View Full Version : TRAFFIC! Tales of Gridlock and (Non) Rush Hour

Sam Miguel
02-13-2014, 10:36 AM
It is time to have one of these. Post away people.

After all, what else are you going to do while your car, cab, bus, jeep, FX hasn't moved in the last hour or so?

I'll transfer/copy related posts here as well.

Sam Miguel
02-13-2014, 10:39 AM
5 Simple Ideas That Could Make Travel (And Life) Way Easier

By Adam Wears, John Champion

January 16, 2012 1,045,495 views

We always hear about how fast technology is moving. Your parents needed 18-wheel trucks and seven to 10 business days to move around the amount of media you can have on your phone in 15 minutes. But when it comes to moving people around, we're pretty much stuck exactly where we were back when we first figured out commercial air travel -- waiting in the same lines at the airport, honking at the same jerkoff in front of us in rush hour traffic. It's just one of those facts of life, right?

Actually, it doesn't have to be. We're sitting on some pretty revolutionary ways to greatly increase the speed at which we physically move from A to B. What's infuriating is that those breakthroughs are ridiculously simple stuff like ...

#5. A Better Way to Board a Plane

It's easy to dislike air travel. Crappy food, nonexistent leg space, hurtling thousands of feet above earth without a firm understanding of how physics is keeping you from plummeting to a nightmarish death -- all unpleasant. But whether you're scared of flying or sitting comfortably in first class, the boarding process has an uncanny way of merging the collective internal monologue of everyone onboard into one harmonious "Fuck thiiiiiiiiiis." The stampede, the pileup. The motionless frustration as everyone tries to scramble for their seats with all the speed and grace of a tectonic plate. It's a miserable experience for anyone who doesn't love having their nose in a random sampling of khaki-clad butts and crotches.

If a better way to board a plane existed, the airlines would surely have jumped at the opportunity. Surely, they don't enjoy starting every takeoff with a cabin full of flustered, stressed-out passengers. Or maybe they do.

Computer simulations and real-world tests have shown that the current system of boarding -- back rows first -- is one of the worst possible ways to board a plane. It makes sense. Everyone is trying to use the same tiny bit of space to put their bags in the overhead compartment or get to their window seats. And since two people generally can't pass through each other, this causes areas of intense congestion where total strangers are forced to use eye contact and polite small talk to try to untangle complex knots of human movement.

Even the "just get in and sit wherever" school of boarding practiced by some budget airlines is quicker and easier. It seems like that would be less efficient if you view humans as a bunch of automated windup toys. In practice, humans use their twin faculties of intelligence and aversion to dry humping strangers to make efficient seating decisions.

The best solution has been developed by one Dr. Jason Steffen, an Illinois astrophysicist. His method proposes that airlines should board the window seats first, then the middle seats, then the aisle seats, starting first with the even rows and then the odds. With people at the front and back of the plane boarding at the same time, everyone's able to spread out and focus on getting to their goddamn seat already. This YouTube video shows the method in action. The most noticeable thing is how easy it is for people to move around each other in the center aisle when everyone's not stuffing their luggage into the same overhead luggage compartment at the same moment. Instead, people who are far enough from each other to do jumping jacks are putting their luggage up at the same time.

So how bad does science beat the airlines at human Tetris? Tests show the scientific method actually halves the boarding time. Imagine how much time that could have saved, how many crotches and butts that could have saved your face from, and then try not to punch something.

So why won't the airlines adopt Steffen's method, if it's so much better? This could be due to any number of things, such as people not being so keen on buying first class tickets if flying coach was so fluent. But the most reasonable explanation is they think the system is too complicated for people to understand.

Remember that the next time you're doing the sardine with a few hundred fellow passengers -- the people running the airline are choosing to sit on the system that would avoid all the hassle, because they think you're too dumb to deserve it.

#4. Make Yellow Lights One Second Longer

What can be done in a second?

Generally, not much. It takes the fastest man in the world almost 10 of them just to run the 100-meter dash. Nothing meaningful can be achieved in one second. You'll survive longer with your head severed.

Against this background, a plan to make yellow lights one second longer doesn't sound exactly revolutionary. But what if we told you it might go a long way toward keeping your head from getting severed -- by an incoming semi, no less?

You see, the problem is that intersections are very confusing. With all that turning, it can get really difficult to know where you are going, let alone to avoid collisions with other equally confused people. This is where the yellow lights come in. They're often so short that you don't even get a fraction of a second between red light and being aggressively honked at by everyone behind you. So you rush into the traffic without having assessed the situation properly -- and BAM! Semi.

According to a 2004 Texas Transportation Institute study, a mere extra second in a situation like this would reduce collisions by a very respectable average of 40 percent. It works both ways, too. Going from red to green, the extra yellow second gives us more time to figure out the intersection and observe roadside hazards. Going from green to red, it gives us more reaction time and thus reduces the running of red lights.

Hey, wait a second. If a measly second can really make that much difference, why do most traffic lights still feature yellow lights quicker than a roadrunner on speed? If a fix is this easy, wouldn't it be in everyone's best interest to implement it ASAP?

Well, no. Turns out, keeping yellow lights short and sweet equals big time dough. For cities using red light cameras, drivers running the lights represent a fairly substantial chunk of revenue. In Dallas, for instance, the cameras have been known to raise $700,000 in fines ... within a few months. For this reason, yellow traffic lights in such cities actually tend to be quietly calibrated even quicker than usual.

#3. Get Rid of Left Turns

It turns out Derek Zoolander isn't the only one who can only turn right. Left turns account for most of the 2.4 million accidents that happen each year at intersections. That's not entirely surprising for anyone who's ever sat through an entire cycle of green lights waiting for the best time to lunge left. But unless you're a traffic engineer, you probably don't realize just how much left turns screw with our daily commute and general safety.

They're such a statistical problem that UPS programmed their trucks' routes and navigation software to never make them. Not only did it make the routes safer, it actually saved the company enough time to deliver an additional 325,000 packages the first year they put the policy in place. Yes, going out of their way to avoid left turns actually saved them time.

OK, but what about those of us who aren't couriered about by a fleet of delivery trucks? Sometimes the place we're going is on the other side of the stream of cars speeding past our left shoulder, and there's no way around it.

That's why traffic engineers have been taking the unorthodox step of trying to eliminate the left turn by redesigning the way roads intersect with one another. They've tried loop-based designs like the Michigan Left and New Jersey Jughandle, which failed to catch on as anything other than names for regional sexual maneuvers. They even tried something that looks like it would require a team of air traffic controllers. But when it comes to all-right-turn intersections, nobody's been able to beat the European free-for-all known as the roundabout.

Sam Miguel
02-13-2014, 10:40 AM
^^^ (Cont'd)

Of course, such laissez-faire intersections might work in Europe, where conflict avoidance is the only thing they take more seriously than soccer. Here in America, we have things called rules, and something called technology, and the Ghostbusters, who taught us that if something is deadly, you throw electricity at it until it begs for mercy.

Actually, American intersections that got rid of left turns by converting traffic lights and four-way stops into roundabouts became almost twice as safe and efficient. A 2005 study found that roundabouts reduced rush hour delays over left-turn-reliant intersections by up to 93 percent, and congestion by up to 83 percent. A 2000 study that focused on safety saw a 38 percent reduction in total crash rates and a massive 90 percent reduction in crashes that resulted in either life-threatening or fatal injuries. The reason for this drop is quite simple: By using a roundabout, there are fewer directions from which you can get hit by a fellow driver, because all the cars are going the same way. It may feel more stressful, but your stress is focused on the one thing that matters (hint, it's not the text you're writing to a friend while waiting for the light to turn). There's also the fact that roundabouts require you to slow down, as opposed to yellow lights, which require you to speed up to get through them before your license plate gets photographed.

Unfortunately, roundabouts are more stressful than being told what to do by blinking lights. This makes them extremely unpopular with Americans who aren't politicians looking for something to scream about. Drivers usually come around once they're in place, and saving everyone time and money (by reducing your reliance on the brakes, they can also reduce annual fuel consumption at the intersection by more than 20,000 gallons).

American drivers can expect to see more of them just as soon as traffic engineers are able to wrestle budget control from the cold dead hands of the people who need to get reelected.

#2. Obliterate Road Signs

It was a typical Dutch small town in the North Friesland region, so dull it barely had a name. That is, until one day someone removed all the road signs.

We're not just talking about a few spare stop signs, either. They utterly destroyed every single aspect of traffic control on every single road. No lane markings, no lines and no signs. Only directional signs, 15 traffic lights (as opposed to the previous 5,000) and complete anarchy.

Except that, surprisingly, things didn't go Mad Max in a heartbeat. Instead of holding impromptu street racing competitions in spiky dune buggies, people actually slowed down and paid extra attention to their surroundings. As a result, serious accidents took a dramatic nosedive. Pedestrian fatalities at some particularly risky junctions dropped to zero.

Yes, things got better.

The mysterious someone who had removed the signs had, of course, been the government. The whole thing was an experiment by town planners of the Friesland area who felt like seeing how pedestrians, drivers and cyclists would fare if left to their own devices. While the plan had all the makings of the biggest, most dickish practical joke in recorded history, the results were extremely positive. All stripped roads quickly became so safe that pedestrians could cross with their eyes closed.

The idea behind the experiment was the theory that relying on signs means you aren't paying as much attention to other people on the road. Remove the signs, and road users actually have to rely on their eyes and acknowledge each other. Also contributing to the safety is the fact that without signs to tell how fast to drive, town area traffic has instinctively slowed to an average 18 mph. The near-absence of traffic lights has helped traffic flow more smoothly, so the overall journey time doesn't slow down too much, either.

The idea of sign-free traffic is spreading through Europe like wildfire. Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Austria and Belgium have all taken their first baby steps in removing theirs. Others still are considering giving it a go.

Mind you, the whole no-signs schtick only works on urban areas. We're no experts, but we're guessing the removal of, say, speed limits on a motorway would quickly result in Blues Brothers levels of wrecked vehicles.

Oh, wait, the autobahn replaced the speed limit with a request that drivers use common sense, and it has a better safety record than U.S. highways. And lest you think that wouldn't work in America, Montana has tried highways both with and without speed limits. The very presence of speed limits doubled the number of fatal car accidents. Again, traffic engineers have been fighting for higher or nonexistent speed limits on highways for years based on evidence that driving without speed limits makes us more cautious when it comes to lane changes and buckling up.

#1. A Really Obvious Change in New York City Airspace

Ah, New York City! The biggest metropolis on the coast that gets America's day started. A giant knot of humanity, defined by its constant flux of people coming and going. Oh, and the source of 75 percent of all nationwide delays in air travel. It doesn't matter if you live in St. Louis or Seattle, 3 out of every 4 flight delays you've experienced in your life started from New York.

As counterintuitive as that might seem, it makes sense. Apart from being one of the globe's angriest hornet's nests for business, the Big Apple is also one of the most popular holiday destinations, playing host to an insane 48.7 million tourists in 2010 alone.

Yet the insane amount of travelers is only a small part of the problem. The real issue is the routes that airliners use to enter and leave the city airspace. They weren't originally designed to handle the two million flights that pass over the city every year. They were designed for the mail planes that connected New York and San Francisco.

In the 1920s.

When the only two directions were "up" and "face down in a ditch."

Back then, New York was lucky if a thousand flights passed through a year. The fact that these routes haven't been updated in 90 years means that a handful of poor, stressed-out air traffic controllers have to maneuver the aeronautical equivalent of an elephant stampede through a drinking straw. Obviously, they're not always perfect, which is what it would take. Flights that leave one of New York's airports a minute late can cause hourlong delays in Los Angeles, giving the phrase "New York minute" a completely new meaning.

The solution, not surprisingly, is to use more sky than they'd originally been using for the handful of mail planes in the '20s. It's not like the sky is getting smaller or anything. The reason we'd been running out all these years is because we just weren't using it. In 2007, after decades of dicking around, the FAA finally started dealing with the issue. Their catchily named "New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia Metropolitan Area Airspace Project" has the noble goal of knocking three all-important minutes off each plane's takeoff time by 2012.

The plan involves three key elements. First, they expanded the designated New York airspace area from its former limits to a much wider area that extends over four states. Next, they added six new westbound flight paths to the current two. Finally -- and this is the kicker -- they reorganized the flights so that multiple planes can use the same flight path. For years, the fact that they were tracking planes on a 2-D map meant they treated planes like they were driving around on a flat surface. It took them until 2007 to figure out planes are able to fly at different heights. The people responsible for the whole nation's air travel have wasted decades of people's lives by failing to take into account the third dimension of air travel.

Every time you've sat in an airplane terminal cursing whatever unavoidable circumstance intervened in your life, it's much more likely that it was caused by a handful of guys in New York operating under the assumption that planes magically become as tall as skyscrapers as soon as they take off.

The fact that they're finally correcting this assumption could be taken as a sign that we're headed in the right direction. Just try not to think about the fact that it took one city almost a century to figure that out.

Sam Miguel
02-13-2014, 10:42 AM
Is MMDA playing deaf and dumb on traffic woes?


By Rey Gamboa

(The Philippine Star) | Updated May 30, 2013 - 12:00am

Are Metro Manila Development Authority officials playing deaf and dumb on the traffic situation at EDSA and other major routes in the metropolis? This question keeps popping up as thousands of motorists and commuters suffer daily loss of productive time crawling their way to work and back home.

With schools opening in a week or two, I’m already dreading the additional volume of vehicles that will ferry our children to school and back home, not that the traffic during the summer break had become light along EDSA or the suburbs’ major thoroughfares.

We still have quite a number of letters from readers on how we can improve the traffic flow in Metro Manila. We continue to give way to the citizens’ view with the hope that our bureaucrats can pick up a few good suggestions and put them to work.

Here’s one from Bien Lazaro: “I read your article re: the choke points as the cause of the stop-and-go flow of vehicles along EDSA. I agree on this solid observation, having used EDSA for the last 20 years even before the flyovers were constructed, the choke points were the ones causing the traffic.

Segregate by barriers

“If I may suggest we copy the system that is implemented along Ayala Ave. where buses are segregated by barriers to keep them from swerving, and to keep the private cars in place too. Same thing they did when they placed the fences along the Cubao area and for a while northbound of Guadalupe area.

“If we do this to all identified choke points, and strictly apply the yellow lane rule, then we can expect great improvement in traffic flow. We have seen the effect when they prohibited the buses from using the flyovers except north bound along Ortigas Galleria. Traffic improved significantly because the vehicles were in their right places.

“I know in Latin America they apply this because they have the BRT (bus rapid transit) system that we can easily implement at a fraction, as you said, of the cost. I do hope that this simple plan is taken seriously as there are good signs that it can improve traffic.”

One-bus route

Another letter comes from Eric Tse. He says: “I commute daily from Vito Cruz to work in Binondo, and it’s so difficult to find a ride. It has become quite irritating to see how many near-empty Quiapo and Monumento route jeepneys passing by.

“Just for the length of Taft Avenue, there are already three jeepney routes, a variety of bus routes, and the UV Express that do not operate terminal-to-terminal as they’re meant to. Multiple PUVs of different routes commonly traverse the length of Taft Avenue.

“The practical thing to do is just have one bus route from Baclaran-Taft Avenue to Lawton where the route of most of these PUVs split. From Lawton, commuters can then just transfer to other PUVs going to their respective destinations.

“Similarly, there is no need to have jeepneys along Rizal Avenue that go to Malanday, Malinta, Valenzuela, BBB, etc. One bus route from Lawton to Monumento/EDSA will do.”

RBT suggestion

From Nicolas Mapa, we have another RBT (rapid bus transit) endorser. He says: “The Philippines should take a page out of the Latin American book by instituting a rapid bus transit system along EDSA, a local bus running the center lanes of EDSA which can only stop at designated stations.

“The problem with the yellow lane for buses is that it’s not respected, and anyone with the balls can drive on it (taxis, jeepneys, or even private cars). RBTs have a walled-off lane dedicated to buses. Even if a bus eats up one lane, at least it is restricted and won’t be causing traffic by taking up more than its dedicated lane.

“Provincial buses should ply EDSA on a second lane but won’t be allowed to stop anywhere except at their terminals like Trinoma and MOA (Mall of Asia).”

More suggestions

A long list of suggestions was sent in by Gil Zarcilla on Metro Manila’s traffic problems. Here is what he sent: “I read your article regarding our traffic conditions with great interest and I have a few suggestions to make:

1. Setting an example among police, security services, bank armored vehicles, barangay officials, teachers and politicians – these people are some of the worst violators of traffic rules.

2. Stiffer penalties and points system in the driver’s license that affects their insurance premiums.

3. Emission testing centers – to include not only emissions but overall vehicle conditions like lights, headlights and brakes. In other countries, driving your car without up-to-date MOT (vehicle road worthiness certificate) on a public road invalidates your insurance cover.

4. Implement a loading and unloading area, proper bus stops. Most of corner junctions become a chokepoint for unloading and loading passengers. Perhaps we can locate these 20 to 30 meters away from the junction of many side streets.

5. SLEX, NLEX and all expressways should be permanent areas of vehicle safety worthiness by not allowing vehicles to enter without proper stop light, headlight focus, etc., and by deploying permanent LTO enforcers at all entry points with CCTV cameras.

6. Increase our visible traffic enforcers (police, LTO, etc.) by 50 percent.

7. Install security cameras at all choke points for monitoring and enforcing traffic rules. Citation can be sent by post.

8. More education for young children and drivers of public and private vehicles on road safety.

9. Privatize some aspects of administering penalties.

10. More taxes to implement these rules.

11. The moment a traffic enforcer stops anybody for an alleged offence, he must report before and after by radio to the control room operated by a monitoring private firm to prevent corruption. The control room will call and speak to the violators to confirm the offense. The cost of this operation will be covered by the penalties. I realized this system is good when I was towed away by a private company. They called me to ask and confirm if I was happy with the service. This is a good system.

12. Incentives to the enforcers similar to what the BIR has adopted.

13. Professionalize LTO, especially in the issuance of driving licenses. In some countries, driving tests are divided into two (theory and actual) making it more difficult for non-professional drivers to be on the road.”

Keep those observations and suggestions coming. Let’s prod those bureaucrats at MMDA to wake up from their slumber, get out of the comfort of their air-conditioned offices and have a taste of what commuters suffer on these streets that have become “gateways to hell” (with apologies to Dan Brown).

Sam Miguel
02-13-2014, 10:44 AM
Kindness and LRT/MRT

By Michael L. Tan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:20 pm | Thursday, November 8th, 2012

WHAT A relief to read that the Department of Transportation and Communications will not hike LRT/MRT fares until their service improves. Commuters are up in arms over the proposed fare hikes not just because they are almost double the current rates, but because the fares just aren’t worth the terrible service.

The question now is: When will those services improve, and how? The Inquirer has published a growing number of complaints from readers about the long waits for trains and the crowding. Left unsaid are the small disasters that occur each day: fainting spells, pickpocketing, sexual harassment. I’m concerned, too, that we are waiting for major disasters to happen. I’m almost afraid to mention what could happen, but here they are: stampedes, fires, passengers running amuck. I might as well mention that with the number of people commuting, in the chaotic conditions of our LRT and MRT, you cannot expect the guards to conduct thorough security checks—and that invites the most unthinkable of disasters.

I’ve been taking the LRT and MRT occasionally for years and have seen how all three lines have deteriorated. But it wasn’t until a trip last month, on a Friday night at around 8 p.m., that I realized how totally degrading and debasing a ride could be. I challenge our government officials to see for themselves, during the rush hour.

I wanted to go from the Philippine General Hospital to San Juan. I could have gone from the Pedro Gil station to the north end of the MRT line but, thanks to the government’s poor planning, the LRT line ends on Roosevelt, which means one more jeep ride to connect to the MRT. So I decided to go in the other direction, from Pedro Gil to Edsa on the LRT line, then switch to the MRT to take me to the Annapolis station. An hour max, I thought.

Two hours later, I stumbled out of the train back at Pedro Gil and returned to PGH.

I should have known from the very beginning that it wasn’t going to work out. First, maybe because I’m so tired from my classes, plus the fact that there are no signs at the station’s entrances, I ended up boarding the station on the wrong side of the street and finding out only after a slow climb to the top with the long line. Back down then, crossing chaotic Taft and another long queue up to the right side of the station.

It wasn’t too long a wait for the train, but it was packed, smelling less of sweat than of a stale weariness. I got off at the Edsa station, walked down to the street and looked for nonexistent signs to take me to the MRT. A vendor told me to just cross the street but I noticed traffic aides at the other side looking like big bad wolves waiting for Little Red Riding Hood.

