Starting next month, millions of students will be going back to school, which will cause problems such as traffic and a rise in petty crimes. But at this point, the public has yet to hear from the authorities about their plans to assure the citizenry that the opening of schools will be orderly and peaceful, particularly in Metro Manila.
Although some schools in Metro Manila are gradually shifting to the international calendar, most schools in the metropolis will still open their gates to students starting in June but others will do so only in August or September.
Among the many agencies operating in Metro Manila with some oversight functions and powers over this matter, it is the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) that has the authority to coordinate efforts to assure that school opening is orderly and peaceful.
Of the many problems that crop up during school opening, traffic is the most visible and perhaps the most horrendous, with roads leading to areas where schools are located looking like parking lots when there is gridlock almost as long as a kilometer.
With the jeepney and the Asian utility vehicle and vans making up the backbone of Metro Manila’s transport system for major and secondary roads, the problem of road discipline usually causes clogged intersections. During the rush hours, the jeeps, AUVs and vans block the second lane of the road from the sidewalk because they just load and unload there. This violation of traffic rules impede the flow of traffic and causes accidents. That this is the normal way in our streets makes Metro Manila motorists wonder if the MMDA is serious in enforcing basic traffic rules.
Fortunately, Metro Manila has three intercity rail lines and a fourth, which is the functioning lines of the Philippine National Railways (PNR). But cracks have been showing in their operations. Last week, a PNR train figured in a serious and fatal collision with a jeepney in Sampaloc, Manila. This again shows that authorities, particularly the PNR and the MMDA, have a lot of work to do in terms of assuring the public of the safety of rail operations in Metro Manila.
As far as the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) is concerned, the long lines during the rush hours should have been made a thing of the past years ago. What will be done when schools open? Unfortunately, the Light Rail Transit Line 1 and Line 2 are starting to experience almost the same problems as the MRT-3, with long lines becoming a common sight. The Metro Rail Transit Corporation (MRTC) should definitely start making preparations for the influx of students using all three intercity rail lines.
Traffic, however, is not the only problem authorities should be concerned with during school opening season. Petty street crimes like handbag and cellphone snatching, pickpocketing, etc. will surely rise. The public hopes to see more policemen on the streets.
It will be a good thing if the concerned authorities will act in a concerted and coordinated manner to address the usual problems during school opening. However, it will be better if the authorities sustain their actions and programs for peaceful and orderly school opening over the long-term.
In short, the authorities can demonstrate to the public that it is not “ningas-cogon” when it comes to implementing high-profile measures during school opening days.
If authorities, particularly the MMDA, NCRPO, MRTC, PNR and others, can make school openings more sane, and sustain their respective measures over the next months to come, the public will come to believe that there is, indeed, good governance.
It will mean that Metro Manila is a place well on its way to becoming something like the pleasant urban areas of Europe and America—and we Filipinos are no longer an uncivilized people and or leaders are not heartless elites who don’t give a damn if the ordinary people suffer.