipinos from 15 to 29 years old. The impact of road-related damages to human life is 2.6 percent of our gross domestic product (WHO Report).
A recent study made by the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA) has indicated that the sea level around Metro Manila has increased three times the global average. This means that aside from the present effects on sea level rise due to climate change, there are other factors that affect our national capital region that we should closely examine. One factor that cannot be denied is the rapid urbanization and congestion in Metro Manila that has led to a “coupling effect” as they say, meaning that the present sea level rise has combined with the urban land subsidence in this particular area in our country. This should be a red flag for us living in this crowded metropolis and should have both the concerned LGUs and the national agencies act as aggressively as possible to confront this creeping disaster.
The “Filipinas”, our national women’s football team that competed at the FIFA Women’s Football World Cup in New Zealand and made up of players with a mix of Filipino and foreign heritage, may have scored just one goal that won just one game but that was enough to wake up the yearnings of a country for national pride in a global arena, and not just in the world of sports. It also speaks quite a lot of what makes us Filipinos in this age and time.
Land emancipation was the battle cry of many revolutions in the past two to three centuries. From lands across Europe to the Americas and in Asia to include our country, it was agrarian reform or the emancipation of the masses from the hold of the landowners whose lands they toiled for generations that brought about many a nation’s journey to democratic change and economic development. And while we have achieved much progress in freeing our farmers from land slavery, there appears to be another platform of societal disparity that is now heavily burdening the greater majority of our people.
What I consider was a good initiative from my predecessor when I was still in government was the MMDA Worker’s Inn. Operating as a low-priced lodging facility, it was a self-sustaining project with its occupancy at any given time close to 100 percent. Priced at P100 per night at that time, it was a no-frills dorm type set-up with no air-conditioning and with spartan facilities. But patrons never complained. Rather than spending 30 percent of their wages on the daily 4-5-hour public transport commute from their homes in Cavite, Laguna or Bulacan, they would stay at the inn for the workweek and go home during the weekends. This resulted in substantial savings for the workers, not to mention the quality work time they provide to their employers in Metro Manila. It was a good project with lots of benefits. Unfortunately, I found out that the program was discontinued sometime after I left the agency.
California, the great American state of freeways, made a historic turnaround last week with its decision to ban the sale of gas-fed cars by 2035. This is expected to trigger a domino effect on other US states, as well as other countries and will result in the hastened pace of the evolution of non-carbon transport and an environment friendly transport infrastructure.
Two street related events made headlines recently. One is the No-Contact Apprehension Program (NCAP) now being implemented in several Metro Manila cities and is being met with complaints especially from the public transport groups. The other one is the proposed “No Garage-No Vehicle” bill coming from the House of Representatives. Both programs definitely are alleviation measures to our present transport situation, but honestly both of these would need a second pass and might need some implementation and orientation re-alignments. Sometimes good intentions are not enough but rather an honest in-depth dive into the hearts and minds of the constituents they do want to help must also be in order.
They say that the roads are a microcosm of the state of a society, a culture, and a nation. I was in Jakarta last week and I must say that their roads, the motorists and the commuters there generally reflect their state of well-being. As we are now in the midst of a transport crisis, one can only begin to envy our neighbors and wonder why, despite our cultural and social similarities, our situation is vastly so different from theirs. It would do well for us to once in a while take a glimpse and learn from our Asian neighbors.
The problems of traffic and public transportation have been with us for the longest time, but some of us do not realize this fact maybe because we are already so used to them. The travel and waiting time remain tedious. The PUVs are packed making travel undignified. Commuter stress remains high because of the absence of public transport schedules. And yet year in and year out, at least for the past 40 years, administrations have embarked on mega infrastructure projects that supposedly would change the lives of Filipino commuters and motorists for the better. We are told about the subway, the rails, transport modernization, the many airports and ports, etc.; yet we wonder—have we not been told about similar ambitious projects in the past and still the streets are as confusing, hostile and overall problematic as before? What do we still need to do? We have already spent so much and built bigger and bigger, yet it is as if nothing has improved on our lives on the road.
The opening of full face-to-face classes in August will put much stress on our already burdened transport situation. With a pandemic-diminished public transport fleet, further affected by the current fuel hikes, the influx of more than 27 million students (3 million in Metro Manila alone) will require not just boxful of attention from our government but also out-of-the-box solutions as well. What happens when there is a shortage that needs to be addressed immediately and there are no supplies that can suffice in the short term? Rationing.
AS if we don’t have enough problems already, but now we are suddenly subjected to a barrage of SMS spam messages ranging from job offers, selling of items at super-low prices, to winning lotteries we know we did not join. Irritating, indeed, and we dismiss them as today’s version of yesterday’s telemarketing nuisance, testing our patience and always eating up our mobile data space. However, unlike phone marketeers in the past, this digital invasion goes beyond just aggressive selling. Most of these spam messages are phishing activities that attempt to access our personal identification, which then can be exploited by cybercriminals to include our bank details, credit cards and our financial history. We now ask—how did these senders of spam messages get our mobile phone information? Is this just simply random and sporadic? And what have the telecoms companies done to combat this? What about the government agencies tasked to regulate the digital highway and guarantee our digital privacy, in particular the National Telecommunications Commission and the National Privacy Commission?