I walked back up to the Edsa station, crossed a bridge to more passageways with vendors selling cheap made-in-China toys, and was finally swallowed into a mass of people that was moving ever so slowly, as in a funeral procession. I looked at people trudging along in the other direction, also looking very tired, and sad.

No signs or directions again. I would ask people if we were moving toward the MRT. Some said yes, others shrugged, and I realized they didn’t know either. We were packed like sardines, and I wondered if the guy behind me was picking my pocket, doing a security frisk, or… Half an hour later, we had moved maybe 50 meters and I suddenly felt like we were being herded into gas chambers…or that we were already in the chambers.

Trip to hell

As we got to the end of the line, the crowd forked out in different directions. One moved to the right into another bridge leading back to the streets. I took a U-turn with another crowd then spotted, hallelujah ringing through my head, an ever so tiny sign in one corner: “MRT.” I joined the line moving into that corner but as we got closer to the gateway to heaven, we heard a guard calling out that it was only for those holding tickets.

Of course, I didn’t have a ticket and I realized now that the melancholy horde that I had seen moving in the other direction was the line to buy a ticket, and they were going back in the same direction I had come from. A sign should be put up here, I thought, and it should read: “Welcome to Hell.”

I will spare you the details of how I got back to PGH, except to say that at one point, thanks to meditation classes, I switched myself off and floated into the “Twilight Zone.” Older readers will remember that TV show’s theme music: ting ting ting ting, ting ting ting ting. On the way back, I almost bought something from the sidewalk, realizing now that the vendors were catering to parents feeling guilty about getting home so very late.

Death March

The problems with LRT and MRT aren’t just a matter of trains. All over the world, mass transit systems involve crowds, huge ones. But at least people move, with the help of signs, maps, and grumpy but helpful staff.

The problem we have here boils down to this: We are really a terribly unkind people, especially to people of lower status. Our transport systems favor those with cars and no one really cares about what happens to people on foot or on bikes, or the LRT and MRT commuters.

Being kind has to be part of the solution, starting with signs and maps that tell people where to go. People need relief, too, from the tedium, the pain. I’ve seen how Inquirer Libre lightens the start of the day for early commuters, and wish there were more copies. So people won’t feel like they’re on a Death March, it might help to put up television sets. I don’t think anyone will want to watch educational films, or government propaganda, so perhaps music videos, maybe even Willie Revillame, can serve as anesthesia. (Am I asking for trouble? I can imagine giant loudspeakers now blaring out sticky tunes.)

Maybe a more genteel alternative is to offer reading stuff. No religious propaganda, please. I know people do read, and appreciate those poems put up by Instituto Cervantes inside the coaches, so why can’t we have them as well as large billboards on the way to the stations?

Some of the LRT and MRT trains have coaches reserved for women, senior citizens, the disabled and people traveling with children, but the problem is getting into the station. So, foremost, we need courtesy lanes and special assistance for these groups just to get in and out of the stations. And for all the other commuters, it will help to put queuing barrier posts—you know, the ones with retractable straps that they use in banks and airports. People shove and push when there’s no sense of a queue.

The LRT and MRT are, for thousands of Filipinos, the face of the government, and right now it is an uncaring, unkind face. If the government can’t do a facelift, then the private sector should, what with all the talk of public service and corporate responsibility. Throw in your ads with the public services, if you will, but do something, soon.

* * *

Sam Miguel
02-13-2014, 10:48 AM
Metro Manila’s stroke

By Michael L. Tan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:38 am | Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

When foreign visitors ask me about travel time within the Philippines, I sometimes crack a joke like, “Oh, the flight from Cebu to Manila is an hour, but to get from the airport to Quezon City it can take two.”

Monday night, I broke my own record of airport commuting ordeals, clocking 13 hours to get from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport to my home in San Juan.

I’m sure many of my readers had similar experiences but I’m still going to recount what happened, and add an analysis of what the government needs to do, as well as some tips and reminders for surviving commutes during the typhoon season.

Let’s start with a quick recap of what happened:

I left Naia at about 5:30 p.m. in a taxi, calling the kids and telling them I was back, but because it was rush hour, I warned them it would probably take me about an hour to get home.

At 6:30 p.m., I called home again and said the traffic was really bad because of the rains, and I was still on Ayala and Edsa.

Half an hour later, the taxi had crawled to Buendia and Edsa. After some 15 minutes of not moving, I knew something was terribly wrong, but the radio stations weren’t very helpful except for sporadic reports of flooding in different parts of Metro Manila.

MMDA app

I turned to my phone. The Metro Manila Development Authority app (available for iPhones and android phones) has a “Line View” section giving updates on traffic on main thoroughfares. It said that traffic was L (light) on Edsa’s intersections: Ayala, Buendia, Guadalupe. I told the taxi driver, who was not amused. I later clicked on its “Map View,” which was working. The map view uses GPS, so I could see a blue dot representing our vehicle, hardly moving on Edsa, along a rather long segment in red, which means very bad traffic. (Other areas are either in green for light traffic or yellow for medium traffic.)

I went into the Internet, googled MMDA’s traffic updates, and was referred to a Facebook site. There were all kinds of postings from stranded motorists in varying moods: irate, hungry and pleading (“gutom na gutom ako”), and informative but panicky (the area in front of Megamall, one posting said, was “tire-deep” in floods and impassable by light vehicles).

Worried that I’d have to swim home and that the taxi driver would also have difficulties getting back, I had to think of alternatives. My son, disappointed about the delay, begged me to take a tricycle home. I thought of the MRT but the coaches were all packed, and besides I had heavy luggage.

I thought of a hotel. Makati’s hotels were already behind me, and besides they were all too expensive. Sogo Hotel on Guadalupe? No… I could imagine gossip spreading around me in a motel. Then I remembered that Gokongwei had some hotel along Edsa but couldn’t remember the name. Stupid me: Sogo, Gokongwei, what else but Go Hotel?

At 8 p.m., two and a half hours after leaving Naia, I got to Go, and to go (you know, as in senior citizens’ got to go, quickly now).

I went to a Tokyo Café next to the hotel for dinner and ran into a friend and her three children. Her son had walked all the way from Mapua (I presume from the campus in Makati), unable to get public transport.

I was still entertaining thoughts of returning home maybe around 11 p.m. but the MRT was still packed and the vehicles on Edsa were moving only a bit faster. I was exhausted, and knew the kids would be asleep anyway, so I went back to my spartan, windowless Go room.

The next morning I was up at the crack of dawn and dragged my luggage into the lobby. There were some Fil-Ams preparing to leave for the airport, for a provincial medical mission. They asked where I was headed for and I sheepishly answered, “San Juan,” about five kilometers away.

I finally got home at 6:30 a.m., 13 hours after leaving Naia.

Strokes, big and small

What dismayed me most about Monday night’s experience was that the traffic gridlock was triggered by “Emong,” a fairly small storm. To use a medical metaphor, what happened was a small or transient stroke, the flash floods stalling vehicles, which, like plaques and clots in our blood vessels, prevent blood from reaching the brain.

Like a stroke’s effects on the body, parts of Metro Manila ended up paralyzed. And if strokes impair speech in humans, the Metro Manila stroke aggravated our communications problems. Like a stroke patient, the radio stations were “saying” a lot of things but weren’t making much sense.

The taxi driver kept muttering about the MMDA having to do something, and I agreed. Why can’t we have a government radio station devoted to weather and traffic updates, rather than having people depend on private radio stations that tend to create panic with exaggerated reports but not much practical advice on what to do? The MMDA also needs to fix its phone app’s Line View. The Map View needs improvement as well, maybe a flashing red for areas where vehicles are no longer moving, and a blue one for flooded areas.

At one point near Guadalupe bridge, where we stalled for some 10 minutes, I had to endure a large billboard with a video of a woman model seductively showing off Jag jeans. Now, I thought, why can’t MMDA have a billboard advising people on traffic flow along Edsa and alternative routes?

Until the government acts, we just have to be prepared for long commutes, or worse, gridlock induced by rains. Remember it doesn’t have to be a typhoon, as we saw in the habagat (western monsoon) rains in August 2012.

By public or private transport, the stuff we bring may as well be for camping: some food and water, a smartphone that allows you to keep in touch with family and to check the Internet. The Internet got me Go Hotel’s phone, which allowed me to call in to check if there were rooms available.

I did have an iPad, which allowed me to continue reading a book I had started on the plane, but I’m not sure you want to drag around a tablet or iPad in the rain.

On the smartphone, you can download I-typhoon and MMDA apps that give you general updates, but, as I mentioned earlier, the Line View doesn’t seem to be working. Use the Map View. Power banks for the phone are worthwhile; you charge them at home, and then plug in your low-bat phone while on the road. A small flashlight will be useful (some phones have the flashlight built in), as well as a foldable umbrella and rainwear.

At the rate Metro Manila is deteriorating, we just might get to the point where swimwear, together with floating gear, will become essential for travel. What happened on Monday night was just a mini-stroke, a warning that a larger, more serious and debilitating stroke might be around the corner.

Sam Miguel
02-13-2014, 10:49 AM
One’s religious fervor a bother to another


By Jarius Bondoc

(The Philippine Star) | Updated October 16, 2013 - 12:00am

A colossal nuisance, Catholics cursed the Iglesia ni Cristo’s traffic-jamming medical missions in 15 Metro Manila districts last Monday. A dose of your own medicine, sectarians harrumphed back, pointing up the numerous Catholic events that snarl traffic just as bad. So surfaced anew a religious intolerance that ails many Filipinos.

There were even snorts in the predominantly Catholic Aquino admin that the INC affair was a veiled “show of force.” Supposedly the partisan sect was practicing its capability to mobilize hundred thousands of followers in a snap. As well, make known its displeasure with Malacañang’s recent removal of three of its political nominees.

That’s all conspiracy theory. No agenda can be kept hidden from or by such multitude. Doubtless, the 5,000 busloads of INC members from surrounding provinces only wanted to help — possibly convert — calamity stricken fellowmen in the big city.

If anyone needs scolding for the traffic, it’s the metropolitan authorities, for not alerting the public earlier than just half a day. For that matter, all government officials must wake up, lest things get out of hand in religionist clash. The country can ill-afford violence as in India among Hindus, Christians and Muslims, or in Sudan and Syria between Sunni and Shia Muslims. Not now, when the centuries-old division between Christians and Moros in Mindanao is about to be resolved.

Sensitivity and law can curb sectarianism. The night before the INC extravaganza in Metro Manila, Catholics marched around the Santo Domingo Church in Quezon City, in celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of La Naval. The procession clogged up major roads, but the mainstream media aired no complaints of inconvenience. Still, traffic enforcers could have done better.

Again the day after the INC event, the archipelago was made to stay home from work and school, in observance of the Muslim Eidul Adha, or Feast of the Sacrifice. In the news this time were employers grumbling about having to pay overtime workers double wages, and educators about holding Saturday makeup classes. Commentaries brimmed that such holidays should be limited to the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao. After all, it rightly was noted, only eight percent of Filipinos are Muslim.

Wrong, on the other hand, is tyranny by the majority. The 80-percent Catholic Filipinos cannot impose holy feasts and customs on the 20-percent others. For one, INC brethren do not deck the halls with boughs of holly at Christmastime, so should not be compelled to join exchange-gifts in offices and schools. More so, the Muslims who do not celebrate Christmas, as they consider Jesus not God but Prophet.

Christians in general must learn to be politely ecumenical on public occasions. If asked to lead prayers in secular gatherings, Catholics need not open with the exclusively Trinitarian Sign of the Cross. In multi-faith events, they can in closing dispense with, “In Jesus’ name,” in favor of the all-encompassing “In the name of God Almighty.” Marian devotion may be spreading among non-Catholics, but that does not license agency chiefs to impose Rosary prayers on lunch breaks. Nothing lost, everything gained in being considerate.

Back to traffic-causing sectarian activities, Filipinos have a social obligation. They must stop using national highways for processions on feast days of their municipios’ patron saints. With some 2,200 cities, towns, and oversized districts all celebrating such feast days, traffic will be tied up in six areas a day on average throughout the land. Others have a right to those public roads as well. Most tiresome for them perhaps is summertime, when Catholics hold Flores de Mayo and Santacruzan processions everywhere.

This is not to say that all Filipinos are closed-minded. Christian and Muslim Filipinos alike were appalled when Malaysia recently decreed that Allah, the Arabic term for God, refers exclusively to the Muslim One and so may not be used in Christian Masses. Parish leaders in Quiapo, Manila, dutifully coordinate with civil authorities for order, safety, and cleanliness during the Procession of the Black Nazarene, attended by two million devotees every January. There was a time when, by Marcos martial-law diktat, all Filipinos were compelled to vote under pain of prison. Heeding better advice, the dictator modified the edict to exempt members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and similar Judaic denominations that preach political neutrality. Of late Filipino hosts have learned to prepare halal and kosher meals to suit Muslim and Jewish guests — and, for restaurateurs, to increase revenues. Filipinos can be proud that their countrymen led worldwide movements for Interfaith Dialogue starting in the ‘90s.

There’s virtue in secularism. Too many religious feasts celebrated as no-work national holidays are economically unproductive. It might be time for the government to scrap purely Christian holidays, like Holy Thursday and Good Friday. If it can be shown that only Catholics but not other Christians and major religions observe All Saints and All Souls Days, then those too must be left for purely religious and not official observance. The Congress calendar must revolve solely around the approval of the national budget, uninterrupted by long session breaks on such feasts. The Constitution mandates separation of Church and State.

Meanwhile, New Year’s on the 1st of January is acknowledged as the only true international holiday. It’s pointless for the Senate to enact a Chinese New Year holiday. For if that happens, then what would stop the passage as well of observing March 21 as Zoroastrian, April 1 as Siamese, or August 29 as Alexandrine New Year’s Days.

* * *

Sam Miguel
02-13-2014, 10:50 AM
From Cracked - - -

6 Little-Known Driving Tips That Could Save Your Life

By Ajay Kumar November 20, 2012 1,250,884 views

Driving a car, or getting run over by one, is still one of the most popular ways to get killed in the modern world. Despite the fact that cars are safer than ever, they are still driven by human beings who, let's face it, often have trouble retaining even the minimal techniques and rules required to operate a vehicle.

But if you're reading this, hopefully it means that you are intent on doing what it takes to survive in a world full of such drivers by being just a little more careful. So for you, here are some advanced tips that everyone should know, even if most people don't ...

#6. Don't Have Your Car Visible Anywhere in Your Mirrors

This is one of those things that takes next to zero effort to do right, but that almost everyone does wrong.

You hopefully already know that the "blind spot" is the name for the area on either side of a car that is invisible to wing mirrors. It's such a frequent cause of accidents that higher-end car models have adopted fancy radar or camera systems capable of detecting other vehicles in your blind spots and delivering the information to you in furiously urgent beep-screams as you swerve in terror and/or crash anyway.

However, the technology isn't the problem -- the necessary equipment to eliminate blind spots was around back when Henry Ford was still producing cars and anti-Semitic newsletters. All you need are your car's wing mirrors -- which most people have adjusted incorrectly.

You see, blind spots can be put into full view of your side mirrors, provided that these mirrors are adjusted to contain no part of your own car. Just angle them away from you until the point where your car is no longer visible in either one, and leave them there. That way, there's no overlap between them and the rearview mirror, and any car that's passing you on either side will remain in at least one of your mirrors until it enters your field of vision.

Admittedly, this seems less like a "tip" and more like "the most obvious piece of instruction of all time," but nobody freaking does it. Manufacturers have to let you adjust the mirrors (due to things like differences in driver height), and most people simply don't know how to do it. That's why those same engineers are spending millions on technology meant to eliminate blind spots -- they have simply failed to teach people not to point their goddamned mirrors at the sides of the vehicle they're attached to.

#5. Pay More Attention to Traffic Than Road Signs

If you saw someone blow past a yield sign into traffic and vanish in an explosion of steel and glass not unlike one of the Iron Giant's volcanic diarrheas, you'd be tempted to blame the crash on the driver who ignored the road sign.

But what if the yield sign wasn't there, like those intersections where there's nothing but an esoteric flashing yellow light and everyone stops and stares at each other? There would probably still be the odd person who flies through, but average drivers would become extremely cautious as a result of having no clear instruction of what to do. They would instead just intuit their next move based on the traffic around them, which is kind of the point of stoplights and road signs to begin with -- to force you to stop and look.

In other words, you may be better off without the signs.

There are experts who believe that the overabundance of signs and signals just make you complacent, because you're fixated on blindly following instructions printed on reflective metal rather than not killing your fellow drivers. And we've all seen it happen -- drivers with a green light will plow through an intersection and T-bone another car that was clearly in their path, simply because the pretty colored light told them they had the right of way. And think about how people will lose their freaking minds if traffic and/or weather conditions have them driving slower than the posted speed limit, routinely causing accidents by trying to weave their way back up to maximum warp, even though the speed limit is literally just a number on a sign that takes absolutely nothing into consideration beyond what a few civil engineers came up with on a calculator 30 years ago.

The Dutch city of Drachten decided to test out the theory by replacing 20 four-way intersections with 20 roundabouts free of any road signage, and the results were surprisingly nothing like The Cannonball Run. One intersection that typically killed two to four people every year saw no injuries for the next six years, and another intersection went from 36 accidents in the previous four years to just two in two years. All this just from putting more responsibility into the hands of drivers and forcing them to interact with each other in the absence of indifferent commands from stoplights and signs (although it could also be related to the fact that nobody in the Netherlands has a The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift poster on their bedroom wall).

Since the success in Drachten, a number of other cities have tried out similar concepts, most notably London, whose recently debuted Exhibition Road looks like the guy in charge of painting lines on the streets was tripping balls that day.

We're not saying that you should ignore stoplights and road signs, but that you shouldn't rely on them to make every decision for you. Just because you had the right of way at an intersection won't make you any less dead if you pull in front of an 18 wheeler, and refusing to slow down for pedestrians because they aren't crossing in a designated crosswalk won't put you any less in jail if you chop them in half with your Daewoo.

Or maybe we should just put it this way: Obey the signs, but assume that nobody else is doing so.

#4. Listening to Techno Makes Your Driving Worse

Every car comes with a stereo and speakers, but you don't find much in driving manuals about what you should or shouldn't do with them. So it's easy to assume that it's safe to bump some jams while driving, as long as you're focused on the road and not constantly messing with the knobs or looking at yourself in the rearview mirror while you're singing. But research shows that your tunes are probably making you a worse driver, even if you just like a little ambient music in your Prelude.

An Israeli study connected test subjects to heart monitors and put them through a driving simulator while they listened to music of varying tempos. A no-music control group experienced significant heart rate fluctuation while driving -- that is, their heart sped up when things got exciting, like if a moose turned up in the street or something. But those who were listening to any type of music saw their heart rate stay level (except during the Les Miserables soundtrack, when their heart rates soared with bittersweet triumph).

At first glance, this suggests that the drivers who were listening to music were more calm, and thus more careful drivers than the control group. But it was the opposite -- the music group Dukes of Hazzarded their way through the virtual driving course like they were running moonshine for a one-legged banjo player. They were calm (maybe), but only because they were less focused on driving than the control group -- they were placated by the music.

The study also showed that drivers who were listening to higher-tempo music (between 120 and 140 beats per minute, the speed of most dance and techno music) were twice as likely to blast through red lights and had twice as many accidents as those who were listening to slower music or the deafening echo of their own thoughts. Drivers who were listening to dubstep were 84 percent more likely to believe that there was a Transformer behind them trying to mate with their car.

Sam Miguel
02-13-2014, 10:50 AM
^^^ (Cont'd )

#3. Always Have Your Headlights On

According to a recent study, you can reduce your risk of being involved in an accident by up to 32 percent simply by driving with your headlights on at all times. This seems like common sense -- obviously something that is lit up is going to be more visible, regardless of the time of day. And as long as other cars are driven by tired, distracted human beings, greater visibility equals less chance of having a hood ornament embedded in your skull. Yet almost nobody drives with their lights on during the day (and cars with automatic lights won't flick on until the sun goes down).

Other drivers are simply less likely to pull out in front of you if they can instantly see the glare of your headlights in a quick glance (unless they were planning to cut you off, in which case they are shitheads and the accident was unavoidable). This also counts for pedestrians and cyclists, who statistically will sometimes miss their own oncoming death unless there are bright lights attached to it.

In countries like Canada, Sweden and Finland, all new cars are required to have automatic running lights that stay on at all times, and you can get them on some new car models in the U.S. But the majority of drivers still have dusty old manual headlights, so if you're one of those people, you'll just have to dig deep and flick your lights on and off every time you drive (we know, we know -- it hardly seems worth all the effort, but trust us, you'll be much safer).

