Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) coming home for the holidays will be welcomed by horrendous traffic jams en route to their families, “an injustice given their huge contribution to the country’s economy,” said the Respect Equals Discipline (RED) Advocates, a movement of concerned citizens advocating on Philippine roads.
In a statement, RED Advocates President Brian Galagnara enjoined Filipinos to “reflect not only on the economic but also the social impact of traffic gridlocks both in the Metro as well as in other parts of the country.”
“Studies show that the country loses P140 billion annually because of traffic. These are funds that would otherwise have been spent on livelihood and job generation so our countrymen would not have to leave their families for better opportunities overseas,” he said.
“But because we have failed to address this issue, the least we can do, though belatedly, is to begin acting on it now so our streets would be friendlier for our returning heroes, the OFWs.”
Studies by both the Japan International Cooperation Agen-cy (JICA) and the University of the Philippines National Center for Transportation Studies (UP NCTS) cite wasted gasoline, lost labor hours, employment of traffic aides, and wasted electricity as “direct losses” due to traffic; indirect losses include withdrawal of potential foreign investments, missed business opportunities, and reduced capital inflow.
“Even these indirect losses, over the years, have contributed immensely to the outward migration of our labor force. And while our OFWs contribute largely to the economy, the social impact of being away from their families remains priceless. Traffic during the holidays, or at any other time during rare and short visits, should be the least of their concern,” Galagnara added.
There are currently more than 10 million Filipinos working overseas, roughly 10 percent of the population.
Last year, according to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), OFW remittances reached an all-time high of $23.8 billion in 2012—representing about 6.5 percent of the Philippines’ gross national income and 8.5 percent of gross domestic product for 2012.
This year thousands are expected to visit for the Christmas season, the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) expecting high passenger volumes at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Metro Manila, Mactan Cebu International Airport, and Clark International airport in Pampanga.
As in other holidays, high traffic volumes are also expected at other airports in Davao, Kalibo, Laoag, Puerto Princesa, Busuanga, General Santos, Zamboanga, Cagayan de Oro, Iloilo, Tacloban and Tagbilaran as well as seaports in Batangas, Calapan, Cebu, Ozamiz, Zamboanga, Caticlan and Tagbilaran.
“They will all be trooping to and from these ports, eager to see their families. Hopefully, motorists and pedestrians alike will be disciplined enough to allow them this right and privilege. We’re sure they would all rather be in the comfort of their homes, not on the roads, comparing how their host countries are much more disciplined than the Philippines,” said Galagnara.
The RED Advocates believe that discipline on the road—whether as driver or com-muter—is the key to easing traffic woes, “that discipline is borne out of our respect for one another . . . that respect begets discipline; discipline brings order; and order is what is needed in our highly congested, traffic-plagued roads today.”
Galagnara explained that according to a study, the top four congestion-causing behaviors that exacerbate traffic are: public utility vehicle behavior; turn-lane behavior; intersection behavior; and pedestrian behavior—all arising from lack of road discipline.
“To address these, we need fair and effective traffic law enforce-ment coupled with a good traffic management plan and proper training of traffic enforcers. These are key elements to respect and discipline,” he added.