SLOWLY and inexorably, the Aquino government, by its failure to help solve the problems of daily life, is driving many of us into impossible and desperate straits.
Confronted by a traffic jam that wouldn’t budge, Manila Archbishop Emeritus Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales alighted from his vehicle and decided to unlock the jam and direct the traffic himself. He succeeded in untangling the mess.
Stung by his example and hoping to earn pogi points, Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman Francis Tolentino came out of his foxhole the other day to face up to his responsibilities for the crazy traffic situation in the metropolis. He decided to direct traffic himself and don the cap of traffic enforcers. He thought he would endear himself to voters, because he has plans to run for the Senate in 2016. He got catcalls instead.
An official equally responsible for the traffic situation is Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya. It did not occur to him to play traffic enforcer. Given his history of indifference, he probably did not even notice Cardinal Rosales’s act of taking traffic woes into his own hands.
A government that doesn’t think very much
The problem as we see it is not just absent, incompetent and insensitive government officials. We think the problem is a government and a leadership that doesn’t think very much.
First, ordinary citizens are asking this zen-like question: Of what good is having a straight path, as President Aquino keeps on preaching, if the traffic is not moving? Where are they going to go?
One columnist of this paper found this novel solution to the traffic gridlock. He and his family simply decided to boycott the traffic. They don’t go out in the family car or ride public transport. They just subsist at home on the Internet and television and DVDs. But we have to realize that that is a sacrifice that they are forced to make because the Aquino government is so ineffective.
Second, if the leadership will only think, it will realize that “straight path” is logically a guidepost for public conduct for public servants and citizens alike. And that should include President Aquino himself.
The President has done nothing to spell out what straight path behavior consists of, or what the principles to follow are.
He could say that the straight path is following the Ten Commandments. But that will not solve the traffic mess.
It’s the system, stupid
The really important insight that the government must comprehend is that what we face in the traffic situation in Metro Manila is a system breakdown. The system of roads, public and private transport is not working; it is totally out of balance. Government is out of its depth in coping with the challenge.
Throwing officials under the bus is easy to say, although it’s probably part of the answer.
What is essential is coming up with a workable plan – a plan developed by real professionals and experts.
Cardinal Rosales’s example is an instructive one in terms of showing that people responsible must roll up their sleeves and do the job. It does not cancel the need for an expert and professional solution.
Many have intoned no end that the traffic gridlock in the metropolis is costing the economy P2.4 billion a day.
They have cited a study entitled “Roadmap for Transport Infrastructure Development for Metro Manila and Surrounding Areas” conducted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in coordination with our government agencies.
The study says that lower-income households are the hardest hit by traffic congestion, and will remain so up to 2030 when they will spend no less than 20 percent of their income for transport.
Perhaps the better thing to do is for Aquino and his officials to do serious work and stop talking about their straight path, which is not straight at all.