#2. Your Parking Break Stops Working if You Don't Use It Regularly

Of all the aspects of driving, parking should be the most straightforward. Basically, you take the keys out of the ignition and get out of the car (hopefully after putting the car in park, hopefully not in the middle of an elementary school).

Oh, and if you're on an incline, maybe pull the parking brake. If you don't, you might end up like this guy, which is simultaneously a worst- and best-case scenario.

But here's something most people don't know: You should probably put on the parking brake, regardless of whether you've stopped on the taxiway of a Delta terminal or at the summit of the Grinch's mountain, just to keep it in good working order.

You see, the parking brake is also commonly called the emergency brake, and as the name suggests, it can be used in a situation when your brakes fail or have been otherwise disabled by enemy agents. It overrides the hydraulic mechanism normally used to control the brakes and stops you with cables, which are demonstrably better than hydraulics because hydraulics never cut anyone in half in a Die Hard movie.

But the problem with steel cables is that they often rust and corrode, particularly after long periods of disuse. The way parking brake cables are designed, if you don't engage the brake every so often, the corrosion builds up and will cause it to fall apart like the bad guy in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

So if you bought your car back when the cast members of Harry Potter were still children and have never used the parking brake, and then suddenly throw it on to bail yourself out of an honest-to-God emergency, such as barreling down the switchback of Lombard Street toward a rampaging atomic monster bursting out of San Francisco Bay, the cables will probably just snap under the strain and result in a headstone that will seriously confuse future archaeologists. Unless the monster wasn't just a one-time thing.

#1. Don't Brake During a Blowout

The knee-jerk reaction to pretty much all panicky driving moments is to stand on the brakes like goblins are trying to crawl out of them, and in most cases this is absolutely correct.

That being said, imagine you're cruising down the highway at about 65 mph when all of a sudden you hear your rear tire explode like you just ran over a tiny landmine. As you fire shit out of your pant leg like a muddy trumpet, you can feel that the car is about to go out of control. If you follow your instincts, you'll probably hit the brakes, but in this case your instincts have tragically failed you.

See, if you brake during a blowout, you're almost certain to fishtail (and maybe flip), possibly into another fast-moving car or the median (or both). This is especially true if your rear tire has blown out, which is more likely than a front tire blowout (front tires wear out more quickly, but people see that and replace them, while leaving the rear tires in place for years and years as part of their plan to just drive the car until it slowly disintegrates).

So in the event of a blowout, you must do the very thing that makes the least sense: hit the gas. But don't drop an elbow on it like Macho Man Randy Savage; just squeeze it firmly for a couple of seconds to regain control, keeping the car as straight as possible. A completely blown or otherwise flat tire drags on the ground like an anchor -- if you slam on the brakes, the anchor catches at 65 mph or however fast you're going, and you're screwed. Ditto if you smash the gas pedal -- picture a cigarette boat tossing its anchor down at top speed. Give the car just enough speed to stay in control and then gently let your foot off the gas, turning into the blown tire (if you steer the opposite direction, the anchor catches). The tire that betrayed you will eventually bring the car to a stop on its own, and then you can get out and throw your pants into the woods.

Sam Miguel
02-13-2014, 10:54 AM
Making traffic flow

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:58 pm | Monday, January 27th, 2014

As if the traffic situation in the metropolis were not bad enough, the Metro Manila Development Authority has warned residents to brace for worse conditions in the next few years, when a number of construction projects will be undertaken by the government. Coming on the heels of the public outcry against the shocking power rate increase, the announcement has worried many residents who have to waste many hours sitting in traffic while heading to and coming from work.

The MMDA last week advised motorists and commuters to brace for heavy traffic until 2016: Thirteen road and mass transport projects of the Departments of Transportation and Communications and of Public Works and Highways are to start, and “there will be a point when they will happen simultaneously.” Among the projects are the common station that will connect LRT 1 and MRT 3 in Quezon City in July 2014-September 2015; the LRT 2 extension on Marcos Highway from Santolan station to Sumulong Highway, November 2014-June 2016; the road project connecting Bonifacio Global City to Ortigas Center, starting in July; a 4-lane underpass project on Gil Puyat Avenue that will pass through the intersections of Makati Avenue and Paseo de Roxas starting in April; and the proposed Edsa North-Mindanao Avenue interchange and the Circumferential Road 3 (C3) project.

In the long run, Metro Manila residents can look forward to a better transport infrastructure—and possibly better traffic flow—after all these projects shall have been finished. However, even before these projects begin, it behooves the MMDA and other government agencies to put in place measures to mitigate the impact on traffic. Among the most urgent is to discipline bus drivers who weave in and out of Edsa and Commonwealth Avenue in shameless disregard of other motorists, then stop nearly perpendicular to the road on bus stops, in the process blocking the flow of traffic. We disagree with the observation that Filipino drivers are simply bad, reckless and rude drivers. The Subic free port, where almost everyone who has been there is all praise for the road discipline, proves this.

The MMDA must also ban parking on the streets. A drive around the metropolis will show that many vehicle owners have made roadsides their permanent parking slots, believing—wrongly—that the street in front of their house is part of their property. Fixing stoplights and ensuring that traffic enforcers are at work at key intersections especially during rush hours in the morning and early evening will also help ease the traffic congestion. Educating drivers about the yellow boxes at intersections is another measure that the MMDA can undertake. The government can also move to phase out old cars and trucks that ply major thoroughfares ever so slowly. As it is, one vehicle that breaks down on Edsa can cause traffic to pile up for kilometers.

The government must also remove jeepney and tricycle terminals on the roadsides. Add to these the sidewalk vendors who encroach on as much as two lanes of the road. The MMDA will need the full support of local government units because the mayors and their barangay captains have the influence over those jeepney and tricycle terminals and illegal vendors. The private sector can also do its part by allowing some of its personnel to work at home. It has been estimated that nearly a million people are added to the population of the Makati central business district on regular working days. If only 5-10 percent of these are allowed to work at home, that would mean 50,000 to 100,000 less people driving or commuting to their work places every day. Another possible alleviating measure is to provide incentives to private firms that will revive the Pasig River ferry service.

The remaining years of the Aquino administration will truly be bad news for Metro Manila residents insofar as the traffic situation is concerned. We can only hope that the various road and mass transport projects to be undertaken in the next three years will indeed ease traffic flow. The public transport system must improve to a level that will make many car owners leave their vehicles at home and start riding the MRT or public buses to work. When the number of vehicles plying Metro Manila’s road network is reduced, traffic will hopefully flow more easily.

Sam Miguel
02-13-2014, 10:56 AM
Been stuck in traffic lately?

By Peter Wallace

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:57 am | Thursday, February 13th, 2014

I was stuck in traffic the other day, and another day, and another day. It’s the norm now, although unacceptable. It won’t do. And it needn’t do, if there’s one simple thing: ACTION, instead of talk. What is needed is control—control that would cost nothing except firm political will to enforce sensible traffic rules.

We’re stuck with the inadequate roads that are there, and the older ones that are acceptable. What aren’t, and what I’m very angry about, are the new cities (past 20 years is new) that were blank pieces of ground where anything could have been done—but wasn’t. Roads are narrow and there are intersections. Roads should be eight, even 10, lanes wide with over- or underpasses on all major intersections, or roundabouts in some cases. Traffic lights should be at a minimum, as unnecessary; malls and popular areas should have LARGE off-road areas for loading and unloading so normal traffic is not affected in any way.

The so-called “city planners” and government officials should suffer Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s solution. Greed has dominated decisions. Sadly, what’s done is done. But over- and underpasses can still be built at some critical intersections—if the political will is there. I wish to devote this column to some simple, quick solutions that can help right now.

The first is to hire hundreds of traffic aides, and TRAIN them in the art of keeping traffic flowing, with the power to enforce their directives. Given the ill-discipline and ignorance (how many drivers have actually passed a license exam?) of too many drivers, external control is essential until disciplined driving is second nature. Station 100, 200—whatever is needed—traffic aides and cops all along Edsa to ensure that buses stay ONLY in the curbside lane and stop at designated bus stops. Take away the license of any bus driver outside the curbside lane, and ensure that intersections don’t get blocked so cross traffic can flow and drivers don’t cross lanes and push in for selfish advantage. All it needs is disciplined driving. It can be done. At peak hours, turn off the traffic lights, have INTELLIGENT (I have to stress that) cops maximizing intersection flow.

So, top of the list: Keep intersections open. If you can’t get through to the other side, you can’t enter the box. The delays that a blocked intersection causes are horrific. Corollary to this is, let left-turning traffic through if your side is moving slowly so the other side can maintain a smooth flow. A block on the road doesn’t just affect those nearby, it also has a strong cumulative affect that builds up. The other day we wanted to cross over SLEx from the airport to Bonifacio Global City—a couple of hundred meters, and it took 45 minutes. The problem was, cars entering into SLEx blocked the crossover; they couldn’t clear the crossing but entered anyway. Beyond that the road was clear, and we were in BGC in 10 minutes. A perfect example of mindless selfishness, a perfect example of the need for a cop, or two. Or 10.

Parking outside malls and schools should not be allowed, not even to drop off or pick up. That minute or so is enough to create substantial delays. The Virgin Mary Immaculate School in Alabang has cars two, sometimes three, lanes deep (leaving but one) as parents and drivers wait for the kids to emerge. Parking must be off-road; walking is good for kids (adults, too) anyway.

In Australia, when there’s an accident the vehicles must be immediately moved out of the traffic if possible. A picture is taken to provide needed detail. The other day a bus (of course) and an SUV had a minor bump coming down the ramp from the Skyway onto SLEx. The traffic buildup was over a kilometer because the vehicles stayed there while the drivers argued with the cops. Both vehicles were perfectly drivable.

On that SLEx exit ramp that leads to Edsa, one thing I’d do is put up a large live screen sufficiently ahead of the exit showing the traffic flow, or lack of it, on Edsa so you can choose to exit there or proceed further down. You don’t have to add to the chaos. And that happens wherever a choice can’t be made before entering a blind intersection.

A reason for the chaos there, incidentally, is the lower gate to Dasma. Cars from the boulevard cross from the far left lane to get to it, stopping traffic flow. The solution is simple: Close that gate at peak hours. The few cars taking kids to school or whatever can drive an extra 200 meters to the main gate so thousands of other motorists aren’t disadvantaged.

And now that we’re on Edsa, everyone agrees: TAKE HALF THE BUSES OFF IT. A study by the University of the Philippines and the Japan International Cooperation Agency has confirmed it. Why on earth hasn’t it been done? The buses are half or less full, so half of them gone will disadvantage no commuter. I challenge our transport officials to take half the buses off Edsa before Holy Week.

Who are we trying to look after, the public in millions or the bus owners in tens? And don’t give me nonsense about franchises and things, I’m sure it can be done. Half of the buses were probably fraudulently acquired anyway. And police them to stay only in the curbside at all times, absolutely no overtaking. And for the buses left, pay drivers a fixed salary so there’s no temptation to rush for the next passenger. Bus service is a public service, not a profit-maximizing venture.

As to trucks, get Subic and Batangas operating as planned, as alternate international ports.

A successful city is where you take public transport by choice, where the system is so good you don’t need, or even want, to use your car. We are far, far from that. So cars have to remain part of our city life, but let’s get them moving.

It’s time we demanded one simple thing from government: ACTION. Just do it. Now.

Sam Miguel
02-14-2014, 11:07 AM
MMDA: Traffic woes require lifestyle change for Metro folk

By Jaymee T. Gamil

Philippine Daily Inquirer

11:45 pm | Friday, January 24th, 2014

MANILA, Philippines – With the construction of Skyway Stage 3 and several other major infrastructure projects in Metro Manila getting under way, a lifestyle change may be in order for the millions of motorists and commuters who will be enduring heavy traffic due to the roadworks in the next two years.

Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chair Francis Tolentino on Friday asked the riding public to adopt what he called the “Roadways Construction Lifestyle Adjustment.”

Tolentino said Metro Manila residents should consider limiting their trips to within their respective localities to minimize vehicular and pedestrian volume on the roads.

“If you’re a Pasay City resident, don’t go to Quezon City just to watch movies. We should plan our trips ahead so as not to contribute to traffic congestion and also for our own convenience,” Tolentino said in a statement.

Tolentino also suggested that private companies, especially those along the route of construction projects, implement “flexitime” working hours for their employees.

“This is a construction of massive proportions that would last 32 months,” he said, referring to Skyway Stage 3 project whose groundbreaking rites were held Wednesday. “Building this alternative highway is expected to create traffic problems so everyone should make adjustments.”

Appealing for “patience and understanding,” Tolentino stressed that the MMDA would lead a traffic summit on the first week of February to draft a comprehensive traffic management plan for the entire metropolis.

Sam Miguel
02-17-2014, 08:28 AM
Monster traffic jam starts

2 Metro mega-road projects under way

By Christian V. Esguerra

Philippine Daily Inquirer

2:28 am | Monday, February 17th, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—Are you ready for some truly monstrous traffic jams and “bear with the short-term inconvenience,” as Malacañang pleaded Sunday?

Construction of two major government infrastructure projects starts Monday night, and it is expected to worsen metropolitan traffic throughout the remainder of the Aquino administration.

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) earlier projected that on Edsa alone, vehicular traffic could slow down to only 1 to 9 kilometers per hour.

Roadwork on the six-lane expressway being built by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) connecting South Luzon Expressway from Buendia in Makati to North Luzon Expressway on Balintawak in Quezon City will start at 10 p.m.

That’s on top of the project connecting the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Expressway Phase 2 of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to the seaside Entertainment City.

Malacañang spokesman Herminio Coloma on Sunday sought understanding from the public, citing in particular the traffic congestion that would be caused by the construction of the 14.8-kilometer Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3 project.

“We call on our people to share in the burden of sacrifice and bear with the short-term inconvenience so we can build better roads that will ensure faster travel and more productive living in our highly congested National Capital Region,” Coloma said on Radyo ng Bayan.

“For the benefit of the people and to avoid adding to the traffic problem on Edsa,” the main rites marking the 28th anniversary of the Edsa People Power Revolution would be held at the Palace grounds—not on the historic thoroughfare—on Feb. 25, he said.


But has the government, particularly the MMDA, sufficiently prepared for the heavy traffic?

Quoting MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino, Coloma cited the two-day Metro Traffic Management Summit at the Asian Institute of Management in Makati that closed on Friday—just three days before all hell is expected to break loose.

The summit involved “all stakeholders” and was “well-covered by trimedia,” Tolentino said in a text message forwarded by Coloma.

MMDA website

As of Sunday afternoon, the website that the MMDA put up to update the public on the status of all 15 infrastructure projects to be implemented this year went kaput.

Launched during the traffic summit, the website (www.mmroadway.com) was supposed to provide traffic situation in areas to be affected by the projects.

In the agency’s official website (www.mmda.gov.ph), there’s a Jan. 23 press release wherein Tolentino asked the public “to make adjustments in their work and travel schedules and personal lifestyles to cope with the expected traffic congestion in Metro Manila to be brought about by the impending construction of Skyway Stage 3 project.”

“What we need is extra huge-amount of patience and understanding and cooperation but once Skyway 3 is completed, it will result in faster and more convenient travel within the metropolis,” he said.

Traffic advisory

Also contained in the website was its latest “traffic advisory” dated Oct. 24 last year. It was about the “road reblocking and repair” to be done by the DPWH from Oct. 26 to 29, 2013.

Another traffic advisory, dated Oct. 7, 2013, was about the closing of three U-turn slots in Quezon City.

The MMDA supposedly has a separate “traffic navigator” showing real-time traffic situation in 10 major thoroughfares.

Last week, the MMDA went on a last-minute brainstorming.

It raised the possibility of a four-day school week to help minimize traffic congestion, especially since the Skyway project would affect 23 schools. This was roundly nixed by private schools. Another suggestion was to hold classes on campuses outside of Metro Manila.


On the MMDA website, Tolentino asked private companies to adopt a flexible work schedule—“flexitime”—“for their employees, especially those located along the route of the construction projects.”

And yet another bright idea popped up: Resume operation of the Pasig ferry boat.

All of these measures were announced a few days before the expected massive gridlock, indicating that the MMDA was totally unprepared to deal with the problem that, according to a study conducted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, was causing losses amounting to P2.4 billion a day in potential income.

Enforcing rules

Tolentino said nothing about getting “colorum buses” off the roads, enforcing strictly traffic rules, especially on yellow blocks in key intersections, loading and unloading zones, conducting an honest-to-goodness examination of car license applicants and preventing morons on the loose in the streets, and expanding the capacity of the woefully crammed mass transit systems.

“It’s a no brainer that we need to boost infrastructure,” said Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan in July 2013. “We have a huge backlog in almost all types of infrastructure.”

In what officials themselves describes as the “last two minutes” of the Aquino administration, the government intends to build more roads, bridges, railways, airports and seaports.

That the DOTC and the DPWH announced that work would be done “24/7” nevertheless elated Tolentino.

Unified plan

He also talked about participants in the summit last week—representatives of the DPWH and the DOTC, local government units, and stakeholders from the academe, transport and business sectors—agreeing to map out “a unified traffic management plan” for Metro Manila, in preparation for the 15 projects some of which could take up to 2018 to complete.

Also discussed were other traffic alleviation measures such as the revival of the Pasig ferry service and additional bike lanes; Tolentino’s proposed four-day work and schools weeks, the lifting of window hours for the number-coding scheme, and “car-less” days at least once a week on Edsa.

When the unified traffic management plan will be unveiled to the public remained unclear on the eve of the expected start of gridlock.

Sam Miguel
02-17-2014, 08:39 AM
Promote alternative means of transportation

By Neal H. Cruz

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:27 pm | Sunday, February 16th, 2014

We are glad to read in Sunday’s Inquirer that the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) will revive the Pasig River ferry as suggested in a recent column. As it will supply a new fleet of boats, the MMDA should make sure that the cabins are closed and air-conditioned so that passengers will not smell the stink of the river. It was this stink that, in the past, discouraged commuters from taking the ferry. So the new boats should be shallow draft so that they will not touch the bottom of the now shallow Pasig River. I rode many times in such a type of ferryboats at the Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Maybe MMDA Chair Francis Tolentino can send somebody, or go there himself, to take a look.

Another factor that discouraged commuters from taking the ferry was the long wait at the river terminals, so there should be enough boats for more frequent trips. While the boat trip itself was short, the long wait at the terminals made the passengers lose precious time.

The ferry won’t make much money at first—maybe even lose some—but the number of passengers will increase as commuters discover the fast, comfortable, cool trip up and down the Pasig River a much better alternative to riding in crowded buses and jeepneys crawling through traffic jams on land. For added comfort, the ferry can sell soft drinks and snacks on board.

On weekends, the ferry may extend its service to the lakeshore towns around Laguna Lake for holiday trippers. Better access to them will hasten the development of the lakeshore towns which are isolated most of the time in spite of their closeness to Metro Manila. Restaurants serving fish caught in the lake and other Rizal-Laguna delicacies will sprout. Soon souvenir shops selling, for instance, woodcarvings from Paete and lanzones during the lanzones season will follow. Los Baños has its famous buko pie and fresh carabao milk.

We used to drive around the lakeshore towns of Rizal to visit the old churches and eat kanduli, hito, plapla, and “usa” and “baboy damo”—although I know that hardly any deer or wild pigs can now be caught in the surrounding hills. What they are serving now are probably beef and pork from native black pigs. But no matter, the trips will still be enjoyable because of the beautiful, rustic countryside.

That’s another thing: Metro Manilans, trapped in the concrete jungle, long for the rustic countryside with the open space, wide fields, and bamboo-and-nipa houses. But they are fast disappearing in the Bulacan-Pampanga towns and in the Laguna-Cavite-Batangas towns traversed by the NLEx and SLEx, respectively. You see the fields as you speed along the highways, but you can’t get down there. When you stop in the towns, you are met by a concrete jungle similar to the one you fled from.

We also used to ride the Manila-Cavite ferry—when it was still operating—in the late afternoon or early evening just to savor fresh sea breeze while having ice-cold beer on board, and to look around Cavite City. We would take the same ferry on its trip back to Manila.

That ferry also ceased operations because of financial losses. But the government should revive and subsidize it because it would take a big load off the crowded Manila-Cavite highway—at least until MRT 3 is completed and goes operational.

In fact, traffic congestion to and from the towns along Manila Bay would ease if there were ferry services to these towns. For the same reason, traffic on MacArthur Highway would lessen if ferry services were made available to transport passengers between Bulacan-Pampanga and Metro Manila. Our old folk used the river and the sea to ship cargo and people from these provinces to Manila and its suburbs. Flat-bottomed boats called “casco” were poled down the river with loads of rice, salt, nipa shingles, bamboo and other products. Residents of river towns waited on the riverbanks to buy the goods from them.

