THE unparalleled traffic jam Metro Manila experienced over the past two weeks is no longer just a local or city concern. It has become an economic and political problem. Whereas people were earlier focused on blaming the Manila truck ban for the mega traffic mess experienced recently, it now looks like the truck ban dilemma was just the tip of the iceberg if one considers the magnitude of the problems it has spawned.
The problem that started as mere traffic gridlock has now reached alarming proportions — the congestion of containers at the Manila port has led to a continuous escalation of prices of basic commodities.
The truth behind the delayed and rather slow processing and release of containers is the turtle-like operations that are carried out by the Bureau of Customs (BOC). It appears that the display of incompetence and inefficiencies of some authorities at the BOC is at the root of all these problems. Even prior to the lifting of the truck ban, this could have been partially addressed had they been more efficient in releasing these stacked goods, which have been sitting there for quite some time.
Such level of incompetence and inefficiency, if not addressed, will have negative effects on the economy. Even Philippine Exporters Confederation (PhilExport) president Sergio Luis-Ortiz has acknowledged the damage that port congestion has done and will do to the economy if left unresolved.
It would be a consolation if this phenomenon were to result only in a higher inflation rate. But the protracted nature of the problem of congestion and traffic gridlock, which could extend to the latter part of this year, could impact our already problematic unemployment problem and exacerbate the already negative perception of prospective investors.
Heyday for robbers in Sampaloc
Several times in the past, this column has called the attention of police authorities in Sampaloc and Santa Cruz in Manila regarding the mounting problem of holdups along the stretch of Lacson going to and from SM San Lazaro, likewise the stretch of Maria Clara and Vicente G. Cruz up to Espana. Jitneys plying this route bear the sign of Tayuman, Lardizabal and SM San Lazaro.
This jitney route has become a haven for holdup men as countless numbers of students, particularly from US, have been victimized by these terrorists roaming and wreaking havoc on helpless students and commuters. One student of ours in UST was victimized twice in a span of only three days. She suffered a nervous breakdown. Because of the incident, the parents decided to drop her from the roll. There have been many other similar incidents with some students even getting killed because they resisted or fought back their attackers.
We have called the attention of the station commanders and PNP Chief Alan Purisima several times regarding these criminal elements roaming around the university belt in Sampaloc, but nothing significant has been done. In fact, the muggings have increased by the day.
Are we going to wait for more fatalities to happen before we take action? We hope that with the recent appointment of new station commanders Police Supt. Samuel Pabonita of Station 4 and Police Supt. Aldrin Gran of Station 3, this will be given priority attention and immediate action. As it is, police authorities are not quite visible especially at night when most of the areas in Sampaloc, particularly in the vicinity of university belt, are poorly lighted.
It is about time that police authorities carry out their mandated responsibilities. We should not let these criminal elements instill fear and hatred among our youths and students, lest we become a society where individuals do not trust one another.
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