BESIDES serious health risks they pose, daily traffic jams in Metro Manila is bleeding the economy a whopping P140 billion a year in lost investments, reduced capital inflow and wastages, according to a newly-formed group called The Red (respect Equals Discipline) Advocates..
In a statement, group president Brian Galagnara cited previous studies by the japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the University of the Philippines, among others, that show the enormity of “wastages” due to traffic, which dwarfs the amounts lost to all fund scams 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,” he stressed.
Galagnara said the two separate studies quantified the financial impact of traffic in Metro Manila: a 1999 study by JICA and the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) and a 2011 study by the University of the Philippines National Center for Transportation Studies (UP NCTS).
“The findings of these studies are essentially the same. They peg the losses due to traffic at approximately 140 billion pesos,” lamented Galagnara.
“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,” he explained.
Worse, he said these losses grew by the day as traffic in the metropolis and other parts of the country continued to get worse.
“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 that his group would “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,” said Galagnara.
He said that one of the immediate and most practicable solutions is to start with one of the variables that amplifies the problems that lead to traffic—too many cars and not enough roads.
“But what makes thing worse is our lack of discipline on the roads, a lack of respect for each other” Galagnara emphasized.
To make matters even worse, he noted that traffic enforcers have no proper training in the science of traffic management, adding that it is important for traffic enforcers to be made to understand driver mentality and behavior.
“Why [do]Filipinos observe traffic rules when abroad or in places like Subic?” he asked.
“This is the reason why we organized an advocacy group called THE RED ADVOCATES. R, E, D, or RED, means Respect Equals Discipline,” he further said. Through this movement, he said they want to instill the value of respect for others and self-discipline among motorists, pedestrians and even ordinary folks.
In one study, Galagnara said, the top four congestion-causing behaviors that exacerbate traffic are: (1) public utility vehicle behavior; (2) turn-lane behavior; (3) intersection behavior; and (4) pedestrian behavior.
In another study, the top five traffic violations by Filipino motorists are: (1) beating the red light; (2) violation of no u-turn rules; (3) violation of no loading and unloading rules; (4) speeding; and (5) 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 pig!]” Galagnara emphasized.
Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, in an interview, said that “It’s a no-brainer that we have to boost 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 III’s term.”
For his part, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said that, “We are accelerating our infrastructure spending and adjusting procedures to ensure the timely implementation of infrastructure projects and to improve the absorptive capacity of government agencies.”
According to the group, building additional infrastructure is a good start but the solution must not end there. They emphasized that the people are indispensable components of the solution—the traffic enforcers, on the one hand, and the drivers and commuters, on the other hand.