TRAFFIC jams do not only drain the patience of motorists and commuters. They drain the economy as well.
According to a newly formed group calling itself The Red (Respect Equals Discipline), road congestion in Metro Manila can cost P140 billion a year in lost investments, reduced capital inflow and wastages.
Group President Brian Galagnara cited previous studies that show “wastages” from traffic dwarfs the amounts lost to all fund irregularities combined, including the controversial pork barrel scam.
“We share the country’s concern with the rampant misuse of public funds and understand why corruption is at center stage these days,” said Galagnara.
“But after seeing the success of concerned citizens and collective action in the abolition of the pork barrel, we feel it is time to mobilize efforts to address a problem that has an even greater negative economic impact than corruption: traffic.”
Galagnara said two studies quantified the financial impact of traffic in Metro Manila: a 1999 study by Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Department of Transportation and Communications and a 2011 study by the University of the Philippines National Center for Transportation Studies.
“The findings of these studies are essentially the same. They peg the losses due to traffic at approximately P140 billion,” he said.
“Direct losses are attributed to wasted gasoline, lost labor hours, employment of traffic aides and wasted electricity; the indirect losses refer to withdrawal of potential foreign investments, missed business opportunities and reduced capital inflow,” Galagnara said.
These losses grow as traffic in the metropolis and other parts of the country worsens.
“These are losses that should immediately be addressed because traffic is getting worse by the day due to our inaction,” he pointed out.
Lack of discipline
Galagnara said his group will “go beyond finger-pointing and focus on doable solutions that would involve the participation of all the stakeholders affected by traffic: everyone.”
“Like corruption, traffic is something that affects us all, rich or poor. Even the powerful are powerless when our roads are clogged,” he said.
Galagnara said there are too many cars and not enough roads.
“But what makes things worse is our lack of discipline on the roads, a lack of respect for each other,” he said.
To make matters worse, traffic enforcers are not properly trained in traffic management.
“Why [do]Filipinos observe traffic rules when abroad or in places like Subic?” Galagnara said.
One study named the top four congestion-causing factors as public utility vehicle behavior; turn-lane behavior; intersection behavior; and pedestrian behavior.
Another study listed the top five traffic violations by Filipino motorists as beating the red light; violation of no u-turn rules; violation of no loading and unloading rules; speeding; and violation of one-way rules.
“Our belief is that a significant step towards solving the traffic problem begins with each one of us. Our call to action, then, is to foster discipline by emphasizing respect for others, so we want to tell everyone “Huwag kang Baboy! [Don’t be a hog!]” Galagnara said.
Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan admitted the need to build more infrastructure.
“We have a huge backlog in almost all types of infrastructure. The government intends to invest in more roads, bridges, railways, airports and seaports during the remainder of President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s term.”
But according to RED, building additional infrastructure is a good start but the solution must not end there. It emphasized that the people are part of the solution—traffic enforcers, drivers and commuters.