DEAD-ENDS: Who cares if anyone gets anywhere?

Can it get any worse, living in the Philippines as a motorist or commuter? The daily bedlam that is Metro Manila has been staple gripe for much too long, one would think that perhaps the public has grown jaded over the matter. But, not so. Citizens who ride to and from work, school, or any other destination, whether in public or private vehicles, are even more exasperated today than they ever were before. And as contributor Sheila Mañiego warns, the situation has assumed appalling proportions.

People rarely come and stay to spend their hard-earned time off work, and money, in some obscure place it will take them hours and hours to get to, when they only have a weekend, or even a long weekend, to play tourist. 

Really, it’s going to be Even More Fun In The Philippines if traffic were finally addressed by the local government units that have long been empowered by the Local Government Code to look after their own business and welfare.  

The current and past administrations have been receiving all the flack for the traffic we all suffer from, when all the while, we do not really have to bark far up the tree.  

By looking at satellite photos of our cities, especially old cities, we will see narrow roads lined by houses, and shops, and not much room for any road expansion. Back on the ground, these same narrow roads have all sorts of vehicles and loads of junk along the sides, and these same shops selfishly occupying a huge chunk of their side of the lane to conduct and/or advertise their business.  

The roads in the country, sadly, are everyone’s playground. Schools set up barricades to create space for their students getting on or off tricycles at the school gates. Farmers have their palay drying right smack on the roads. Street vendors on trikes, motorbikes, bicycles, and on foot, peddle the streets like we owe them their family’s next meal.

So, with everyone feeling entitled to occupy whatever space s/he sees and can squeeze into, is there hope for the Philippines?

I say yes, and that it is time we ask our governors, the mayors, and their Sanggunians to bring discipline back on the roads. And, yes, remind them their locales are not their enclaves and political bailiwicks, but part of a country whose people need, literally, a way out of poverty. 

ROAD RIGHTS and RIGHT OF USE

The Pan-Maharlika Highway remains to be the biggest road connecting the provinces and cities in the country. While we await the completion and interconnection of the expressways, the train systems, and all the other major infrastructure the current administration is pushing to accomplish, the people need to once again respect the Maharlika Highway as a national highway and not treat it as a regular road within their locale. 

The local governments need to make way for legit travellers to go through their area, get to their destinations and do their business without delay. It will be to the benefit of everyone if the Pan-Maharlika Highway is cleared of traffic, giving priority to long-haul motorists. 

Following that, the cities and municipalities need to identify and declare their most important roads as “arterial roads,” the rules of use of which shall then mimic that of the highway. 

Also, they will do well to clear the streets, and to not allow street parking, where government offices, the hospital, fire station, cemetery and churches, are at. (See chart below)

A crucial aspect of governance and management in a locale must be highlighted: the role of the Sanggunians in promoting road safety and discipline through proper legislation. Items for legislative action may include:

  • Need to address traffic within the bounds of the province / city / municipality, and description/ assignment / reiteration of roles of the various partner agencies 
  • City arterial roads, and the rules and regulations for the operation of same
  • Rules on the construction, operation and/or maintenance of PUB/PUV and private parking and commuters’ waiting areas, and pedestrian lanes
  • Fines, fees, and/or penalties for violation/s
  • Testing, adjustments, and validation of legislated traffic management system
  • Consultations and program communication
  • Application of technology to solve traffic in the province/ city, e.g., additional traffic lights; traffic monitoring cameras; two-way radios; community reporting system (digital and at partner office/stations); local database on traffic violations and for appropriate action for shared used with partner organizations, e.g., LTO, LTFRB, PNP and 911,barangay government units, and other relevant agencies; multi-media for community consultation, information and education on road use and safety

With the Philippine National Police relieved of its role in the war against drugs, the police can especially contribute to this campaign by enforcing what the Sanggunians have legislated. 

Another consideration will be to give a role to the barangays — especially those which the highway and arterial roads cut through — in solving the traffic problem. One incentive for participation would be collection of fines from constituents who have committed minor traffic infractions. Payments received by the city/ municipality and the barangays can then be used to purchase (additional) cameras and, thus, improve, peace and order and safety in their areas. 

Another important  aspect of the campaign would be consultation with various sectors of the community, both the servicing and the serviced groups. When possible, the local Tricycle Operators and Drivers Associations (TODAs) must be provided technical, organizational, and communications support to promote cooperation among them and the community members, and also enable them to self-regulate in the long-term. 

The Land Transportation Office must work double time in issuing (and canceling) vehicle permits and/or driver’s license according to regulation, and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board must do what it can in regulating the operations of land-based public utility vehicles within each province or city.

The economy, the environment, and community life (including the psyche of individuals), have been held hostage by traffic. The LGUs hold the solution, if we could convince them of that.

(Ms. Maniego is a regular Manila-based motorist who “would rather play the piano, sing and dance, and explore the ‘information superhighway’ than brave the traffic in the Philippines,” she writes. In her less harried days, she makes all-natural, olive oil-based soap—see SOAPure on Facebook.)