Manila’s recently passed law for a daytime truck ban in the city has created a lot of problems than solutions to what is supposed to be the real intention of the law. The objective was to decongest the perennial and chronic traffic problem in this part of the country, which has gone from bad to worse.
Right away on the day of the laws’ affectivity, positive effects were readily seen with the traffic-free scene in almost all areas of Manila, an act which is only experienced during Good Fridays. Driving in Manila has never been this exciting; as if you were living in the 1950’s where owning a car is a luxury, and when the Philippine population was less than 10 million. Those were the years when traffic congestion was an alienated word, and the price of gasoline was trivial.
It was nice to bring back the memories of the glorious days of the Philippine economy, where people seem carefree and the economic life of the people can take care of itself despite not really being that well-off in life. Those were the days where a person’s unemployment was more of a choice rather than an economic consequence.
But the current dilemma in Manila is a different kind of breed compared to Manila more than 50 years ago. Altering the flow of the daily systems that sustain the people’s lives, whose main source of livelihood has been taken, is tragic. The action taken by Manila authorities by all indications is more anti-poor than favorable. People who are directly benefiting from the industry are the poor people in our community, the drivers, dispatchers, stevedores, middlemen and owners of eateries along the port areas. The rich entrepreneurs who use these trucks can survive even with an endless ban for long, but not the workers who cull their earnings to sustain their family from this industry.
These are the people who will be affected severely by the ban; people who survive on a day-to-day basis; people if not given an opportunity to earn a living decently may transgress from the moral norms and create a problem far more serious than what the truck ban was supposed to address.
People do acknowledge the wisdom of decision of the Manila authorities as regards to solving the traffic problem. But to arbitrarily impose radical policies without providing for an acceptable alternative solution to stakeholders is tantamount to depriving them of food on the table. The wisdom of the political decision should first redound to the benefit of the poor and marginalized, for after all this is what their leadership is anchored on. They have an erroneous perception that they are giving a great service to the less fortunate, when in fact the poor do not care less because in the first place most of them have irregular jobs and survive on a day-to-day basis. And traffic congestion is the least of their concern in favor of their daily subsistence.
In fact, it is not far-fetched that most of the people that traverse Manila come from different parts of the National Capital Region and not reside in the city per se. But those who were displaced without doubt are the majority residing in the city.
If the local as well as the national government is keen on decongesting Manila of its industrial sites that includes the port area, then a certain time frame or grace period should be adopted gradually so that alternatives could be made for the those who will be displaced by such actions of the supposed goal of development.
A good model of this was done when the old San Lazaro Race Track in Tayuman, Santa Cruz, Manila, where a host of handlers that include jockeys, horse handlers (sota), trainers, exercise riders, carenderia’s and a host of others residing in the area were displaced by the construction of a mall. The race track was relocated to give way to the construction of a mall leading to a displacement of many people. But somehow, the anticipated problem was resolved because priorities of employment in that edifice were given to residents in the area where most of the displaced people reside.
The city in its desire to promote improvement and surpass the achievements of the previous administration should be prudent in all its decisions. In its effort to swiftly show a better improvement in the city life in so short a time, it failed (or neglected) to see the negative repercussions of its actions. The relative convenience that could be realized with the imposition of the ban should be weighed against the possible economic detriment that it could create. The effect could redound to lost economic opportunities in terms of income, employment, peace and order which are all offshoots of possible misjudgment created by an “overeager” leadership dilemma.
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