We should continue to use our waterways to ease the traffic load on our few and narrow roads. We are an archipelago and we should use the water highways which need no periodic repairs like the streets. What’s more, because the sea is so big, there would be no traffic congestion on it as happens on land.

For this reason, the government should encourage a boatbuilding-and-repairing industry. Most of the boats we have now are small they could easily sink in rough seas. Provide boat builders with the knowhow and capital to build bigger boats.

Together with the ferryboats, we should increase the number of commuter trains around Metro Manila and suburbs. Let the Philippine National Railways earn more so it can improve the Luzon train system. In other countries, the railroad is the most important and cheapest means of transportation. We have neglected our railroad because we were seduced by the American car manufacturers to put our money in motor vehicles. Now we are reaping the whirlwind of that mistake.

Until the administration of President Diosdado Macapagal, the railroad operated efficiently from San Fernando, La Union, in the north to Legazpi, Albay, in the south. The Bicol Express, which took you in first-class coaches overnight from Manila to Legazpi, was famous then. When you woke up in the morning, Mayon Volcano greeted you through the train windows.

The trip to Pangasinan, Baguio and the Ilocos provinces was also fast and pleasant on board the train. It stopped at Damortis, La Union, where first-class buses were waiting to take passengers up Kennon Road to Baguio.

Now a car trip to Baguio takes at least five hours (it took only four hours or less in the old days). After you leave NLEx, the traffic jams begin.

Sam Miguel
02-17-2014, 08:40 AM
Rerouting options laid out due to Skyway 3 construction

By Kristine Angeli Sabillo


8:34 am | Monday, February 17th, 2014

MANILA, Philippines – The Skyway O & M Corporation (Somco) on Monday released its rerouting options for motorists avoiding the Skyway Stage 3 construction works.

“Motorists who want to avoid the stretch of Osmeña Highway (in straight line) between Quirino Ave. and Buendia-end of Skyway-Slex may use the various alternate routes shown in broken lines,” Somco’s posted image over Twitter said.

The image showed nearby roads such as Edsa, Quirino Ave., Taft Ave., Roxas Blvd., Macapagal, and Ayala Ave., among others, as alternate routes.

The Skyway Stage 3 construction will start Monday night, coinciding with the construction of another roadwork connecting the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Expressway Phase 2 to the seaside Entertainment City.

The 14.8-kilometer, six-lane expressway launched Jan. 22 was supposed to reduce travel time from Buendia to Balintawak from two hours to 20 minutes or less.

Its construction, however, was expected to cause heavy traffic in the area.

The project, worth P26.7 billion, will complete the Skyway system from Alabang to Balintawak and will connect the South Luzon Expressway (Slex) and the North Luzon Expressway (Nlex).

It connects Skyway Stage 1 at Buendia, runs along Osmeña Highway, Quirino Ave. towards Plaza Dilao, continues crossing Pasig River, then cuts through at the back of SM Sta. Mesa towards G. Araneta Ave., crosses Aurora Blvd., E. Rodriguez and Quezon Ave. towards Sgt. E. Rivera then along A. Bonifacio towards Balintawak.

Sam Miguel
02-18-2014, 07:56 AM
‘Give us back our roads’

SC petitioners fed up with traffic jams, air and noise pollution

By Maricar B. Brizuela, Christine O. Avendaño

Philippine Daily Inquirer

3:21 am | Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—A group of Filipinos, including children and students, on Monday asked the Supreme Court to compel the government to implement a road-sharing scheme, saying that practically all the roads in the country are given to just less than 2 percent of the population that owns motor vehicles.

“The 98 percent of Filipinos are not even given proper space for them to walk or bike,” the group said.

It is demanding that half of the roads be set aside for nonmotorized transportation, safe and covered sidewalks, edible gardens and all-weather bike lanes, and the other half for an organized transport system.

Valerie Cruz, one of the convenors of the Share the Road Movement, said the group was also asking the high court to reduce the gas allowance of Cabinet officials and to require them to take public transport.

Cruz said this was the only way for officials to understand the experience of a daily commuter taking public transport.

Carless residents and car owners alike walked for 30 minutes from Rizal Park to the Supreme Court building in Manila to ask for the issuance of a writ of kalikasan. Others rode bikes.

A writ of kalikasan is a legal remedy for parties who believe that their “constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology is violated or threatened with violation.” Its issuance leads to protection orders and mandates court hearings on environment and health matters.

“All (petitioners) stand to be injured by respondents’ unlawful neglect of the principle that those who have less in wheels must have more in the road (road-sharing principle) as directed by law,” said the petition, which held as respondents several government agencies and President Aquino, chair of the Climate Change Commission.

Four-year-old girl

Four-year-old Maria Paulina Castañeda, a daughter of a participant in the “Walk for WoK (writ of kalikasan),” handed the copy of the petition to the docket section of the Supreme Court.

Castañeda was assisted by 80-year-old Commissioner Elsie de Veyra of the Philippine Commission on Women, who said that she attended the event to represent the elderly.

The petitioners asked the high court to require the government to implement certain environmental laws “to mitigate the ill effects of the crisis of climate change, reduce air pollution and improve air quality by adopting the road-sharing principle.”

The environmental laws include Administrative Order No. 171, which created the Presidential Task Force on Climate Change; Executive Order No. 774, which reorganized the Presidential Task force on Climate Change; Administrative Order No. 254, which mandates the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) to formulate a national environmentally sustainable transport for the Philippines; and Republic Act No. 9729, which established the framework strategy and program on climate change, and created the Climate Change Commission.

The petitioners said the government had been building more and more roads to accommodate more and more private vehicles.

“This car-centric transportation policy is the result of the Philippines trying to ape the transportation model of Los Angeles, a model we see in American movies,” they said.

They noted that the proliferation of private cars and vehicles has poisoned the air and that the government has failed to implement environment laws.


The petitioners asked the court to direct the DOTC, Department of Public Works and Highways and Department of the Interior and Local Government to immediately implement the road-sharing principle by, among other ways:

– Dividing all the roads by at least one half, lengthwise. One-half of the road shall be used for all-weather sidewalks and bicycle lanes as well as for urban edible gardens pursuant to Section 12b of Executive Order No. 774.

The other half of the road space may be used for motorized vehicles, preferably for safe, efficient, convenient and inexpensive collective or mass Filipino-made transportation systems.

– For the Department of Budget and Management to make available funds for the road-sharing principle.

– For the executive branch to reduce its fuel consumption by 50 percent starting from the date the case was filed, and for employees and officials to take public transportation for 50 percent of the time.

Those who joined the Walk for WoK included some 80 law students from Ateneo de Manila University and San Beda College.
Carrying papers with the statement “I support road-sharing,” the participants included women, children, doctors, elderly and persons with disabilities.

Some biking enthusiasts “fed up with the country’s traffic congestion, high cost of transportation, noise and air pollution” also joined the activity. A wheelchair-bound elderly man, who carried his dog, took part in the walk.
Ateneo law student Clariesse Chan, one of the convenors of the Share the Road Movement, said that the “time for talk is over.”

Walkers blocked

Before they filed the petition, the walkers were blocked by police officers who had set up barricades on Padre Faura Street. But the walkers showed the police that what they were waging was a “peaceful revolution.”

The group quietly proceeded to the Supreme Court and waited for the flag-raising ceremony to end before some representatives entered the building and filed the petition.

Asked how he saw the implementation of the road-sharing principle in the country, San Beda law student Paolo Burro told the Inquirer that the group was targeting a “slow implementation” of the scheme.

“We can start by giving wide, safe and clean walkways for pedestrians,” he said.

With these “simple projects,” people will realize the impact that these can do to the streets, Burro said.
Ateneo law student Det Eugenio said it was time to show to the people that road-sharing was possible.

“We can start this road revolution in small towns and eventually cover a bigger scale,” Eugenio told the Inquirer.

After submitting the petition to the Supreme Court, the participants proceeded to the Senate in Pasay City and filed the people’s initiative to pass the proposed share the roads law.

Golden opportunity

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje welcomed the filing in the Supreme Court of the writ of kalikasan on road-sharing.
Although he was among the respondents, Paje said the petition was a “golden opportunity” to help boost efforts to achieve the best air quality possible.

In a statement, Paje expressed gratitude to the petitioners for “potentially opening a new chapter in Philippine environmentalism.”
He said, “Rest assured that whatever the outcome of the petition, the DENR will continue to strive to attain the best air quality achievable with the help of all the stakeholders, including the petitioners.” — With a report from Jeannette I. Andrade

Sam Miguel
02-18-2014, 07:58 AM
4-day work week pushed amid hellish traffic jams

By Leila B. Salaverria

Philippine Daily Inquirer

3:20 am | Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—The prospect of hellish traffic jams in Metro Manila with two major road projects beginning simultaneously on Monday night has prompted a Quezon City lawmaker to revive his push for a four-day work week for government employees to help ease the anticipated gridlock.

Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo, who chairs the House committee on Metro Manila development, said his proposal would reduce the commuting time for state employees and provide a measure of comfort by giving them an extra day off.

This is especially important now in light of the looming traffic jams expected to result from the construction of the Skyway project to connect South Luzon Expressway on Gil Puyat Avenue in Makati City to the North Luzon Expressway in Balintawak, Quezon City, and the construction of Ninoy Aquino International Airport Expressway Phase 2 to the Entertainment City gambling hub.

To make up for the extra nonworking day, government workers would have to work for 10 hours a day instead of the usual eight hours, according to Castelo.

The 10-hour, four-day work week complements a recent proposal from traffic officials to limit school days from five to four days a week as well.

“Our workers serve as our economic backbone. We should not close our eyes to their difficulties, especially now that major infrastructure projects are on their way for their construction,” Castelo told reporters on Monday.

“At no better time than now when megaroad projects in Metro Manila have gotten under way that proactive experimentation should take place,” he added.

The House has long been observing the four-day work week, Castelo said, and this has resulted in government savings, among other things. He said the cutback had not compromised service or productivity.

The lawmaker said his bill, if approved, could lead to 20-percent in savings in work expenses, such as transportation fare and food for the state employees. Employers, on the other hand, could save on maintenance costs and overtime pay for workers.

Better productivity

The shortened work week could also lead to better productivity because it would help workers to be more focused on their tasks, he said.

The extra rest day would give government workers more time to spend with their families or pursue leisure activities, and this could make them more revitalized and motivated, Castelo said.

They could even use the additional day off to hone their skills so that they would be more competitive in the labor market, he added.

Castelo said he decided to refile his bill in the 16th Congress even before the megaroad projects took off because he had observed that many workers were being stressed out by worsening daily traffic and becoming less productive.

Members of the House independent bloc said they would invite public works, traffic and other officials involved in the 14.8-kilometer Skyway project to a hearing to provide details of the impending road works.

Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez said having more in-depth data about the major road projects would help Congress come up with ways to mitigate the effects of the road works.

Romualdez said this should not be taken as opposition to progress. “We wish it would’ve come earlier… so we’re stuck with a much delayed and last-minute project,” he said.

He also said the public should know how much the toll would be once the Skyway extension is completed because this could also lead to increased fares and trigger a demand for higher salaries.

Brace for the worst

Residents of the capital went through the usual traffic snarls that would likely worsen in the coming years as the Aquino administration belatedly implements 15 infrastructure projects.

“We are informing the general public to brace for the traffic situation that we will be encountering for the next four years,” Francisco Manalo, executive director of the capital’s traffic office, said as angry commuters took to social media to vent their frustrations.

Manalo warned that once construction begins, travel on the city’s main roads will be reduced to a crawling speed of 1 to 9 kilometers per hour, compared to the already slow, normal 20 kph.

Motorists and commuters fearful of getting stuck on the roads left home earlier than usual on Monday. But with so many vehicles on the road as the day began, traffic in and around Manila was snarled for hours in the morning.

“Traffic armageddon begins in Manila!!” tweeted San Crisselle Tiu, while Chay1007 said she had to bring an “extra [supply] of patience.”

Once actual construction begins, it can take a vehicle at least two hours to travel the 19-km stretch of the city’s main thoroughfare, warned Vicente Lizada, spokesman for the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority’s traffic monitoring office. The authority has asked contractors to provide staff to help direct traffic. — With a report from AFP

Sam Miguel
02-18-2014, 08:00 AM
MMDA suggests alternative routes for Metro motorists

By Jaymee T. Gamil

Philippine Daily Inquirer

3:17 am | Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has suggested alternative routes in Manila and Makati cities following the closure of two of five southbound lanes of Osmeña Highway on Monday night at the start of the construction of the 14.8-kilometer Skyway project linking the north and south expressways.

The Department of Transportation and Communications was to begin erecting posts on Osmeña Highway from the corner of San Andres Street, Manila, to Gil Puyat Avenue in Makati.

The two inner southbound lanes of the highway connected to South Luzon Expressway will be closed from the corner of Zobel Roxas Avenue to San Andres Street, but the three outer southbound lanes and three northbound lanes will remain open.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino estimated that with the closure of the two lanes on Osmeña Highway, travel on the road may slow down from 30 to 39 kilometers per hour, to 10 to 19 kph.

To avoid the constricted traffic flow on the southbound route of Osmeña Highway, those coming from Quirino Avenue may take the following alternative routes to get to their destinations:

Turn left to Roxas Boulevard, right to Gil Puyat Avenue, left to Macapagal Boulevard, left to A. Mabini, go straight to FB Harrison Street, turn right to Edsa, turn left to Leon Guinto Street and go straight to P. Zamora Street.

Those coming from Pedro Gil are advised to take the following alternative routes:

Turn right to Tejeron, go straight to JP Rizal to take Makati Avenue, or make a right at Chino Roces Avenue, or turn right to Onyx, left to Zobel Roxas, right to Kalayaan Avenue, then right to Chino Roces Avenue.

The Department of Public Works and Highways was also set to begin construction on the Naia Expressway II project in Pasay City on Monday night.

Skyway Stage 3 and Naia Expressway II are the first of 15 major road projects in Metro Manila up for construction in the next four years.

The MMDA has set up a website (MMRoadway.com) in which the public can learn about the 15 projects, the status of their construction and corresponding traffic advisories and alternate routes.

A chart detailing the timetable of the infrastructure projects has already been posted there. During the website’s launch last week, Tolentino said the contact information of the contractors and a feedback forum would be posted on the website soon. The complaints—and the contractors’ responses—will also be posted.

The website will be updated twice a week and contractors are expected to cooperate by providing correct information. The MMDA will also work on a mobile application, Tolentino added.

In a traffic management summit last week, contractors proposed that the construction be done 24/7, a move welcomed by Tolentino, who has been slammed by commentators for his failure to prepare well in advance for the anticipated monster traffic jams.
Tolentino has so far failed to get rid of “colorum” buses or enforce basic traffic rules.

Sam Miguel
02-18-2014, 08:01 AM
Gov’t urged to revive Pasig ferry service

By TJ A. Burgonio

Philippine Daily Inquirer

3:11 am | Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto is pressing the government to revive a ferry service on the Pasig River to decongest Metro Manila as two major road projects get under way.

Relaunching the boats to ferry thousands of commuters on the 27-kilometer waterway could be a good solution to the impending “carmageddon” in the capital, the senator said on Monday.

Recto said the government should not wait for the private sector and tap into the P1-billion contingent fund and the P140-billion unprogrammed fund in the 2014 budget to reactivate the ferry service.

He said the government could buy or rent the boats from the previous operator.

“We should now utilize this nautical road. It’s toll-free and ready to use,” he said of the Pasig River. “Any monstrous traffic which inconveniences millions fits the definition of an emergency. If you’ll steam inside your car which moves in mere meters in hours, then in any book, that is a calamity.”

Roadwork on the six-lane expressway connecting South Luzon Expressway from Buendia in Makati to North Luzon Expressway in Balintawak in Quezon City was scheduled to begin Monday night.

This was on top of the project connecting the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Expressway Phase 2 to the seaside Entertainment City.

Both projects are expected to cause traffic jams in the metropolis.

Recto said that if the government could subsidize commuters of the Metro Rail Transit and Light Railway Transit systems at P40 per trip, there was no reason it could not subsidize ferry commuters at a lower amount.

“It must be viewed as a public service in response to an emergency, which in this case is the traffic gridlock,” he said.

“Billions of pesos will be lost due to the projected traffic. So whatever amount that will be invested by the government in the ferry, the people will reap economic benefits even if the actual operating cost is not recouped from fare box collections,” he added.

Before it shut down in 2011, the ferry service transported commuters to 17 stations along a 15-km route from Plaza Mexico in Intramuros, Manila, to Nagpayong in Pasig City, Recto said.

The last operator deployed twin-hulled boats that could seat 150 passengers in air-conditioned cabins, he said.

It was discontinued due to the dwindling number of passengers, and navigational hazards such as the proliferation of water lilies and the foul smell emanating from the polluted river.

“It’s better to invest in the Pasig River ferry because it’s not as complicated as the MRT,” he said, referring to the transportation department’s award of a contract to a Chinese firm for the expansion of MRT 3 that has run into legal challenges.

Sam Miguel
02-19-2014, 09:05 AM
Traffic jam pleas flood Palace

By Leila B. Salaverria, Michael Lim Ubac, Jaymee T. Gamil

Philippine Daily Inquirer

4:29 am | Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—Malacañang, inundated with appeals from motorists and commuters to address the looming monstrous traffic jams, is looking at schemes that will free up roads of obstructions such as parked vehicles, basketball courts and ambulant vendors during the duration of the construction of two major road projects in Metro Manila.

At a briefing, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma also called on private companies and government offices to devise a “flexitime” policy, a drastic but necessary solution that could decongest the metropolis’ thoroughfares during rush hours as employees would have different work schedules.

“To address the citizens’ concerns arising from the start of construction of the Skyway 3 project, the Naia (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) Expressway project, and other projects in Metro Manila, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) have prepared traffic management plans, including rerouting and road widening,” Coloma said.

Carpooling, flexitime

Coloma said voluntary remedial measures such as community carpooling and company-initiated flexitime and home office arrangements for affected employees could contribute in easing traffic congestion.

“We renew our call that we share in the burden of sacrifice, and bear with the short-term inconvenience, so we can reap the benefits of faster travel and higher productivity,” he said.

Coloma renewed this call as residents of the capital felt what presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda described as “birth pangs” on Monday, when the Aquino administration—after three years of delay due to a snail-paced bidding process—belatedly started implementing 15 major infrastructure projects.

Traffic snarls are expected to be triggered by two major road projects beginning simultaneously on Monday—the Skyway project to connect South Luzon Expressway on Gil Puyat Avenue in Makati City to North Luzon Expressway in Balintawak, Quezon City, and the construction of Naia Expressway Phase 2, which will connect the airport to the Entertainment City gambling hub.

Maybe people should wait for the monster traffic jams to materialize before taking drastic steps to change people’s work schedules, according to Speaker Feliciano Belmonte.

Belmonte on Tuesday said the predicted horrendous traffic gridlock resulting from two major road projects was yet to be felt, which was why he cautioned against immediately implementing a proposal to limit to four days the workweek of government employees.

“First of all, let’s try to see if there would really be great traffic difficulty. Everybody is talking doomsday now,” Belmonte told reporters when sought for comment on recent proposals to address traffic woes.

Four-day work, school week

The Palace was skeptical about the four-day workweek and shortened weekdays for classes.

“Those kinds of proposals were simply offered as options and suggestions, and were not intended to be presented as imperatives, precisely because there is a need for all the affected stakeholders to vet the idea, to review the possible ramifications and consequences,” Coloma said.

He said these proposals were not being dangled as “must-do” alternatives.

“To begin with, the school year is about to end, right? The regular school calendar will be ending in about a month. So we have time through the summer vacation to plan until the reopening of classes,” Coloma said.

“We would rather focus, for now, on the voluntary measures because these are more effective and involve what the concerned parties want to do,” he added.


Some teachers also found “unnecessary” the MMDA suggestion to shorten classes to four days a week to ease traffic congestion.

Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) said most elementary and high school students were living near their schools anyway so they would not contribute to easing the traffic situation.

Compressing school days might only hamper learning, according to TDC chair Benjo Basas.

Two class shifts

Basas pointed out that shortening school days would further put pressure on schools that already have two class shifts in order to accommodate all students despite the limited classrooms.

He said “many schools in Metro Manila practice the two-shift policy” to accommodate enrollees.

“That would mean that for the morning session, some students would wake up very early for classes that would start at dawn, while the classes in the afternoon would end as late as 8 p.m.,” Basas said.