Last week saw the demise of the Metro Manila BRT Line 1 project after the World Bank granted the Philippine government’s request to cancel its loan agreement amounting to $64 million. This is unfortunate considering that the BRT project could have greatly alleviated our current transport crisis in Metro Manila, especially in the perennial bottleneck of a corridor that is Quezon Avenue-España Boulevard, connecting the two most populated cities of Quezon City and Manila. The BRT project was projected to shelve half the present travel time from the two city halls of Manila and Quezon City, with a projected ridership of 300,000 passengers per day. This would practically almost equal the same ridership as that of the Metro Manila subway (370,000), which costs a staggering 100 plus times more ($7 billion). Unfortunate because the cancellation could have been avoided.
I write again about the 15-minute city urban development concept as I firmly believe that this is the way for cities to survive and sustainably deal with problems such as traffic congestion, pollution, rising costs of deliveries of goods and services, and the declining general health of the population, among others. Adoption of this concept becomes even more practical in times of crisis or calamity, such as the current pandemic when we were all forced into lockdowns. Even more relevant is how this concept will help mitigate our current transport situation, which is greatly threatened by the spiraling prices of gasoline. With our mobility affected, we will be dependent all the more on our communities—hence the 15-minute city concept coming into play.
IN a move that pleasantly caught many by surprise and contrary to his campaign rhetoric, President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has vowed to assert the territorial rights of the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea. With this, the President-elect has that opportunity in his hands to immediately establish that he is different from his predecessor in the critical areas of foreign policy and maritime security. This was the assessment of experts during a virtual town hall discussion organized by top think tank Stratbase ADR Institute.
Among the four modes of transportation—air, land, maritime and rail—that are under the purview of the Transportation department, the land transport or the road sector is considered as the most complex in terms of the challenges that it presents. This does not mean that the other modes of transport are less complex or less important. In fact, they require more specialized planning and budgets given the infrastructural requirements (ports, airports, rail networks), but managing these sectors is not as challenging as that of the road sector. And if there is one area that the government has neglected, admittedly it is the road sector.
Now that we have Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as our incoming president, we all need to end our partisan political engagement and go back to being citizens of the republic. The government needs all hands on deck, especially with our ship Philippines facing such stormy seas up ahead. And all of us, regardless of political color, need to do our part in the democratic process that we promised to uphold. In this journey our country is now in, let us not be barriers but rather guardrails to ensure that we are on the right track.
For us Metro Manilans, it is obvious that the dreaded Metro Manila traffic has reared its ugly head once more, though not as bad and worrisome as before. In a way, it is a good sign that the capital region is back on its feet, after the two-year pandemic hiatus, but the thought of going back to those days when traversing Edsa would take hours would give the new administration, especially our new set of transport and traffic managers, its work cut out when they take over. My unsolicited advice—no need to re-implement the United Vehicle Volume Reduction Program (UVVRP) or more commonly known as the “number coding” scheme.
The elections are over and it’s understandable that sentiments are not the same across the spectrum. There are winners and losers in every election, with the May 9 polls probably one of the most participated and emotionally charged political exercise in recent years. Yet we have a country to take care of and we need to be part of its solution especially in these tumultuous times.
Can surveys be manipulated, tweaked or bought? Such a question, given the importance of surveys or political opinion polls in our electoral processes, needs to be brought out in open discussion and maybe later for serious consideration for the government to regulate or at least ensure the total integrity of a mechanism that apparently can dictate a country’s future.
There’s a fairly heated discussion in the public transport sector about a proposal to re-allow provincial buses to enter Metro Manila. With the pandemic almost over, provincial commute has returned close to its pre-Covid situation, with much of the provincial routes resuming and a 100 percent passenger capacity now allowed. There is, however, one stark difference—there is now a need for the these buses to utilize the government mandated provincial terminals at both ends of Metro Manila, namely the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange for the South/Southwest corridor and the North Luzon Express Terminal for the North corridor.
The Ukrainian crisis has only highlighted the global dependence on fossil fuel. With Russia controlling close to 20 percent of the world’s oil supply plus the apparent lukewarm response of the other oil-producing nations to stabilize the market, global price of oil has skyrocketed and is affecting all economies. Immediately following suit are the increases in logistics and transport costs, as well as in prime commodities and services, which will then have a tremendous impact on the purchasing power of the individual. Bracing for the worse is a given. And while we need to address this situation head on, we also need to fast track our timelines in drastically reducing such global vulnerability and our shift to renewable energy and low carbon initiatives. Otherwise, similar occurrence of the Ukrainian crisis will happen again and again. Global fossil fuel addiction must stop and it should involve collective policy actions from governments but with us individuals as well.
Because of the pandemic, the so-called 15-minute city model that is trending in many urban centers globally has become more relevant. This model revolves around the idea that communities are set up in such a way that residents have all the goods and services that they need—groceries, schools, church, clinics, park, etc.—within 15 minutes of walking and cycling. Traffic congestion and pollution are lessened, while the quality of life improves. Pandemic lockdowns made the need to have all our necessities within reach plausible. Cities needed to be independently resilient in order to survive.
IT was around this time last year that I wrote about our country’s search for the next president, likening the Philippines to a ship on a perilous journey. What are the necessary traits of a good captain or a president that would assure us of not just a chance of survival but a better future for our children and us?