It could have been worse

Ben D. Kritz

Ben D. Kritz

WE could have, for instance, been struck by a mile-wide asteroid. Or a surprise invasion from North Korea. Or a plague of bees.

Tuesday night may have been the moment when, after having managed to hold it together for five years, two months, and nine days of the Aquino Administration, the country finally gave up and began to collapse.

While President BS Aquino 3rd’s hokey, smirking performance in a stage-managed “press conference” with the Inquirer group was being played and replayed on the evening news—and while on a different channel, ABS-CBN’s Karen Davila was asking MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino if the proposed subway along Edsa would be built above ground or underground (yes, that really happened)—Metro Manila was grinding to a complete halt, overwhelmed by a flood of vehicles and a flood of actual water from a relatively short-lived but intense thunderstorm.

By now everyone has probably heard the stories and seen the pictures of Tuesday night’s traffic disaster, and likely most everyone reading this experienced it in some way—if you did not, you should fall to your knees and offer thanks for that to whichever Supreme Being you follow; it was that bad. As of 2 am Wednesday, when I finally stopped monitoring the situation and went to bed (having made my own 20-kilometer commute from office to home in a comparatively painless four hours and 15 minutes earlier in the evening), much of Edsa was still gridlocked, and several thousand passengers were still stranded at different points by a lack of buses or other public transportation.

What is ironic, or would be ironic if we weren’t already used to the Administration’s bizarre reverse Midas touch, is that the first two days of a new “traffic management plan” have resulted in progressively worse gridlock. The Administration will, of course, find something to blame for it. Too many people driving cars with only one or two occupants; too much little patience on the part of the public. And of course, every finger the government points is three pointing back at itself. We’ve been through all that; repeating the litany of Aquino’s failures to plan, manage, or even mentally grasp the concept of infrastructure is not really going to help at this point.

What might help are some suggestions on how people can survive this mess, which at this point looks like it will continue to grow worse until frustration provokes a mass exodus out of Metro Manila.

If you’re a driving commuter, consider leaving your car at home. You probably will not be saving any time by doing so, but at least you will not be wasting fuel or causing excessive wear on your vehicle or your nerves, and you will be making a tiny contribution to reducing traffic. If you must drive, try to take two or three people with you, preferably people who would otherwise be driving as well.

If you’re a business owner, you must accept the reality that you can no longer pretend dealing with traffic congestion is solely the responsibility of your employees, and that whatever they have to go through to make it to work by the designated starting time is their problem. The commute is destroying everyone’s productivity, and that is going to quickly manifest itself in your operations if you do not account for it. Consider shortening shifts where possible, allowing your employees extra rest days, and doing as much work as possible—depending on the nature of your business, of course—online. Do not schedule face-to-face meetings, seminars, or other get-togethers unless absolutely unavoidable; instead opt for conference calls, videoconferencing, or e-mail exchanges. Call the folks over at Google Philippines. They’ll set you up with all sorts of neat tools for doing group work online.

The traffic crisis is going to cost businesses, and it is going to cost the overall economy; even if it is regarded as strictly a “Manila problem”—which it is not, although it is more spectacular here than in other urban areas—the greater Manila area accounts for a significant chunk of the national economy, and the crisis here is likely going to shave a couple tenths of a percent off GDP growth. The negative impact cannot be avoided. But with a little planning, it can be mitigated. The real solutions—actual solutions, not just putting 100 more traffic cops on one road—are years away. The sooner we realize that and take steps to live with it, the more likely we’ll be around to actually see some improvement.


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  1. kasalanan yan nila gma, erap at fvr wala sila nagawang solution noon wag niyo isisi sa daang matuwid pero di naman makatawid hahahaha…..

  2. “Kasalanan ni Gloria yan…”
    “Namana lang namin yan sa previous administration…”
    “Eh buhay pa naman kayo di ba?…”
    “Bahala na kayo sa buhay nyo…”

  3. Solutions to heavy traffic issues.

    1. Additional and efficient mass transit systems like MRT, LRT, PNR, Double Decker buses
    2. Additional Skyways/subways interconnecting all cities in Metro Manila
    3. Schools and Universities should be relocated to the provinces.
    4. Airports should be relocated to Clark
    5. Factories in metro manila should be relocated to export processing zones.
    6. No U- Turns in major roads
    7. Make all major roads including EDSA one way traffic to accommodate all vehicles until all of the above are completed.

  4. Why not move outside of MetroManila? Hardly any traffic, food is plentiful and fresh and living is easy.I love living in Negros Oriental!

    • Moving outside of Manila makes economic sense but Manila is where the corruption is so that’s why you find the Pinoys there: Pinoys love corruption.

    • Both of you make the best sense so far. MM is already developed. The metro Mayors should be given the responsibilites of Maintenance and the National Government should start developments in the Provinces. Also I think it would be better if the Senators would be representing regions instead of the whole Country with no Senator representing Metro Manila anymore to decentralize their Porks and use it for the Provinces. We must also have a law allowing us voters to remove from office any “vindictive” elected official.

  5. Sir, if you will analyze the situation, EDSA highway is not growing while the volume of vehicles plying it is growing everyday, hence to combat that problem, reduce the number of vehicles to a maximum volume that can be allowed to run along the highway. Both the buses and the private vehicles must be sacrificed to satisfy the above-mentioned solution. Putting the HPG into the highway is one minor solution only but the real major problem is the volume of vehicles cramming inside the highway. It is just the political will of our leaders that is missing in solving our traffic woes.

    • maddflo, what is missing is the foresight of gov’t planners. they planned for the economy to grow but did not foresee that economic growth would necessarily bring more money to spend for the rich and middle class and when they have spare money, they buy cars or suv for the rich and super rich. without the necessary increase in road network, the result would be what is happening right now in edsa. not only in edsa, everywhere you go traffic is horrible. couple that with lax in implementation of road rules, there would result what a writer called gates of hell scenario. every alternate route you take, there are double parked vehicles, carinderia and repair shops along the roads, roads turned into playground/basketball courts, tricycles-padyaks counterflowing and using major roads, etc. there is really a breakdown in everything.

  6. Carpooling (at least 3 workers/employees) is an excellent idea and should be a “MUST”. People who normally drive to work (managers, etc.) should find regular workers who normally go their way to ride with them, and not necessarily a co-employee, even charging a minimal fee. Staggered work hours whould be implemented by companies and employers. IT employees who may be able to do their work after connecting to the office main frame, may be allowed to work at home and report to their offices as needed. Field workers can go direct from home to their worksites after getting instructions from their offices/supervisors and have to report to their offfices as needed. In short, the advantages of modern communication technology should be availed of in every way possible.