In Metro Manila, he added, the average school time in each shift was seven hours. A single-shift class usually starts at 7 a.m. and ends at 3 p.m., he said.

Shorter workweek?

The labor group Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) also questioned the proposed four-day workweek.

“The proposal to cut the workers’ volume on a particular day of a week, however, is based on the plain assumption that no work would mean less vehicles on the streets, which is wishful thinking when the city is ruled by private vehicles,” PM spokesperson Wilson Fortaleza said in a statement.

He said that based on available data, private vehicles outnumbered public utility vehicles in Metro Manila but public utility vehicles transport about 70 percent of commuters.


“Another concern will be the impact of this proposal on small-scale and micro enterprises (SMEs), particularly those in the wholesale and retail industry, which comprise more than 90 percent of establishments and which employ the biggest number of workers in Metro Manila,” Fortaleza added.

The proposed four-day workweek could reduce traffic congestion if the workers are allowed to take a day off in specific areas at the same time, a lawyer suggested yesterday.

Romulo Macalintal proposed that one to three cities enforce a common no-work day for workers who will be opting for the four-day workweek.

“A four-day workweek may be experimented in Metro Manila for government offices wherein a one-day workday off shall be made on a staggered system or implemented alternatively in the various areas in Metro Manila.

No monster traffic jam

Despite expectations of a “monster traffic jam” once construction of the Skyway Stage 3 is under way, traffic flow has remained relatively smooth.

Advance works on the Skyway Stage 3, an elevated highway that will connect the South Luzon Expressway and the North Luzon Expressway, began on Monday night, with two southbound lanes on Osmeña Highway requiring closure.

But on Tuesday, MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino noted that traffic flow on Osmeña Highway remained “OK” and “without problems.”

“My only worry was ambulances—that they will all pass on the northbound lanes going to hospitals, but there were no problems. The southbound lanes were OK as well,” Tolentino said.

He, however, acknowledged that alternate routes around the highway were experiencing the congested traffic. “The vehicles transferred there. That was expected,” he said. The MMDA chair assured obstructions on the inner streets would be cleared.

Ben Ola, a taxi driver, made the same observation when interviewed by the Inquirer. “The southbound route on Osmeña is really wide, even with two closed lanes. I had no problem there today. I passed there twice,” Ola said in Filipino.

But Ola noted that traffic was heavier in inner streets in Makati City, though he said it was an everyday occurrence.

Ola also said he was expecting the traffic jam on Osmeña Highway to start once trucks start coming out, mostly from the Manila port area. “Osmeña is really their road,” the driver said.—With reports from Dona Z. Pazzibugan, Jerome Aning and Tina G. Santos

Sam Miguel
02-19-2014, 09:43 AM
Mega Manila, Mega headache!


By Boo Chanco

(The Philippine Star) | Updated February 19, 2014 - 12:00am

The television networks and their rating agencies were the first to use the term Mega Manila. They see Mega Manila as the area radiating from Metro Manila with a population projected by the 2010 census at about 25,000,000 people in an area roughly the size of Los Angeles County and with an average density of over 2000 people per square kilometer.

Mega Manila is a world class metropolis, at least in size. It includes Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal. As a comparison, only the cities of Tokyo, Jakarta, Mexico City and Shanghai have reached a population size of 25 million people.

Mega Manila is chaotic and has become more so as traffic flow turned from bad to worse with simultaneous construction of long awaited road infrastructure starting this week. One wonders when the long suffering residents will reach the breaking point of their patience with this state of affairs.

When a group of PhilStar columnists had lunch with Vice President Jojo Binay last week, I asked the former mayor and MMDA chairman what ought to be done. I asked the VP if having an elected Metro Manila governor will help.

It probably would, the VP replied, but quickly added that the politics of the region will not allow it. Indeed, the mayors of the 16 cities and one town in Metro Manila will not favor any diminution of their powers in their fiefdoms.

But VP Binay, who said he took courses on urban planning, admitted that a unified metro government will likely do better in planning, coordinating and delivering services. After all, he said, the basic problems in all 16 cities and one town in the region are the same.

Unfortunately, he pointed out that MMDA is toothless. He probably got more respect from the other mayors when he was MMDA chairman because they were his colleagues. But giving up powers, even to manage traffic and impose fines, is hard to do for the metro kingpins.

So, I asked the VP, where do we go from here? What is the solution to the metrowide chaos that drastically cuts into the quality of our lives and even endangers our health?

The VP said that we probably have to move most of the national government offices out of the metro area. There are just too many people already, he said. But he didn’t say where the national capital should be relocated to.

I wonder if moving the nation’s capital outside of Manila is a good idea… or a viable one. But it seems to be an attractive option specially for those of us who have seen Malaysia’s Putrajaya. Halfway between the airport and Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya is a nicely planned government city where key government agencies have their offices. But KL is busier and more crowded than ever.

Former President Arroyo thought of moving the seat of government to Clark where there is abundant government owned land. But it takes money and a lot of political will to uproot everything now in place in Metro Manila and move 90 kilometers away. It doesn’t seem practical.

Then again too, we see Metro Manila turning into Mega Manila and one wonders how far away could we move the capital before that area is also engulfed by the fast expanding urban sprawl? For practical purposes, more than half of Laguna, Cavite, Rizal and Bulacan are de facto part of the national capital region even if the laws do not recognize that.

What we need is an adequate public transport system that will allow people to live in the fringes and still have an affordable way of getting into the city centers to earn a living. Sadly, that is what we lack. The inadequacy of public transport likely caused residents to buy cars and this is why our streets and highways are clogged most hours of the working day. We failed to learn from the lesson of Los Angeles, which belatedly realized the value of public transport.

The VP said our poor cannot be faulted for wanting to live in the city, particularly one like Makati where social benefits are available from cradle to grave. VP Binay pointed out to our group that he knows of many instances where children of poor residents endured bad living conditions while taking advantage of Makati’s free education up to college. Staying in their impoverished home provinces won’t give them that opportunity, he observed.

I asked the Vice President if the social safety net in Makati can be done in the national level as promised in his campaign advertising: Ganito kami sa Makati, Sana sa Buong Pilipinas. He balanced his reply.

The VP said his advertising consultant, Greg Garcia, may have been over enthusiastic with that promise. It is not easy to do that in the national level. But he quickly added that the promise is doable if there is a political will to do it. There should be enough money for that if government spends wisely, he said.

The VP seems convinced that the metro area, and eventually, the Mega Manila area, ought to be managed as one political entity. But I am not sure a Binay administration will use his political brownie points to see such a system happen.

Hopefully, he musters the political guts to convince his former fellow metro mayors to see the light. A metrowide government unit with an elected governor or chairman will be able to do planning on the basis of the entire metro area instead of a smaller fiefdom.

Things like traffic management, garbage collection, sanitation and health services can be approached on a metro basis. The metro government can take over from the inept DOTC the responsibility of providing essential transport infrastructure.

But for now we can only dream of better things even as we endure the continuing reality of hell in our streets. In the meantime, the metro area will continue to grow beyond the limits of what is now called Mega Manila. The problems can only get worse until we get better leaders ready to do what ought to be done.


Is DOTC anti-Filipino?

The question came up during the bidding for the computer system to be used by all DOTC agencies, specially the LTO. On the first page of the bid documents, it is written that the project calls for the “implementation of a server based package solutions (sic) based on an existing system currently in use outside of the Philippines”.

During the pre-bid conference held last Jan 21, a bidder asked what this requirement meant. DOTC Usec. Jun Bucayan replied, “We have already set the rules. You have to get a foreign system that is already in use. We want something that has been tried and tested abroad.”

Why is the DOTC requiring a foreign-based software that would require a lot of customization to make it applicable to local needs? An existing foreign-based system would be programmed to meet the needs of that country, whose requirements may be totally different from ours.

Let me recall the example of the billing system introduced by Meralco’s former Spanish partners some years ago. It was tailor made for Spanish conditions, not ours. In Spain, they paid their bill through the banks. Here, we have collection agents like banks and customer service centers of malls like SM. Not too many of us have bank accounts.

That is why unlike PLDT, SMART, SkyCable and Manila Water, we have to pay our Meralco bills exactly as billed to the last centavo. We cannot over pay to cover the next month while we are on a trip. The Spanish system is not flexible and did not account for our paying behavior.

Given the amount of time DOTC already wasted trying to bid out this system, they should not discriminate against Filipino bidders who already know what we need and have that system ready to run. Besides we have to encourage our own computer professionals by giving them big projects. Buy Filipino, and government must set the example.

When asked to justify this anti-Filipino stance, DOTC’s Bucayan’s reply: “There were market studies done as to what has been done in other countries. We are confident that the solutions are out there. Anyway, there is a provision for cancellation.”

In other words, the DOTC is willing to waste P3.44 billion of Filipino taxpayers’ money on a system that may not work because “anyway, there is a provision for cancellation.”

Anti-Filipino. Amateurs. Or they are tailoring the bidding requirements for someone they already have in mind.

Oo nga naman

From Rosan Cruz.

Hindi lahat ng guapo may GF. Ang iba sa kanila, may BF.

Sam Miguel
02-19-2014, 09:53 AM
Put it to the test


By Cito Beltran

(The Philippine Star) | Updated February 19, 2014 - 12:00am

Readers may have noticed how easy it has been for everyone to come up with solutions, ideas and suggestions on what to do and what not to do concerning the expected “Carmagedon” in the form of traffic resulting from the multi-project start up of the republic of P-Noy.

Some solutions die instant death based on stupidity, impracticality or sheer unpopularity. Some ideas die from mental or verbal miscarriage by the proponent or members of media, and some suggestions actually survive the 6:30 evening news and are seriously considered by policy makers and the public.

Now might be a good time to call in DOST Secretary Mario Montejo to once again explain how and why their idea of a Road Train System will work on EDSA, how it will provide transportation for several thousand commuters on EDSA daily, how the Road Train will free up one lane on EDSA, create an investment opportunity for a quick PPP, reduce fuel consumption as well as air pollution, AND REDUCE TRAFFIC!

I first heard about the “Road Train Project” during the Innovation Conference or ICON hosted by Hyundai Auto Resources Inc. (HARI) back in 2013. To be honest I was initially skeptical because the design is based on a “tractor head” or bus pulling several wagons or train carriage on regular bus or truck tires. Instead of the usual train tracks that the MRT or LRT run on, the Road train will run on EDSA’s road surface probably secured by concrete barriers or gutters like in a bowling lane. Each set of trains will have a head unit pulling 5 interconnected coaches able to take 120 people or 600 per set at full capacity. As presented, the units will run on a diesel-electric hybrid system, which will free it from being totally dependent on electricity and high maintenance cost. The production and maintenance cost would be lower than the usual MRT/LRT that requires elevated platforms, stations and access.

Although it will take at least a year to roll out one set if it were to be fully funded by generous donors and built by a dedicated team of constructors, I would speculate that the Road Train would be our modern day version of Filipino Innovation blending engineering and technology with on the ground realities and creating a solution as iconic as the “jeepney.” If Secretary Montejo gets a green light, I’m publicly volunteering myself as well as a couple of “car crazy” people who like to create and build these sort of things.

* * *

Standing in the sidelines, it’s interesting how one cabinet member in an effort to do his job inadvertently makes another look utterly useless. When MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino floated the idea of the MMDA operating the shelved Pasig River ferry he probably thought nothing of it except as a good and practical idea. As they say desperate times require desperate measures. To this I say “hear, hear” and “Well done” for actually doing something about a potential problem while dealing with another long pending problem!

But how does this make the DOTC look? Stupid of course! How else would they look considering it’s been three years that the Pasig River ferry has not been operating! First I heard about it was because the new administration wanted to rebid the project. Then I heard that the last operator was losing money. Then we never heard about it again! Imagine that for at least 6 if not 9 years under the so-called corrupt Arroyo administration, we had a fully functioning Pasig River Ferry that my wife and I used to take on occasions from Guadalupe or Mandaluyong all the way down to Quiapo. When the new administration came in, 2 living but inactive DOTC Secretaries could not get the system floating up and down the river!

But Lo and behold! Chairman Tolentino says the MMDA will operate the ferry boats or if necessary they could pull them up and down the river with tugboats. I really look forward to the day when the MMDA commandeer the ferryboats and do what the DOTC totally failed to do. Maybe then P-Noy will finally realize he has the wrong people in the DOTC.

* * *

Among the other ideas coming out of the MMDA, one is to take away the 9-3 window where vehicles with banned number plates are allowed to drive. I’m sure this will help some and it may be worth a try but the MMDA and Chairman Tolentino might want to consider dealing with the problems and testing the solutions they have talked about in the past but failed to do. For instance how about really regulating buses and keeping them in place. Last Monday radio reporters were surprised that the morning traffic on EDSA was bad northbound and not towards Makati. As they discovered, the buses were cutting ahead of the cue and blocking other lanes of EDSA at the Ortigas intersection.

It’s not a private car versus public utility debate we need; it’s dealing with what is obvious. Buses block lanes, many buses between 9 to 3 are only half full, so why is Chairman Tolentino immediately focusing on private cars? Why is his first target always private cars and his usual comment is that there is an over abundance of cars? What about truck mounted billboards, “Driving School cars and student drivers learning how to drive on EDSA, all of which slow traffic considerably. Then there are the constant obstacles poised by MMDA maintenance personnel who are washing walls, watering plants or painting gutters, all done during the day when traffic is at peak!

Do something about synchronizing traffic lights to get a wave of green lights and cars moving. What about removing debris and illegally parked cars on Araneta Avenue, illegal jeepney terminals on the East and West service roads? Yes the Chairman needs real volume reduction, but the public also wants action, integrity and fairness in the efforts of the MMDA. Yes Mr. Chairman we are willing to support you but first deal with all the past “fails” that the MMDA never acted on resolutely.

Why should law-abiding taxpayers always be first on your hit list? Please deal with the violators first. Stop picking on us and do your job: enforce the law.

* * *

Sam Miguel
02-20-2014, 09:41 AM
Traffic doctors better agree on common cure


By Federico D. Pascual Jr.

(The Philippine Star) | Updated February 20, 2014 - 12:00am

CONGESTION: The road network of the metropolis can be likened to the plumbing of a building and the circulatory system of the body.

At some point and for various reasons, the flow of vehicles, of water and of blood could be impeded, causing traffic or flow problems of varying degrees and consequences.

Sometimes the obstruction could be fatal. Chronic traffic congestion could lead to the slow death of a city in the same way that clogged plumbing could stop water service altogether or atherosclerosis could cause a stroke or a heart attack.

To some extent, the analogous situations can give traffic managers, plumbers and heart doctors a hint of what emergency and long-term measures can ease or solve flow problems.

* * *

FOUR E’s: The arteries, veins and capillaries of the body run to something like 100,000 kilometers of blood vessels carrying oxygen and nutrients to our organs and tissues.

Similarly, the 3,450-km metropolitan road system carries workers and goods vital to the life and commerce of the nation’s capital and areas beyond. This is one of the reasons why the daytime truck ban in Manila, for instance, needs to be reviewed and revised.

A ban is a copout. It gives the impression that the traffic manager has given up on other possible remedies.

Faulty road design, improper use of space and lack of discipline contribute to the clogging of streets, reducing the usable space left for normal traffic. Actually, road obstructions can be cleared using the four E’s of Education, Engineering, Enforcement and Electronic aids.

* * *

BYPASS PRESCRIBED: Metro Manila traffic managers have resorted to what heart specialists might call a P26-billion bypass — the Skyway-3 project to link the South Luzon Expressway to the North Luzon Expressway with a 14.8-km elevated road flying over the metropolis.

It offers a long-term relief by cutting travel time from two hours to just 20 minutes from Buendía to Balintawak. But in the meantime everybody must bear with the inconvenience and cooperate, not add to the expected congestion in the construction area.

With work on it already begun by Citra Central Expressway Corp., two southbound lanes on Osmeña Highway connecting to the SLEx were closed Monday night for the erection of columns for the elevated road.

* * *

DAYTIME BAN: From nowhere, City Hall banned effective Feb. 24 all eight-wheel trucks and vehicles with gross weight above 4,500 kilograms from Manila roads from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. That is 16 hours, or seven hours longer than the previous ban.

Trucks may operate only from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. and only on designated routes. On Sundays and holidays, they can take these routes any time. If it is any consolation, trucks carrying perishable goods and oil products — as well as vehicles used for government projects — are exempted.

Vehicles delivering construction materials outside the truck routes must get permission from the Manila Traffic and Parking Bureau. Violators pay a P5,000 fine or their vehicles will be impounded.

* * *

COORDINATION: Too many specialists separately sticking their fingers into the congested heart of the patient might just kill him.

There must be consultation and coordination before officials decide to tinker with traffic flow in the national capital teeming with 15 million residents and 20 percent of its households owning some kind of motor or motorized vehicle.

A local government insisting on its own traffic scheme that severely restricts private companies’ ability to move manpower and merchandise is bad for business, bad for government and bad for the people – even if some motorists and commuters happen to like it.

A middle ground should be explored and the truck ban under City Ordinance 7570 revised. If smoother traffic is the main objective, there are many other ways of making vehicles move more efficiently, but which have not been adequately tried.

* * *

TRUCK BAN: No wonder the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and the Metro Manila Council, which is composed of all Metro Manila mayors, are looking for ways to convince Manila to do away with or ease its daytime truck ban.

Among the others complaining are truckers, including those ferrying goods to and from the Port Area. They are afraid that raw materials may not be delivered on time or that exporters might miss deadlines and may even lose their contracts.

The MMDA and the MMC aired misgivings in the light of road projects lined up this year aside from Skyway-3: the Ninoy Aquino International Airport elevated expressway, the Sta. Monica-Lawton Bridge in Manila, the Makati Avenue underpass, and the Pasay-Taft flyover.

Since President Noynoy Aquino must leave some kind of legacy, they want the “concrete achievements” completed before his term ends in 2016.

* * *

TRY THESE: In addition to easing the crippling truck ban, officials may want to consider other partial remedies that, taken together, can contribute to easing traffic flow:

• Businesses should consider staggered working hours so their personnel do not commute at common busy hours.

• Employees whose work is computer-based and output-measured can be allowed to work at home to save on office space, electricity and commuting time.

• More schools should adopt distance-education using the Internet. Carpooling with safeguards should be adopted for school children coming from a common area.

• Reviving the Pasig river ferry should be considered, with trips made more predictable and rates reasonable. Government should consider subsidizing it.

• Selected thoroughfares should be made strictly no-parking-tow-away zones during rush hours.

• The right engineering and maintenance of roads, including side streets, should be pressed.

• Sidewalks should be cleared and upgraded so pedestrians do not spill onto the streets. Doing business on busy sidewalks should be prohibited.

• Colorum buses and utility vehicles found not roadworthy or in repeated violation should be grounded.

• Upgrading of capacity and efficiency of the light rail system must be rushed and integrated into a mass transport system.

* * *

Sam Miguel
02-20-2014, 09:43 AM
Heavy traffic on EDSA this weekend due to road repairs

By Dennis Carcamo

(philstar.com) | Updated February 20, 2014 - 9:17am

MANILA, Philippines - Expect heavy traffic coming weekend along EDSA due to the Department of Public Works and Highways' scheduled road reblocking and repairs starting Late Friday night.

Based on the traffic advisory of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the road works will start on Friday around 10 p.m. It will last until Feb. 24, Monday, around 5 a.m.

The MMDA said the following areas will be affected by the road works:

- Along EDSA between Boni Avenue and Guadalupe Bridge (Southbound), Mandaluyong City.

- Along EDSA between Guadalupe Bridge and South Drive (Southbound, 5th Lane), Makati City

- Along EDSA between Don Ang Street and Gen. Tinio Street, (Northbound, Lane 5), Caloocan City

The MMDA advised motorists to use alternate routes to avoid heavy traffic in the areas.

All roads will be fully passable by Monday morning, the MMDA added.

Sam Miguel
02-20-2014, 10:22 AM

By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:18 am | Thursday, February 20th, 2014

I sympathize with the Share the Road Movement. Complaining that virtually all of the country’s streets are given to the 2 percent that owns cars, the group marched to the Supreme Court last Monday to demand that half of them be given to nonmotorized transport (walking, bicycling) and the other half to a motorized one. Additionally, it demanded that public officials be made to take public transport on a regular basis.

The first is meant to improve Metro Manila’s air, and to contribute to fighting global warming. The second is meant not just to decongest traffic but also to decongest public servants’ brains, enough for them to see how the other half, or other 98 percent, lives.

