The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has pegged at P2.4 billion the loss of potential income that the traffic jam in Metro Manila has caused every day in 2014 and P3 billion in 2015. The amount of the loss and the percentage of increase in a span of one year are staggering.
The problem is not just land traffic; it is also air traffic. For the past two years that I have been traveling in different parts of Visayas and Mindanao, I became accustomed to the air traffic congestion. In my experience, there is a correlation between the heavy stream of traffic in the sky and the road congestion in Metro Manila. Imagine the arrival of flights every 5-10 minutes and calculate the hassle of loading and unloading each aircraft, assuming it is an Airbus A340-300 with a capacity of 275 to 300 passengers. If each of these passengers gets picked up all at the same time, imagine the congestion of the airport road and the nearby streets. Aggravating the situation is the ongoing construction of the skyway along the airport road.
Aside from the quantitative aspect of our land and air traffic problem, what about the variables that are not easily quantifiable, such as the effect on our health, our relationships and the flexibility to do the things that we want to do outside our homes? that If these were also factored in, I believe the daily estimated billions of pesos in foregone income in the JICA estimates would be much higher.
On a regular morning, it takes me 30 to 45 minutes to get to my office in Ayala from BGC and an hour to 75 minutes when I leave in the evening. Without traffic, I navigate the same route in five to ten minutes. I could use the extra 20 to 45 minutes travel time to exercise or rest.
What about those who live outside the city, for example in Valenzuela or Balintawak? I have a friend who has to leave his place at around 5:30 am everyday just to make sure that he will be in his office in Makati by 8:00 am. Going home at night is even worse.
The crippling traffic is an unnecessary burden to our way of life, and I look forward to the day when I do not automatically add 30 minutes to an hour of my daily travel plans. But what is currently being done to improve our traffic problems? Perhaps a lot, but I have not felt any of it yet or maybe I am just too disillusioned to think that there are immediate solutions that do not require a huge amount of budget or capital expenditure. Experts say that the government will have to build more bridges, wider roads, and more railways to decongest Metro Manila but all of these will take years and huge amounts of funding to complete.
One challenge is the number of vehicles put on the roads without culling the old ones. And aside from the high volume and ever-increasing number of vehicles on the streets, there are plaques that block the road networks – vehicles parked on both sides of the street, roads barricaded with plants and used tires, vendors setting up their stalls along the roads, kids and even adults using roads as playground and other human obstructions. Moreover, there is the utter lack of discipline on the part of most motorists including some motorists who cover two to three lanes just to make U-turns and the drivers of jeepneys, tricycles, and pedicabs that stop in the middle or exactly at the corner of the road to pick up or drop off passengers. Traffic enforcers also contribute to the problem when they position themselves in the middle of the road or lane but do nothing at clearing street corners of public utility vehicles (PUVs) and barkers loading or unloading passengers.
The traffic problem is really complicated but there are simple and easy things we can do like prohibiting streets being used as parking lanes and playground, prevent PUVS from loading and unloading passengers at street corners, etc. Will finding solutions for other obstructions require giving the President emergency powers or do they simply require political will of local government officials? What are the actions that municipal mayors, councilors, barangay captains and other local government officials take in this regard? And, –more important, what is each of us, the citizenry, doing to help solve this problem? Isn’t making our transportation system part of our common responsibility as citizens of this nation? If each of us acts responsibly, the loss of potential income from traffic can be significantly reduced.
Chris Ferareza is a Partner, Audit & Assurance and In-Charge of Training at P&A Grant Thornton. P&A Grant Thornton is one of the leading Audit, Tax, Advisory, and Outsourcing firm in the Philippines, with 21 Partners and over 700 staff members.