THESE were my thoughts as I ventured into everyday traffic. We all thought APEC gave us the worst traffic. However, this December, traffic is truly one for the books – a signal that Metro Manila is turning into a survival economy that needs to be addressed within the context of sustainable cities.
Like everyone else, I get caught in traffic even if most of my business transactions are only a few kilometers away from my place. On MMDA-coded days, I take Uber, which I think is more convenient, pleasant, and safe except for the exorbitant price surges during rush hours, which in some way rationalizes the add-on erring cab drivers impose on helpless commuters. I think Grab Cab works the same way.
Noticeably, there are many new cars around the metropolis. Statistics from the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines, Inc. reveal that last September, vehicle sales grew by 29 percent year-on-year. This translates to 27,045 new units against September 2014’s 20,924 units. Vehicle sales statistics were on an uptrend from January 2015 with 18,662 units to an average of 23,000 units monthly from February to August 2015. And these are just 2015 figures. Last year, automotive sales averaged at from 15,000 to 20,000 units per month. If we consider vehicles in the last two years as new, we have 500,000 new units in the country.
In sustainable manufacturing concepts, we are torn between extending the use of old cars as long as they are road-worthy against buying new cars with modern engines and low carbon emission. There is carbon emission anyway in producing a new car. But in the Philippines, we do not really see the retirement of old cars, say 15 years old, since we do not have recycling systems. Old cars ingenuously find their way to secondary markets and other provinces wherein the depreciation terms are extended up to the life of its owner.
So add up all the cars in the last 15 years and we are confronted with our daily nightmare, coupled with many other traffic-causing factors like cyclical paydays, seasonal bonuses, mall sales, everybody’s Christmas party, the influx of balikbayans, and yeah, some rain. So caught in traffic, I wondered about the possibilities of how we can survive this nightmare, not just this Christmas, but in a sustained manner.
Increase car ownership costs. In Japan, a car owner has to provide proof of parking (leased or owned) as a requisite for car registration. It is illegal to park in the streets. In the Philippines, many streets are now used as parking lot for these new cars, but I don’t think our road taxes include that privilege. If it is inevitable that streets would be used as parking lots, then parking fees should be imposed by city governments to discourage such practice.
Invest in public transport. How can we blame car owners if they do not have a convenient alternative? Higher road taxes may be channeled toward improving public transport service (of course, corruption and public governance are totally different issues). The failure of our public transport is addressed by the private sector and we can’t blame enterprising Filipinos for investing in Uber or getting new cars for themselves.
Stop building in the city. High-rise condominium developments seem to be on steroids, and there is no stopping the real estate companies from doing so, as if Metro Manila is not congested enough! The deal is to live minutes away from work. But a homeowner doesn’t just work and go home. A condominium will house thousands of people and these thousands will cause human and vehicular traffic. A Japanese company is already building a high-speed Shinkansen-type train in India, yet we are still light years behind in upgrading our train system that takes more than one hour queuing time for a ride. There are vast lands in the south, east, and north of Metro Manila. Build somewhere else but please, stop congesting Metro Manila.
I have seen people complain about traffic, but there are bitter pills we need to take to address the issues surrounding this nightmare.
Michael Angelo A. Cortez, CPA, MBA, DBA is a visiting professor and researcher at De La Salle University; a visiting research fellow at the Center for Tourism, Asian Institute of Management; and an associate professor of accounting at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, Japan. For correspondence, email firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty, and its administrators.