I’m glad the group has drawn attention to the insanity in our streets, specifically the misallocation of space in favor of private cars. But I’m not so sure the proposals to correct it, specifically the allocation of half of that space to nonmotorized transport, is practicable, at least in the immediate future. While I appreciate the need to improve the environment, I’m also aware of the limitations there. Chief of them is that as of 2011 the urban area of Metro Manila was home to 21,295,000 souls, most of them bedraggled, and many of them needing to haul their carcasses to work in fairly good time to keep souls connected to bodies. They won’t be able to, walking and biking.

But in the spirit of Share the Road’s initiative, I share my own thoughts about what can be done almost immediately to remove the bedlam in the streets.

First off is to recognize that the streets have been invaded by motorcycles and they are here to stay. Which is not a bad thing: They save on gas and they occupy less space. They often ferry two people at a time, and on occasion three, including the child who is going to school.

What is bad is that motorcycle drivers utterly lack discipline. They figure in the overwhelming majority of road accidents in the country, which is not a surprise given the way they leap out of every corner, or at least out of their lanes, and make out like Hell’s Angels. The delivery people of the fast-food chains are constantly racing with each other, weaving in and flowing through the lanes like a stream of liquid metal. On Commonwealth Avenue, you’d often see them in clusters after having been stopped by cops for zooming past the 60-kph limit. For some reason, they seem to think they are exempted from traffic rules.

Can something be done about this? But of course. Look at Vietnam and weep. Ho Chi Minh City isn’t the motorcycle capital of the world for nothing. It is home to 3.5 million motorcycles; virtually every family owns one. You see a veritable Woodstock of them waiting patiently before a red light on every corner. When the light turns green, the horde heaves onward at a uniform speed like vehicles in a parade. Contrast that with our motorcycles sprinting from the starting line, often even before the light changes, and adding noise pollution to air pollution roaring into the various lanes. The maximum speed for a motorcycle in Vietnam is 40 kph, and it is strictly enforced. The drivers violating it are stopped on the spot and get a tongue-lashing from traffic cops in front of an amused crowd, quite apart from a steep fine.

Why in God’s name can’t that be done here?

Second is to give most of the lanes to public transport. Right now, we have a bus and jeepney lane at the rightmost side of the road, a motorcycle lane beside it, and the rest given to private vehicles including delivery vans and trucks. Why not, instead, drastic as it may seem, have a car/private vehicle lane at the leftmost, a motorcycle lane beside it, and public transport lanes for the rest of the street? Of course that discriminates against cars, but it’s a lot more sane to discriminate against someone who is occupying a lot of space and using a lot of gas and air-conditioning to deliver his well-rested ass from points A to B than to discriminate against a hundred people who stood in queues for hours to be able to clamber into buses and stand in aisles for hours to be able to get to and from work.

It would of course help mightily to add more coaches to the trains. The MRT and LRT 1 and 2 look like renditions of Dante’s Inferno during rush hour. Trains are the way to go, inside and outside Metro Manila. Without the LRT, Taft Avenue would be dead now; without the MRT, Edsa would be dead now. Those are the only things that revived them from their moribund state. In New York, nobody in his right mind drives in Manhattan; everyone takes the subway. It’s cheaper, faster, and keeps drivers away from each other’s throats.

And third, yes, require public officials to take public transport once a week at the barest minimum. I wrote about it last year, agreeing wholeheartedly with a group that proposed it. I was particularly reminded at the time of GMA Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez’s defense of the wang-wang, which was that public officials had more important things to do than mere mortals and deserved to get to where they were going first. I said then that stealing was more important than writing only to the thief.

The convenience, if not luxury, of a private car does not allow public servants to serve the public better and faster. It only makes them do so badly and more slowly. Nothing like comfort to make them drag their feet, and nothing like the smell of sweat in an overcrowded bus stuck in traffic to give them an overpowering urgency to do something for the anak pawis. DOTC and MMDA officials should be first in line to experience it. Who knows? Maybe the lesson in humility might even teach Boy Pickup manners.

But, yes, we can put sanity in the streets. It just takes a bit of wit, and a whole lot of will.

Sam Miguel
02-24-2014, 09:55 AM
Palace: Truckers should not be crippled

By Delon Porcalla

(The Philippine Star) | Updated February 24, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - If Malacañang can have its way, truckers should not be banned in the streets of Metro Manila, especially at a time when the economy is booming.

Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. of the Presidential Communications Operations Office said this was the position taken by Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson, who has been coordinating with the city government of Manila to reconsider its ordinance on daytime truck ban.

Starting today, eight-wheeler trucks are prohibited from traveling the city’s streets from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. Violators of the truck ban will be fined P5,000 and their vehicles impounded.

“We have a very high GDP (gross domestic product) growth because of our export and import,” Coloma said.

“We have to help our exporters, importers and the truckers to move around and consider as well the effects of our infrastructure projects, like the Skyway Stage 3, which started just a week ago,” he added.

Longer window period

Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Francis Tolentino announced yesterday what he called a “win-win” solution for the local government of Manila and the truckers.

Tolentino said Mayor Joseph Estrada had agreed to lengthen the window time from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The city government of Manila conceded to the requests of truckers and exporters to modify its daytime truck ban.

From an outright ban of trucks during daytime, Manila will now allow trucks to enter the city during a five-hour window, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Cargo trucks and cement mixers are included in the ban. On the other hand, haulers carrying perishable goods, oil tankers, and trucks used for government projects are exempted from the ban. But these will have to get permits from the Manila Traffic and Parking Bureau before they will be allowed to pass through the city streets.

The ordinance was originally set for implementation on Feb. 4 but was postponed due to calls from truck owners and operators to review the truck ban.

Tolentino said the new window time would give truck drivers an additional two hours to travel in the city.

Truck owners and operators had earlier threatened to go on holiday to oppose the truck ban.

Tolentino said they are still studying the city government’s plan to allow trucks to pass through Roxas Boulevard as this is expected to create traffic jams in the area.

Compromise hit

Meanwhile, the Port Users Confederation (PUC) yesterday said the 10 p.m. to 3 p.m. window period is not enough for truckers to pick up their cargo from the Manila International Container Terminal and South Harbor.

“That’s too short for trucks to enter the city and haul containers out of the ports,” said Rodolfo de Ocampo, president of PUC and the Confederation of Truckers Association of the Philippines.

He said the implementation of the daytime truck ban will disrupt operations at the two ports.

“We are not sending out our trucks on Monday. But we are not staging a boycott. It’s really not possible to send out a truck to haul containers within that window. Sayang lang ang krudo (It’s just a waste of fuel),” De Ocampo told The STAR in a phone interview.

Truck ban in Caloocan eyed

Caloocan Mayor Oscar Malapitan yesterday said the City Council is set to pass a resolution banning cargo trucks from entering the city.

“The council will pass a resolution on Tuesday that would effectively implement a truck ban in the city, particularly in the Dagat-Dagatan area,” Malapitan told The STAR.

He said the city is bent on following Manila’s truck ban out of necessity “because if we don’t, we will be bearing the load.”

Cargo trucks going to Port Area in Manila pass through Dagat-Dagatan Avenue and C-3 Road, creating traffic congestion in the area.

Meanwhile, an administration lawmaker recommended to the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to shift cargo traffic from Manila to the Batangas port to help ease traffic congestion due to ongoing major road construction in the metropolis.

Batangas Rep. Raneo Abu said the BOC should seriously consider this option to lessen the volume of trucks traveling along major thoroughfares in Metro Manila.

“If the BOC issues an administrative order stating that all Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) bound shipments will only be processed in Batangas port then the cargo volume will naturally shift there,” he said.

Abu said the Port of Batangas is so far the only Customs office in the country that is ISO certified, which proves its world-class capability of handling and processing shipment transactions.

Based on data submitted by the International Container Terminal Services Inc. to the PPA in June 2013, 66 percent of cargo volume that pass through the Manila International Container Terminal are bound for Calabarzon.

Laguna-bound shipment accounted for 43 percent of the total cargo in 2012, with shipments bound for San Pedro, Sta. Rosa, Canlubang and Calamba. Batangas accounted for 15 percent and the remaining eight percent for Cavite.

“In our last committee hearing, PPA reported a mere four percent utilization of the Batangas container terminal. This gross underutilization of a facility built using a P5.5-billion loan from the Japanese government is an injustice to the government due to loss of revenue and the people of Batangas as they are deprived of livelihood opportunities,” Abu said.

Batangas port has modern facilities and adequate road infrastructure from Manila to Batangas, Abu said. – With Perseus Echeminada, Rainier Allan Ronda, Rey Galupo, Paolo Romero

Sam Miguel
02-24-2014, 09:58 AM
Exemption of priests from number coding sought
By Edu Punay

(The Philippine Star) | Updated February 24, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Priests, too, are on call.

And with this nature of their job, an official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) pushed to exempt priests from the number coding scheme.

Fr. Edu Gariguez, executive secretary of the CBCP National Secretariat for Social Action, said they should be granted exemption from the scheme because priests need mobility – especially with the anticipated heavy traffic in the major roads in Metro Manila due to the Skyway 3 extension project.

“We need total mobility that’s why if possible we want to be exempted from coding because the work of a priest doesn’t have a fixed time,” he said.

Gariguez lamented their duties to administer last rites for dying persons are usually jeopardized by immobility caused by the traffic-coding scheme.

“For example, there is a sick call, somebody died or somebody is in a life and death situation... we priests need to be there right away to cater to their pastoral needs,” he said.

The Skyway 3 will connect the North Luzon (NLEX) and South Luzon Expressways (SLEX) with an elevated expressway over Osmeña Highway, linking it with Quirino Avenue in Manila.

“If there’s traffic, our ability to give pastoral ministry will suffer,” Gariguez said.

He said the Mass for weddings or even for funerals may also be delayed if the officiating priest is caught in traffic.

“There will be no problem if the priest is just from the area but if the priest is from elsewhere that might pose a problem,” Gariguez said.

02-25-2014, 11:10 AM
Can car-happy L.A. learn to share the road?

Re-imagining the city's streets to accommodate bikes and cars: It's the law, but how will it work?

By The Times editorial board

February 24, 2014

September brought sweet victory to the growing community of California cycling advocates: Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that will prohibit the driver of any motor vehicle from passing a bike rider on the road unless there is 36 inches of space between them. Or, if for some reason that minimal passing distance just isn't possible, drivers will have to slow to a speed that is "reasonable and prudent."

The "3-foot rule" seems quite modest. A yard's worth of pavement between a cruising car or truck and a cyclist, pumping uphill or holding on for dear life on a downward slope, is hardly excessive. Fines are paltry as moving violations go — $35. The law doesn't even take effect until this fall, giving drivers plenty of time to get used to the idea and cyclists and state officials plenty of time to educate them.

But Brown had vetoed two earlier versions of the bill, leaving the impression that California was stuck in a postwar baby boom world in which streets were meant for automobiles alone. The governor's turnabout, after his concerns regarding potential state liability were addressed, was a big deal for cyclists, and perhaps a bit irksome to motorists in a state where car culture enjoyed its blissful adolescence and aggressive young adulthood.

As the bill was being signed, The Times editorial writers were beginning RoadshareLA, an online exploration of the seemingly sudden arrival of cyclists as not just a cultural but a political force in California. Bicycle advocates, for example, helped promote and pass a law — at just about the time the first 3-foot bill was being run off the road — that requires cities and counties to re-imagine their streets as transportation arteries that accommodate the increasing number of cyclists and pedestrians and de-emphasize cars. The law was designed in part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in part to improve road safety, in part to enhance the quality of life in neighborhoods where streets had become commuting-hour freeways, and in part, some argue, to reduce obesity. And, others insist, to keep cities here in competition for young professionals who reject their parents' car-oriented outlook and want to live and work in cities that accommodate their car-free lifestyles.

Assembly Bill 1358, known as the Complete Streets Bill, brought to California a nationwide revolution in how we think about our streets, how they're engineered and how they're ultimately used. Los Angeles has begun to notice some of the effects of that law, not just in the number of bike lanes and cyclists who use them but in "road diets" that remove automobile lanes.

Those lane changes may enhance some communities and protect the safety of cyclists. But they also affect the commuting patterns — and needs — of a city laid out for drivers. Consider the 2nd Street tunnel, an east-west passage between downtown and the rest of the city, and an iconic location featured in countless Hollywood chase scenes and car commercials. It's now in part a bike path, with one less car lane in each direction. Has that change added five or 10 minutes — and untold spewing pollutants from idling cars — to the twice-daily downtown commute? How well are we thinking through such changes? Are cyclists and drivers sharing the road, or are they locked in a struggle for street hegemony?

Until now, cycling advocates and transportation planners have responded to complaints about road diets and slower car traffic by pointing out that restriping is relatively cheap. "It's just paint," they said, and can be scraped off if the new traffic patterns prove undesirable.

But Los Angeles is now preparing its first truly "complete street," on Figueroa, creating bike lanes separated from car traffic by concrete curbs. Road diets will no longer be temporary. It's no longer just paint.

RoadshareLA looked at how other cities handle the interaction between cyclists and drivers, including London and New York. This week RoadshareLA concludes with a look back at lessons learned from the discussion, and forward, seeking an agenda for divvying up the asphalt. Readers can follow and join the conversation at latimes.com/roadshare and #roadshareLA. And they can view two videos — one each from the cyclists' and drivers' point of view — that present the challenges facing all Angelenos who try to share the road.

Sam Miguel
02-25-2014, 01:02 PM
Industry group slams truck ban policies

Urges connector road linking harbor to NLEx, SLEx

By Amy R. Remo

Philippine Daily Inquirer

4:56 am | Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—The European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) has expressed concern about the “delivery chaos” caused by the truck ban and route limitations imposed by government agencies, stressing that this was not the solution to easing the traffic woes in Metro Manila.

In a statement, ECCP president Michael Raeuber noted that the current truck ban imposed by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) created “a reduction in operating time, increases utilization beyond the 70 to 80 percent at peak times, and creates the requirement for more trucks to ply the roads to move accumulated cargoes.”

“To make things worse, the City of Manila threatened to effectively limit port working time to a few hours in the evening, which would create incredible peaks in demand, increase utilization (eventually to 100 percent), increase the required number of trucks in the chain, and eventually shut down trade. That would be close to economic sabotage. At the end of last week, the City of Manila changed tack slightly and opened a window for trucks from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Does that make sense? Will that improve things? Sad to say, no,” Raeuber commented.

The city government of Manila implemented on Monday a new truck ban policy in the city.

Raeuber said the solution to the perceived truck problem was to reduce the so-called peaking factors, which refer to the policies that require more trucks to be in circulation, and the need for truckers to park their vehicles while waiting for the bans to end.

“The single best solution for all of the aforementioned issues is to eliminate all truck bans completely and formulate a proper, coordinated and efficient 24-hour truck route regulation system. This will benefit the entire country and will, to everyone’s surprise, actually reduce the traffic impact of cargo trucks,” Raeuber added.

Over the short term, the ECCP also proposed to remove empty containers from the port area by disallowing their storage there. It was reported that 35 percent of the truck traffic was being caused by those that do not carry any cargo.

Sam Miguel
02-26-2014, 07:58 AM
The flagship traffic decongestion project is a total fraud

February 25, 2014 11:51 pm

by Marlen V. Ronquillo

IN countries where transport planning goes hand in hand with sanity, integrated transport terminals have been archived. The reason is the simple realization that all forms of mass transport should have priority and unhampered use of public infrastructure and roads. In countries such as Singapore, the bus has more right to use public roads than the car of the prime minister.

Who and which get priority in the use of public roads is primordial in modern-day transport planning.

In Munich, which used to be known as the “car capital of the world,” the policy is to encourage walking, biking and mass transport in that order. Rules have been designed to discourage private vehicle ownership.

Where mass transport is the king, and where all modes of mass transport are kings in the use of public infrastructure, the concept of building integrated transport terminals outside of cities has been declared useless and unnecessary. Integrated transport terminals now mean extra stops, extra rides and hampered commute. And a great burden to commuters who do not belong to the top 1 percent.

Even in the US, a society with a fascination for cars, and where cars are synonymous with individual freedom, the debates in the thriving metro areas are about buses and mass transport. San Francisco is right now intensely debating the merits and demerits of Google buses, not the new car models that have been rolled at Detroit. In New York, it is about trains and those blue Citi bikes.

The 21st century has practically eviscerated integrated transport terminals from living memory especially in the countries that do real and serious transport planning.

It is in this context that you really have to ask this question. Why is a dead and obsolete transport policy being resurrected from the dead by the Aquino government? What use will it serve? What economic and social benefits will it bring to the broader society? Why would it do such a thing – move the country backward?

I stand corrected. The Aquino government is not only bringing up this obsolete and senseless policy from the dead. The integrated transport terminal project is in fact part of the centerpiece infra programs of the government under its PPP thrust and it will take billions of pesos to develop it. And it is the main support infrastructure to the supposed traffic decongestion policy of the government. The integrated terminal has been advertised as some sort of ground-breaking idea in transport.

Oh. My. God. Can our planning really violently assault science, environmental needs, and 21st century trends? Why is an outmoded thing at the front, center and back of public planning and policy? Can’t it get this simple point: That buses and other forms of mass transport get the first crack in using public infrastructure and their trips should be point to point and unhampered is backed by the metrics of efficiency.

Buses that use EDSA carry anywhere from 30 to 50 passengers at any given time and the figures applies to both metro and provincial buses. A private vehicle carries one and a half passenger on the average. A gas-guzzling SUV consumes more fossil fuel than the regular diesel-powered bus. From both the reckoning of efficiency and fossil fuel use, buses have the edge. In a normal world, they should be given the full freedom to ply their trade and use the roads. Like what civilized countries have been doing.

Buses and other forms of mass transport carry more people at less fossil fuel and with lesser strain on roads and public infrastructure.

The current experiment to prohibit Cavite provincial buses from entering the city of Manila—and allow loading and unloading commuters only at the Coastal Mall—has not eased the traffic jams in Manila. The Coastal Mall terminal was supposed to relieve Manila of those pesky provincial buses and the supposed monstrous traffic jams that they impact on the city.

With the buses banned from entry into Lawton, or their terminals, hundreds of both legal and colorum jeepneys and UVs have mushroomed in the city and traffic is worse off now. What would you expect when legions of inefficient carriers take the place of a few efficient carriers.

Worse, commuters moving between Cavite and Manila continue to suffer from double trips, additional fares and hour-long waits. The Coastal Mall experiment has brought in mass suffering and commuters have told President Aquino so—and this was during the occasion PNoy went to the Coastal Mall to interview the riding public on what they felt about the experiment. PWDs, senior citizens and pregnant women have been greatly inconvenienced by the double rides.

The results of the experiment are two-fold. An integrated transport terminal will not solve any decongestion purpose. What it does is screw the poor commuters and add to their daily misery and expense.

The integrated transport terminal, if ever it comes into being, will be nothing but a real estate play. The awardee of the contract, an elite consortium or an elite corporate entity for sure, will be given—on a silver platter—a choice real estate development with captive clients, thousands of buses that will be charged per trip.

The broader public, instead of getting express trips into the city, will be greatly inconvenienced by double trips and additional fares. Traffic relief? Come on, we are witness to the zero impact of the Coastal mall experiment.

More, the Philippines will be the laughing stock of transport planners across the globe. It will gain the tarnished reputation as the country that found its Eureka in integrated transport terminals a full century after the terminals have been relegated to the scrap heap of history.

02-26-2014, 09:57 AM
Mayor Estrada and Vice Mayor Moreno defend expanded truck ban

By Neal H. Cruz

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:09 am | Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Last Monday, the first day of the expanded truck ban in Manila and the strike by protesting truckers, Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada came ready: He was dressed in a camouflage uniform. On the first day of the bus ban, he also came in combat fatigues. Asked by journalists at the Kapihan sa Manila at the Diamond Hotel why he was in combat uniform, Erap answered, “I have been challenged by the truckers.”

Asked whether he was packing a gun, he replied “In the car.”

Mayor Estrada was accompanied at the forum by Vice Mayor Isko Moreno and Councilors Manuel Zarcal and Jocelyn Quintos who were the authors of the city ordinance expanding the truck ban.

The city officials defended the truck ban, saying that Manila (in fact, the whole of Metro Manila) has been suffering from traffic congestion for decades and it was time something was done. “Previous city officials did nothing,” Erap said, “now we are finally doing something.”

How would he deal with the striking truckers?

“Sa umpisa lang ’yan,” (That’s only in the beginning), he replied. “People in general do not want to adjust, but once they see the benefits of the change, they follow.”

Erap pointed to the bus ban. “At first, the bus drivers and operators also protested. Now the bus ban is going on smoothly. The drivers and operators are happy. Traffic flows faster and smoother, they save on fuel and the wear and tear on the buses and they earn faster.”

