The worsening of Metro Manila’s traffic gridlock this week—which will even get more hellish in the next fortnight—again proves something not only experts but also ordinary citizens have helplessly accepted: That the Aquino Administration does not know how—or care—to solve the country’s traffic congestion problem.
What the experts do know is that President Aquino and his key men are clueless about urban planning and development. They have no vision or master plan. Why? Because President Aquino et al. just can’t be bothered about long-term solutions to our country’s pressing problems. Instead, they use up their time conjuring schemes to make sure they and their cronies continue to reign over our country in the oligarchical, cruel, and anti-poor and anti-working-class manner they have ruled these past four years.
Ironically, some of our fellow ordinary citizens are blind to the criminal wrongdoings of the Aquino Administration. That is why they are still fanatically proclaiming the greatness of President Aquino’s performance despite many proofs of his and his closest Cabinet members’ incompetence, criminal negligence, dishonesty and corruption.
P140 billion annual loss
The traffic mess in the National Capital Region and environs deserves serious attention because it annually costs some P140 billion. This figure emerges from a joint Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Philippine Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) study and that of the National Center for Transportation Studies of the University of the Philippines or the UP- NCTS. This total cost is an aggregate of losses in undelivered productivity, wasted gas, diesel and LNG fuel and engine oils, additional expenses for vehicle maintenance and illnesses caused by the exposure of millions of commuters to automotive-exhaust pollution, etcetera.
It is also a measure of the Aquino administration’s lack of focus on—and lack of concern for—even the things that seem to matter a lot to President Aquino and his key associates that they are not moving heaven and earth to plug the loss of P140 billion a year. They love to crow about the fast Gross Domestic Product rate of growth. But they are not bothering to solve the traffic mess and thereby add P140 billion a year to the numbers that go into computing the increased GDP. Well, they don’t seriously want to stop the smuggling in of petroleum, food and other manufactured products that costs about P65 billion a year. This is a much easier problem to solve. So why should we expect them to be serious about the economic losses caused by the traffic mess?
Cargo congestion in Manila ports
The current traffic congestion surge has to do with container trucks issuing forth from the Manila ports.
A Cabinet meeting last week approved a scheme under which the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), which controls commercial vehicles, to tag container trucks and other cargo bearing vehicles, allowing them to use so-called “last mile routes” at all hours of the day in the next two weeks. This scheme was seen as the way to clear the port congestion that has been causing shortages of products and commodities in the whole country—and consequently pushing up inflation.
The last mile routes are to be considered express lanes. Trucks running on them are able to deliver their cargo to their destinations fast. The usual “kotong” traffic cops, who mulct drivers, are expected not to dare stop tagged cargo trucks.
Among the major thoroughfares that are last mile routes are Roxas Boulevard and Quirino Avenue for trucks going to the South Luzon Expressway, and A. Bonifacio Ave. for trucks bound for the North Luzon Expressway.
The whole thing is nothing but a quick fix.
The JICA, among others, have developed long-term solutions to our traffic mess.
Why didn’t the Aquino Administration begin implementing these soon after it took power in 2010?