When the expanded truck ban also gets going, the truckers will also be happy, the mayor said. At night, and during the windows in the day when the ban would be lifted, one lane of Roxas Boulevard would be reserved for the trucks. They can deliver their loads faster without disturbing traffic so much.

The truck ban was expanded to provide relief to the thousands of office workers and students who have to leave for their offices and schools at 5 a.m. in order to arrive there at 8 a.m., Erap said. At that time, the trucks are still out in the streets, contributing to the traffic congestion. We are removing the trucks only during the time that students and workers are on the way to their schools or work. When they are already in school and at work later in the day, there is a window for the trucks. During going-home time, the trucks would be banned again.

For the whole night when traffic is light, the truckers can do their deliveries again. Is that not a good arrangement?

But the warehouses are closed at night, the truckers wail.

“They, too, will have to adjust,” Erap said.

On the claim that the economy would suffer because of late deliveries, Vice Mayor Isko countered that “the economy loses P4.1 billion a day because of the traffic jams, according to a study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica). Multiply that by 365 days and the losses to the economy amount to trillions of pesos. The losses due to late deliveries are peanuts compared to that.”

The new schedule gives the truckers an additional five hours to operate for six months. The truckers are now allowed 15 hours to ply Manila’s streets instead of the original planned eight hours.

During these six months, the Philippine Ports Authority will transfer much of the operations of the South Harbor and North Harbor to the Batangas and Subic ports which are underutilized. Cargo bound for south Luzon will be unloaded in Batangas while those bound for north Luzon will be unloaded in Subic.

And that would be in the nick of time. Erap revealed that the Department of Public Works and Highways found cracks in the Del Pan and Sta. Cruz bridges due, no doubt, to the continued stress from passing heavy trucks.

Asked about the claim of the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) that container vans would accumulate in the South Harbor if the truckers declared a strike, Erap replied, “That’s their problem.”

“Why should the people of Manila suffer for their shortcomings? Why do we have to solve their problems?” the mayor added.

Erap and Isko said that the trucks not only contribute to traffic jams but have made Bonifacio Drive, from the Anda Circle to the North Harbor, their private parking lot. The street is always full of trucks double- and triple-parked.

Yet there is plenty of space inside the Port Area. “Why don’t they use that?” Erap asked. “Why are they using our city roads for their parking.”

Isko said the PPA is very strict in allowing vehicles to enter its compound. He revealed that he and Mayor Estrada were prevented from entering when they came for a look-see.

“The mayor and vice mayor of Manila are prevented from entering a place within their jurisdiction?” the reporters asked incredulously.

“Yes, we were.”

Somebody asked why they did not call the police like Mayor Junjun Binay of Makati did when he was prevented from exiting Dasmariñas Village through a closed gate.

We are not like that, they said.

Vice Mayor Isko said “kotong” (extortion) by Manila policemen has been reduced drastically. Proof: City collections from traffic fines has risen from less than P8 million to P11 million a day. The lines of drivers paying their fines at City Hall last the whole day.

“That can only mean that the policemen are arresting more erring drivers and accepting less bribes,” Isko said. “They are afraid of the ‘One Strike Policy’ of President-Mayor Estrada. One strike and you’re out.”

Erap was asked to explain his “tampuhan” with Vice President Jejomar Binay, his political ally, over the Central Market.

Erap explained that SM has offered to rebuild Central Market for free. Manila has a usufruct on the land which belongs to an agency of the national government of which Binay is the vice chair.

“Here is our chance,” Erap said. “Manila is bankrupt. It cannot afford to rehabilitate the Central Market on its own. SM is heaven-sent. Why not accept its offer?”

02-26-2014, 11:00 AM
Truck holiday


By Ana Marie Pamintuan

(The Philippine Star) | Updated February 26, 2014 - 12:00am

Give Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada credit for trying to ease traffic flow in his congested city.

Perhaps his truck ban is his way of trying to make up for allowing that Shell “eco-marathon” to cripple traffic in the city for a week, and the traffic-stopping events staged periodically by the Iglesia Ni Cristo, whose support he (like most other politicians) courts.

Yesterday, Day 2 of the truck ban, traffic flowed smoothly in the city in the morning, but was blocked in the afternoon all the way to Pasay because of a rally near the US embassy. You need to be a public nuisance in this country to attract attention (and raise funds).

Mayor Erap gave truckers a window from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to operate, in addition to the night hours of 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. The daytime window is shorter than the previous one. Several streets were also closed to vehicles turning from Roxas Boulevard, to ease traffic while public works projects are being undertaken. Truckers are staging an indefinite “holiday” in protest.

The truckers are also complaining about the fines imposed for illegal parking on city streets during the truck ban hours. City officials are correct in noting that truckers preposition their vehicles along major thoroughfares long before the allowed operating hours. The prepositioning turns city streets into parking lots, tying up traffic even when a truck ban is supposed to be in place.

Motorists of course welcome the respite from traffic jams especially around Manila’s Port Area.

City Hall is correct in trying to impose traffic discipline. The Manila port, after all, is not an independent republic like the special zone in Cagayan. Too often I have seen truck drivers around Manila’s Port Area ignoring traffic lights, and then nearly running over and ignoring traffic cops who try to pull them over.

In prepositioning for their operating hours, drivers also occupy nearly the entire street, leaving only one lane for moving traffic.

Many of the truck haulers are blatant smoke belchers and have smudged license plates. Their poor maintenance is evident in their frequent breakdowns and tire blowouts, often in the middle of busy streets and flyovers.

Truckers can use some discipline.

* * *

On the other hand, city officials may have to work out a compromise to minimize disruptions in the supply chain.

Nighttime work means overtime pay, for Customs and port personnel and private trucking firms. The added costs resulting from the truck ban are sure to be passed on to end users of all the shipments now piling up, with some of them starting to rot, at the Manila International Container Port, the South Harbor and Manila North Harbor.

The cargo pileup is on top of the serious delays since last year in the release of shipments in the country’s principal port, largely due to the scandals and consequent major reorganization in the Bureau of Customs. A recent report said many shipments would have to wait up to five months to be released from the port. Consequently, the appalling delay opens doors for “facilitation fees” in the BOC.

About 1,500 shipping containers arrive in Manila’s port daily, and many more are shipped out. The truck holiday will be felt in the tightening of supplies, and we can expect all additional logistics costs to be passed on eventually to consumers.

Manila has always been a port city. The bay provides a safe harbor that lured the earliest settlers to what would become a bustling city. The Spaniards conquered the settlement and built the seat of the colonial government along the river that opens into the bay. The port city, which was also the base of colonial Customs operations, was a hub of the galleon trade. Manila flourished as a port.

Now we’re trying to limit port operations because of the needs of the community that developed around the port. It’s like driving away the oil depot from Pandacan, around which residential areas later sprung originally to house those who worked in the depot.

We wouldn’t be facing these problems in the city if policy makers were aware of planned development back when it was still possible to implement it. But it’s too late for this now, and there’s no use wringing our hands over what should have been. Everything is easier in hindsight.

The Manila port is truly congested. Making full use of the Batangas port should ease the load in the city. Sangley Point in Cavite may also be developed to accommodate shipments intended for the Manila port.

Another solution is to build a modern railway from Manila so fewer shipping containers will be loaded onto lumbering, air-polluting trucks. But we seem incapable of building even a kilometer of railway without the project becoming bogged down in a corruption scandal. So scratch this possibility, it’s mission impossible.

With few short-term options, and with several infrastructure projects expected to worsen traffic until 2016, Mayor Erap has decided to do what he can.

There are no simple answers to this problem. Everyone concerned must be open to a compromise. It cannot be business as usual in Manila’s port.

Sam Miguel
02-28-2014, 01:02 PM
Don’t blame Manila, blame the truckers

By Neal H. Cruz

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:18 am | Friday, February 28th, 2014

Commuting in Manila has been a breeze in the last four days since the city imposed the expanded truck ban. The drive from Quezon City to Manila, which used to take me almost two hours, now takes less than an hour. My route crosses some of the streets used by the trucks in going to and from Port Area. If you ask the commuters their opinion on the truck ban, they would say that it is heaven-sent. But if you ask the truckers, they will say that it is evil itself.

The Philippine Economic Zone Authority (Peza) and the Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI) are siding with the truckers. They say Manila’s expanded truck ban will cripple businesses and result in economic and job losses.

Records show that 68 percent of cargo that land in the Port of Manila goes to the economic zones in Calabarzon (the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) in Southern Luzon, and the rest to Northern Luzon. Wouldn’t it be more economical and faster to land cargo bound for Calabarzon at the Batangas port? Cargo bound for Northern Luzon can be unloaded at the Port of Subic. Imagine the time and fuel that can be saved. Imagine the savings in economic losses brought about by the traffic jams in Manila and neighboring cities. Vice Mayor Isko Moreno estimates that the economic losses due to traffic congestion amount to trillions of pesos every year, based on the study of the Japan International Cooperation Agency that the Philippine economy loses P4.1 billion daily to traffic gridlock.

“Multiply that by 365 days a year,” the vice mayor said, “and you have the total amount of economic losses due to the traffic jams.”

The truckers will learn that the truck ban is for everybody’s benefit, including the truckers, said Mayor Joseph Estrada. They wouldn’t have to crawl through city traffic in their giant truck trailers. “The trouble is they do not want to adjust,” he added. “Everybody has to adjust.”

The city of Manila has given the truckers another five-hour window to ply the city roads during the daytime. And the Philippine Ports Authority has agreed to open Port Area for the parking of trucks, thus freeing Bonifacio Drive which used to be packed with double- and triple-parked trucks, including the top of Del Pan Bridge which now has cracks, according to the Department of Public Works and Highways, doubtless due to the continuous heavy load on it.

The Peza and FPI should not blame the city of Manila for late deliveries of cargo. They should blame instead the truckers, who have declared a strike and refused to deliver cargo in order to force the city government to lift the truck ban.

The truck ban is for the greater good of the majority of the people. The truckers are thinking only of themselves. (Truckers groups suspended their “truck holiday” after a meeting with Mayor Estrada late Wednesday. Trucks loaded with cargo are now allowed to travel through Manila from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.—ED.)

* * *

A consumer bloc now claims “conflict of interest” of two companies that own the AP consortium, the winning bidder in the highly controversial P1.72-billion LRT-MRT single-ticketing system project.

Oliver San Antonio, legal counsel and spokesperson of the Coalition of Filipino Consumers (CFC), an umbrella organization of five urban groups, says the bids and awards committee of the Department of Transportation and Communications should explain why it allowed Ayala Land and Metro Pacific Investment Corp. to participate in the bidding for the project.

But why is it raising the “conflict of interest” issue only now that the winning bidder has been announced? It had all the time to raise the issue during the prequalification stage. But that is the usual rigmarole that follows public bidding in the Philippines. The losing bidders always find reason to seek the disqualification of the winning bidders.

But here is the argument of the CFC: “The bidding rules state that a prospective bidder, together with its affiliates or any of its affiliates who holds more than 50 percent of the outstanding voting shares in the concession of LRT1, LRT2 or MRT3, and any bidder who holds an aggregate of more than 30 and 1/3 percent of the outstanding voting shares in the concessionaire, is disqualified from the project. Likewise, a bidder with a pending civil or criminal suit with the government is disqualified.

“Documents submitted by the AP consortium show that Metro Pacific Investment Corp. owns 49 percent outstanding shares of stock of the consortium while Ayala Land owns about 18 percent. Combined, these two companies own 67 percent of the AP consortium.

“Ayala Land owns and operates MRT Corp., the train operator of MRT3. Metro Pacific has a pending arbitration case against the Philippine government in Singapore filed in January 2009 for failure to pay equity rental payments to MRT3.”

Says San Antonio: “Clearly, these two companies own majority shares in the AP consortium, and I know that the gentlemen of the DOTC knew it. Why then did they opt to proceed with the bidding?

“It is clear that there is a problem because Ayala Land is the operator while Metro Pacific filed a case against the government. Had the DOTC undertaken a due diligence check, the agency should have disqualified the AP consortium.”

According to San Antonio, the rules are in place to prevent a situation where just one company will operate MRT3 trains and the payment system. “The rules want a check and balance between the train operator and the operator of the payment system to avoid possible manipulation of ridership volume figures,” he says.

The AP consortium offers to pay P800 million in staggered amounts over the next 10 years on condition that ridership volume reaches P750 million worth per quarter. “If the AP consortium wins the bidding, then it can dictate the volume figures since Ayala Land owns MRTC,” says San Antonio.

02-28-2014, 02:17 PM
The Mean Streets of New York


FEB. 27, 2014

WITHIN a two-block radius on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, three pedestrians have lost their lives in separate traffic accidents since Jan. 1. Nineteen more have been killed elsewhere in the city since the beginning of the year. Those 22 are just the latest in the city’s epidemic of traffic fatalities. Last year 176 pedestrians were killed by cars and trucks in the city, according to police data, the most since 2008.

Recently, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a new campaign against traffic fatalities, called Vision Zero, including more ticketing, lower speed limits and redesigning intersections. Meanwhile, the police have cracked down on jaywalkers and put up signs and barriers encouraging people to cross with the light, and the department is investing in equipment like laser speed guns and speed and red light cameras. These are all good ideas. But the problem isn’t just inadequate policing, distracted pedestrians or reckless motorists. It’s that the design of our streets does not match the way they are being used.

In urban planning circles, city streets are generally considered to be among the safest kind of roadways. They tend to have narrower lanes, a lot of right angles and a lot of general hustle and bustle — “social friction,” as transportation planners call it. There are trees, parked cars and other “fixed objects,” all things drivers need to navigate around with more precision than, say, a wide open country road.

New York City is full of such streets. So why are pedestrian fatalities increasing?

Consider where the majority of the pedestrian fatalities are happening. Last year, Queens was the deadliest borough for pedestrians, with many of the deaths happening on wide, fast-moving arteries like Northern Boulevard, the Cross Island Parkway and Queens Boulevard.

The Bronx, also home to many of these thoroughfares, had the biggest increase last year, more than double the number in 2012. The fatalities have also occurred on scenic but fast-moving roadways like Prospect Park West in Brooklyn or West End Avenue in Manhattan.

These streets are not intimate village blocks; they are major corridors that more closely resemble arterial roads, those fast-moving stretches of four- to eight-lane thoroughfares that connect one suburban town to another, on which cars travel up to 60 miles an hour.

Such roads are famously dangerous for pedestrians. Eric Dumbaugh, the director of the School of Urban and Regional Planning at Florida Atlantic University, has found that every additional mile of arterial road increases traffic fatalities by as much as 15 percent.

But New York City’s fast-moving roadways are different from suburban arterial roads in one big way: The cars share them with millions of pedestrians. We have roadways designed around the car, in a city teeming with ever more people on foot.

Any comprehensive approach to traffic fatalities has to take aim at redesigning these roads. Queens Boulevard, for example, isn’t a city street; it is a highway masquerading as one. We should either call it a highway, and build medians, barriers or even pedestrian bridges, or treat it like a city street and make the lanes narrower, add more stoplights and crosswalks, and install obstacles and other elements of “social friction.” (Another tool: trees with branches that extend over the street creating a canopy that, like social friction, acts as a naturally occurring slowing device.)

Transportation planners talk about the benefits of “street diets,” efforts to slim down car lanes and add elements like bike lanes, planters or pedestrian plazas with tables and chairs. Just look at the groundbreaking work of Janette Sadik-Khan, the former New York City transportation commissioner who re-engineered many of the city’s most sprawling intersections as public plazas, most famously turning the stretch of Broadway in Times Square into 2.5 acres of new pedestrian space. Injuries dropped by 40 percent in the wake of the changes.

These things don’t have to cost a lot of money: Ms. Sadik-Khan initially transformed Times Square with paint and lawn chairs. Besides, it seems like a natural opportunity for a big corporate donor to own a cause that’s just as noble as bike sharing, and will save lives.

It is wrong to place all the blame on drivers for going fast on roads that are designed for them to do just that, and it’s unfair to blame pedestrians for not being careful enough when they are behaving exactly as smart, sensible pedestrians behave. The problem is how we are mixing the two together.

All the pedestrian warnings in the world won’t matter if we’re encouraging foot traffic where motorists are hitting highway speeds. It’s like removing all the guardrails at the top of the Empire State Building and expecting people to use common sense not to fall off.

Traffic fatalities are not like some of our most vexing public health issues with no obvious solution or cure, like autism or cancer. There is a clear and proven way to fix the problem. Why not go for the easy win that’s also the right thing to do? The path forward is obvious — and narrower, safer and better landscaped.

03-06-2014, 02:42 PM
Solutions to traffic gridlock


By Elfren S. Cruz

(The Philippine Star) | Updated March 6, 2014 - 12:00am

The issues regarding the daytime truck ban to solve the traffic gridlock in Manila may be off the headlines temporarily, but these have to be addressed again after the eight-month reprieve by the city government. Ever since I wrote a column supporting the daytime truck ban, I have received several proposals that merit serious consideration.

The most logical and meritorious was sent by Presidential Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma. Here is his proposal:

“Elfren, thanks for sharing your thoughts on the truck ban. When I was Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Undersecretary in 1990, Secretary Oscar Orbos initiated a ‘night delivery’ program participated in voluntarily by the Port Area truckers. In effect, this was also a daytime truck ban, except it wasn’t called such. For a two-week period, Metro Manila streets were clear of big trucks. The truckers said they fared better because during the day they could hardly manage two round trips.

Our limited resource is road space. Our underutilized resource is time (night hours). If we can make the Customs and Port Authority operate a night shift, and if big establishments — supermarkets, groceries – will accept night deliveries, even if they incur additional costs on overtime and night differential, then this can be a viable concept. Sonny”

I asked Secretary Coloma if I could quote his message because I really thought it provided some sense in a seemingly heated and emotionally-laden debate. Here was his answer:

“Yes, you may, if only to provide some sort of perspective to today’s heated debate. The thrust of our messaging today is that we must seek win-win solutions that build upon common ground. That was what Secretary Orbos invoked more than 20 years ago.

Another interesting factoid: a key person in bringing this about in 1990 was Juan Sta. Ana, then Port of Manila manager of the Philippine Ports Authority. He was key in arranging an agreement among truckers to work with the port authorities. Today, Sta. Ana is the general manager of the Philippine Port Authority.”

In a recent interview, DOTC Secretary Jun Abaya said the solution to the issue of traffic decongestion in Metro Manila is to divert shipping and delivery operations to the ports of Subic and Batangas. According to him, this solution requires mutual agreement among shipping companies, exporters, importers, and trucking companies.

My personal impression is that Abaya wants to decongest Manila but seems reluctant to actively intervene in any way. Instead he is relying on the shippers and truckers to place national interest ahead of their personal interest and start moving out voluntarily.

Shifting to Batangas or Subic will require additional investments by the shippers and trucking companies. Abaya must find some other means of motivating these firms to transfer operations. I seriously doubt whether appealing to their sense of patriotism or national interest will work.

But based on the responses of these officials and the general public, my impression is that there is general agreement that the streets of Metro Manila must be decongested and one of the short term solutions is to impose a daytime truck ban. The question is how to address the problem of companies receiving the goods necessary to continue operating.

Again, it seems that there are many who have concrete proposals. For example, I received the following message from one of my former MBA students in De La Salle University, Gerard Boz C. Tungol, who is now a manager in the Development Bank of the Philippines. He wrote:

“I agree sir [with the daytime trucking ban]. Some of the solutions to the problems facing companies relying on these delivery trucks are as follows:

The utilization of ports in Batangas and Olongapo will also result in decongestion as more workers will transfer and stay in these areas as employment opportunities will be presented. Hiring more trucks during the times that trucks are not banned will also provide opportunities for the expansion of trucking companies. Adjusting lead times for ordering is another solution.”

Manila can experience an economic renaissance by being a premiere destination in Asia. As I have mentioned before, the potential tourism magnets are present within this one city. Aside from the places I have mentioned like Intramuros, Fort Santiago and Binondo, I should add the Ermita-Malate and Paco Park areas. In Bangkok, there is a tour of temples. Manila can offer a tour of cathedrals and churches — Manila Cathedral, San Augustin, Malate, Ermita, Paco, Sta. Cruz, Binondo and Quiapo — if this could be packaged into a one-day tour which requires abolishing the traffic gridlock.

Tourism is the best generator of jobs in the short term. Think of a million tourists spending $1 billion in the city of Manila. This is equivalent to P45 billion. But tourist spending will have a multiplier effect. The tour operators, guides, restaurant employees and shop owners will spend what they have earned and purchase goods and services from other businesses, and so on and so forth.

A $1 billion injection into the economy can, with a multiplier of 10, result in actual economic boost equivalent to P450 billion. But even half of that would mean jobs and decent lives for so many families.

A daytime trucking ban leading to traffic decongestion will not be the only requirement to convert Manila into a commercial and tourism center. But it is an essential first step.

This whole issue concerning the truck ban should not just be seen as a traffic issue. This is an economic solution to the need for more jobs. This is a necessity for the renaissance of Manila to once again be the Pearl of the Orient.

* * *

Sam Miguel
03-07-2014, 08:42 AM
PPA to blame for congestion in Port Area

By Neal H. Cruz

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:12 am | Friday, March 7th, 2014

It is turning out that the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) is to blame for the traffic jams in Manila. Huge truck trailers that haul container vans to and from the Port Area use the narrow streets of Manila, thus contributing to traffic jams. Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada and Vice Mayor Isko Moreno conducted a four-month study of the problem. They concluded that if the trucks were confined to nighttime hours when traffic was light, daytime traffic would be free of the huge trucks and there would be less congestion. So they expanded the existing truck ban to start at 5 a.m., when most students and office workers go to their schools and offices. But the truckers, not used to changing their ways, protested and declared a strike. No cargo left the Port Area during the strike, thus denying manufacturing companies their supplies.

Manila gave the truckers a daytime window during which they could ply the city streets for six hours more, the time it would take the Batangas and Subic ports to take some of the cargo from the Manila port. The city also reserved one lane of Roxas Boulevard, from the Port Area to the outskirts of Manila going to Cavite, for the cargo trucks.

During all the years that the problem had festered, the trucks used Bonifacio Drive, from Intramuros to the North and South Harbors, including the top of Del Pan Bridge and other side streets, as their parking lot while waiting to be allowed to enter the Port Area to get or deliver their cargo. Long lines of trucks, were double- or triple-parked on the city streets.

Some drivers slung hammocks under their trucks where they slept while waiting. During the long wait, the drivers relieved themselves on the streets.

“Why are they using city streets as their parking lots and toilets when there is plenty of space inside the Port Area?” Erap and Isko asked.

There are 300 hectares of vacant space inside the Port Area that can be used for parking, but the PPA refused to let the truckers in until it is their turn to get their cargoes loaded. Why? Probably because they do not want the drivers to urinate and defecate in the premises because there are no toilets there.

Mayor Estrada offered to build toilets for them there, at the city’s expense, but so far the PPA has not given him the go-signal.

Why do the drivers have to wait so long for their cargo? Because the port is overcrowded; it is receiving cargo beyond its capacity. And a large part is occupied by empty container vans.

The congestion has been building up for years but the PPA has done nothing to solve the problem. The PPA spent billions of pesos to build the Batangas port but did not equip it to handle much cargo. At present, the Batangas port is only 20 percent utilized. The same is true with the Subic port.

The PPA and its operators also run the Batangas and Subic ports. The mystery is: Why are they hesitant to shift some of Manila’s port operations to these two alternate ports?

If they had made preparations for the shift earlier, the present problem in the Manila port would not have come about.

More than 60 percent of the cargo unloaded in Manila is bound for Calabarzon (the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon). It would be more economical to unload the cargo in the Batangas port. Think of the savings in fuel and time: The trucks would be traveling much shorter distances from the Batangas port to their final destinations.

Only a very small portion of the cargo landed in Manila is bound for areas in and around Metro Manila. The rest is bound for Northern Luzon and should be unloaded at the Subic port. The Batangas and Subic ports have been there for years. Why didn’t the PPA shift some of the cargo being unloaded in Manila to these alternate ports? What or how many are the reasons for the procrastination?

Unfortunately, it is only the PPA who can order the cargo ships where to dock. If it tells the ships to dock at Batangas and Subic instead of Manila, they would comply. So why is the PPA not doing anything?

I think President Aquino should talk to the PPA officials and make some heads roll, if necessary.

* * *

The Pasig River Ferry is finally being revived by the Metro Manila Development Authority. Starting April, an improvised “river bus” will ply the Pasig River between Intramuros and Guadalupe, thus providing commuters an alternate means of transportation.

The river bus is a tugboat fitted with the body and seats of a minibus. It can seat 40 passengers.

Traveling by water through Metro Manila is certainly better than sweltering in crowded buses and jeepneys that crawl through traffic. But isn’t an hour and a half from Guadalupe to Intramuros too long considering that there is barely any traffic on the river?

MMDA Chair Francis Tolentino claimed that it was because the river bus was overloaded with reporters and media crews whom he had invited for the dry run.

What about the stink of the polluted river, which had made commuters shy away from using the earlier ferryboats?

“The smell is gone; the river is cleaner now” was the answer. But even if the river still emits a foul odor, it would not be difficult to close the windows of the river bus and have it air-conditioned.

03-18-2014, 09:46 AM
Wrong solution

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:11 am | Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Manila’s ban on trucks is the wrong solution to the traffic problem in the city. It is only a solution to a local problem that had negative nationwide repercussions.

The adverse economic impact of the truck ban is now emerging. The Bureau of Customs has admitted that the truck ban is hurting government revenue collections. It said in a statement that on Feb. 24-26, the Port of Manila and the Manila International Container Port (MICP) posted losses of P272.59 million and P217.39 million, respectively. Before the truck ban, the two ports had daily average collections of P712.9 million.

Customs also said that on Feb. 24, the first day of the truck ban, the release of container vans from the MICP fell to only four from an average 2,150 a day, and the release of container vans from the Port of Manila plunged to zero from an average 1,200 a day. Customs said this resulted in the “dramatic decline in revenue collections in the two ports.” On Feb. 24, collections at the MICP slumped 27 percent to P262.8 million, and at the Port of Manila, collections fell by a sharper 47 percent to P134.4 million.

Earlier, Citi economist Jun Trinidad estimated that the truck ban in Manila could cost the Philippine economy as much as P320 billion and put at risk about a million manufacturing jobs, unless an alternative transport linkage would be found between the economic zones in Calabarzon (the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) and the Port of Manila. Trinidad noted that the ensuing transportation bottleneck could slice as much as 5 percent off the Philippines’ gross domestic product. His was one of the first private-sector reports to quantify the economic cost of Manila’s truck ban, suggesting a magnitude that may later require “intervention” from the national government. In peso terms, the GDP costs were estimated at a high of P320 billion, which Trinidad said would dwarf the potential benefits of P30 billion in real terms from the reduced traffic targeted by the truck ban.

The new policy imposed by Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada bans eight-wheelers and vehicles with a gross weight of more than 4,500 kilos from plying city streets between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. There is a temporary concession to allow trucks to ply the streets between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. over the next six to eight months, but this window is still deemed insufficient by officials of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority and ecozone locators.

Last week, German companies operating here joined the clamor for the lifting of the truck ban, stressing that the “regretful” policy would cripple the Philippines’ booming economy. Nadine Fund, general manager of the German-Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, explained that while the truck ban could provide immediate relief to motorists and residents, it would eventually result in job losses not only to truck drivers but also to employees of companies adversely affected by the ban. Even earlier, the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines Inc. urged the lifting of the ban.

It is truly frustrating that the government of Manila implemented such a ban without considering the bigger picture. As the German chamber’s Fund had pointed out, “the city government should conduct a thorough study on how to ease the traffic in the city without disrupting businesses.” We agree with her proposed short-term solution that Estrada can very well consider: Remove all illegally parked vehicles on major routes of delivery trucks in the city. This should also be done in other congested cities and the lone municipality in Metro Manila.

The national government should not allow a protracted impasse between businesses and the Manila government. What is unfolding is indeed what Citi’s Trinidad described as a “simmering policy conflict” between national-government plans that seek to fast-track growth, including jobs and income creation, and local-government objectives with legitimate but isolated cost-benefit concerns directed at limited constituencies. We believe that the national government should now intervene to resolve the crisis caused by a local policy on the national economy. It should not wait for the revenue losses to private businesses and to the national government to pile up before taking decisive action.

03-18-2014, 09:48 AM
Truck ban: the bigger picture

By Cielito F. Habito

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:07 am | Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Did the city government of Manila do the right thing when it started banning heavy trucks from its streets from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. last Feb. 24? After a three-day strike by truckers, Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada allowed “window hours” from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for trucks with loaded containers on a two-week trial period. Last week, the two-week trial was extended to six months. Still, this leaves trucks with two hours less to ply the city streets, compared to previous rules that only banned them within 6-9 a.m. and 5-9 p.m. Now the city council also wants a share of the income from port operations, citing that Manila “continues to unduly bear the brunt of very demanding and extensive port-related activities,” while its people suffer from increased traffic congestion, pollution, structural road damage and risks of vehicular accidents.

While businessmen have been up in arms against the ban, the issue is best viewed within a wider and longer-term perspective. It is true that the move has disrupted the flow of commerce and operations of factories critically dependent on timely delivery of imported inputs and products for export. Still, I welcome the move to the extent that it sets in motion decisive actions that would finally put aright an anomalous situation brought about by contradictory moves by the previous administration on our ports system. I’ve lamented how the past leadership caused substantial capacity expansion at the Manila port, after borrowing P16.8 billion from the Japanese government to develop the Batangas and Subic ports (“A colossal contradiction,” Opinion, 9/11/12). Decongesting Metro Manila was prominent in then President Arroyo’s intended 10-point legacy. In the 2004 Master Plan for the Strategic Development of the National Port System, redirecting cargo traffic to those two ports was aimed to decongest the Port of Manila, and with it Manila streets, especially with container trucks taking an estimated 44.2 percent of road space in routes feeding the port.

As of late 2012, five years after completion of the Batangas Port Development Project Phase II and Subic Bay Port Development Project, capacity utilization in both ports was a measly 4.2 and 5.6 percent, respectively. Batangas Port only had one ship call (by MCC Transport) every week, while Subic only had Wan Hai and APL making ship calls every Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. The Batangas Port management has already decided to lease out most of its sprawling but unused container yard to an engineering company, if only to earn revenues for paying back the massive foreign loan that financed it.

Meanwhile, Port of Manila is the port-of-call of 23 container liner shipping companies, thereby getting 98 percent of the foreign container traffic in Luzon. What appalls me is that firms located near or even adjacent to the Subic and Batangas ports still ship their cargo out of the Port of Manila. New expressways to both the Batangas and Subic ports are now in place, but cargo transported on them has so far flowed in the reverse direction from what was intended!

Why do cargo owners insist on shipping in and out of Manila port, even when they are next door to either Subic or Batangas ports? It’s really basic economics: Shipping freight charges are much lower when you ship to or from Manila. For example, it costs $100 less to ship a 20-foot container from Singapore to Manila than to Batangas, and $170 less for a 40-foot container. To export out of Subic, ocean freight is $100-$150 higher than if shipped out of Manila. Even as port-related charges including trucking services and cargo-handling fees are much cheaper for Batangas and Subic compared to Manila, these could not offset the freight cost disadvantage for both Subic and Batangas relative to Manila.

Why the substantial freight cost advantage? The answer is economies of scale: Historically, much larger volumes handled make it possible to charge lower unit rates. Left alone, cargo owners will naturally prefer the Manila port, and the cost disadvantage of the Subic and Batangas ports will persist and possibly even grow over time. Besides, truckers, freight forwarders and logistics firms are mostly in Metro Manila, and thus naturally favor working with Manila port rather than Batangas and Subic ports. Developing these other ports was not enough, then. The goal of having them relieve and decongest Manila port simply will not happen unless government deliberately intervenes to make Batangas and Subic more attractive for shippers. The Manila truck ban does exactly that. A textbook solution would be to tax shipments going through Manila port at a rate high enough to wipe out its freight cost advantage over the other two. Or government can force the shift outright, perhaps by requiring freight forwarders, trucking and logistics companies to relocate nearer the Batangas and Subic ports, while halting any further growth in capacity in the Manila port.

The Department of Labor and Employment is reportedly convening a truckers’ summit to address the concerns of the workers in industrial zones affected by the truck ban. Better still, the Department of Transport and Communications should bring together all the key players and stakeholders—shipping companies, freight forwarders, logistics firms, truckers, industrialists, consumers and motorists—to a grand summit to agree on and commit to long term solutions that will decongest the Manila port, ease Manila traffic, and in the process promote further industrial development in and beyond southern and central Luzon. That way we’d get more dispersed and inclusive growth.

Sam Miguel
08-06-2014, 08:17 AM
1 dead as cargo truck hits 7 vehicles

Accident ties up traffic for hours on 3 lanes of C5 Road in Taguig City

By Kristine Felisse Mangunay |Philippine Daily Inquirer4:37 am | Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

MANILA, Philippines–A man was killed while several others were hurt after a 14-wheel truck weighed down by its cargo of sand rolled down a sloping portion of C5 Road in Taguig City and hit seven other vehicles on Monday morning.

Marcos Dalida of the city government’s Traffic Management Office said the accident happened on the southbound lane of the busy thoroughfare near Market! Market! at Bonifacio Global City around 4 a.m.

The cargo truck with plate number UNE 539, Dalida said, ended up hitting seven vehicles following it—a Toyota Innova with plate number NQM 407 driven by Raymond Castañeda; an Isuzu truck with plate number WSU 554 driven by Edwin Cruz Orsino; a Toyota Vios taxi with plate number UVY 860 whose driver has yet to be identified; a Hyundai Accent taxi with plate number UPP 876 driven by Jaime Lucernas Poroy; a Nissan Sentra taxi with plate number TSP 314 driven by Randy Maligo Cabrera; a Mitsubishi Mirage with plate number UOK 417 driven by Benedict Herbas; and an Elf truck with plate number TKN 521 driven by Joselito Marquez.

Traffic investigator PO3 Ramil Erlanda said the cargo truck slammed into the seven vehicles with such force that it caused one of them, the Elf truck, to burst into flames.

The fire trapped one of the Elf’s passengers, Richard Parado, inside the vehicle, killing him, Erlanda said.

“He was unable to jump out after the 14-wheeler truck hit the Elf truck so he was burnt inside the vehicle,” the traffic investigator explained.

According to Erlanda, the cargo truck stopped only after it hit the side of the road, causing it to tilt and fall on its left side.

He told the Inquirer that around 10 were injured, either passengers or drivers of the vehicles involved in the crash. Dalida, however, said they counted just four.

“[Those injured] included a passenger in one of the taxis, and the driver of the Mirage, among others,” Erlanda said, adding that the victims, who were taken to the Ospital ng Makati, all sustained minor injuries.

Initial reports failed to identify the driver of the cargo truck who escaped.

Later in the day, Erlanda identified the driver as Larry Mirandilla, 38.

According to the information provided by the owner of the cargo truck, Treasure Rock Movers Co., based in Laguna, Mirandilla was with two truck helpers, one of them identified as Jeric de Guzman.

The other one, Erlanda said, has yet to be identified as he was a new employee and had no company records.

Erlanda told the Inquirer that based on their investigation, the two helpers had tried to stop the cargo truck from sliding down the sloping road by putting stoppers behind its tires.

“But when that didn’t work, (all three, including the driver) escaped,” he said.

According to Erlanda, the driver will face charges of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide and multiple physical injuries.

The accident tied up traffic on three lanes of C5 Road, leaving only one lane open to vehicles. As a result, traffic backed up for hours in the area and spilled over to adjacent roads, leaving motorists stuck in their vehicles for hours.

According to the traffic investigator, the delay in the clearing of vehicles involved in the accident was due to “misinformation.”
The first responders, according to him, were Makati traffic enforcers.

“But after 30 minutes, Bonifacio Global City marshals came to us and said (the incident was under the jurisdiction of Taguig),” Erlanda said.

Archimedes Silvallana of the Taguig City government’s Traffic Management Office said it took some time for the towing truck of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) used for clearing operations to arrive at the site.

“The call for the towing truck came late,” he explained.

The MMDA said that the area was cleared of all the vehicles involved in the crash at 10:28 a.m.

Sam Miguel
08-06-2014, 08:18 AM
‘U-turns, not truck policy, causing Katipunan jams’

By Jaymee T. Gamil |

Philippine Daily Inquirer 3:59 am |

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

MANILA, Philippines–Days after the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) went finger-pointing over the daily traffic jams on Katipunan Avenue, the police officer in charge of the Quezon City thoroughfare said the MMDA actually shared part of the blame.

Quezon City Police District (QCPD) Traffic Sector 3 head Chief Insp. Erlito Trinidad Renegin said that while traffic jams had been a perennial problem on the national road, it got worse due to MMDA measures such as the opening of U-turn slots and the ban on trucks along Edsa.

“When I was assigned to the Quezon City police in 1997, Katipunan was still wide open. It became congested only when it started serving as an alternative route for trucks banned from plying Edsa,” Renegin told the Inquirer on Tuesday.

Renegin also blamed the U-turn slots that had been opened on Katipunan “since the time of [MMDA] Chair Bayani Fernando” and now force vehicles to take “up to two lanes” just to make a turn.

Commuter jeepney drivers who disregard the proper loading or unloading bays on Katipunan add to the problem, he said.

Earlier, MMDA Chair Francis Tolentino said the number of trucks taking Katipunan increased by more than 80 percent from last year’s figures due to the “nonapprehension policy” being implemented by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) for trucks yet to comply with its franchising requirements.

But Renegin disputed this: “I don’t see any change in traffic on Katipunan (because of the LTFRB policy).” He pointed out that the policy only applied to colorum or unregistered trucks for hire, not to trucks violating the MMDA truck ban and other traffic regulations.

“The truck ban is still in effect (here). The trucks still come out all at the same time and use the same routes,” Renegin said. “If they have traffic violations, we still apprehend them.”

Sam Miguel
08-06-2014, 08:24 AM
LTFRB: Stop pinning blame, work on solutions to traffic woes

By Frances Mangosing |

INQUIRER.net 2:30 pm |

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

MANILA, Philippines – Putting the blame on one another should stop and instead solutions must be sought to the worsening case of traffic in the Metro Manila, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board on Tuesday said.

“We should not blame each other. Let’s work on solutions,” LTFRB Chairman Winston Ginez said in an interview aired over Radyo Inquirer 990AM.

Metro Manila Mayors and the Metro Manila Development Authority are blaming the LTFRB over the severe traffic congestion after it issued the new “no apprehension policy” for “colorum” or illegal trucks and its order allowing provincial buses to once again pass through EDSA.

The LTFRB’s resolution extends the “no apprehension policy” of all trucks-for-hire freight services with green plates and allows it to ply metro roads outside MMDA’s truck-ban hours from July 29 to August 29. This is to allow them to apply for a franchise and provisional authority.

Ginez said the economy should also be considered.

“They also need to do their jobs to deliver goods, imports and exports. If we did not address it and we apprehend them just like that the economy will also be affected. It also causes congestion to ports,” Ginez said.

“Our problems with trucks are not simple. It is very complex due to lack of roads, increasing population, new vehicles and mass transport problems,” he said.

Quoting a news report on MMDA figures, Ginez said that there were 79,000 trucks and 13,600 trailers in Metro Manila. Only 28,000 have applied for a franchise.

Trucks without provisional authority may apply until August 29.

“They have to undergo regulation otherwise after deadline we will continue to implement higher fines,” Ginez said.

On Monday, Metro mayors and MMDA unanimously approved a resolution defying the circulars issued by LTFRB. They warned truck operators to comply with the truck ban of the MMDA and bus operators were told to stick to their approved routes. MMDA will continue apprehending truck-ban violators and drivers.

Sam Miguel
08-06-2014, 09:08 AM
That mishap on C-5

By Rina Jimenez-David |

Philippine Daily Inquirer 3:14 am |

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

We were on the road Monday morning, leaving the house at about 5:30 a.m. so I could catch a 7:50 a.m. flight to Davao on Cebu Pacific. I would usually use the expected hourlong commute from home to airport to catch more zzz’s, but this time, before I drifted off to sleep, my attention was caught by the unusual congestion at that early hour at the foot of the Libis overpass to C-5.

My husband decided to veer right, taking Ortigas to reach the next turnoff to C-5 near Valle Verde, but even before we reached the intersection to C-5, vehicles in front of us had begun making U-turns, apparently because they had already been stalled for some minutes. The hubby overheard a street vendor—where would we be without these ubiquitous uziseros who function as informal heralds of current events?—telling another motorist that there had been a “huge” accident near Market! Market! A minute or so later, the radio station broadcast a report involving a cargo truck loaded with sand that had stalled on an overpass near Bonifacio Global City. For some reason, the truck’s brakes failed then caused what is commonly known as a “carambola” (the rather colorful term for a vehicle pileup) when it slid down and crashed into seven vehicles behind it, killing a laborer aboard a glass delivery truck (the last of the vehicles on the line), injuring several other drivers and passengers, and causing a traffic snarl that lasted well into noon.

It’s an interesting story by whatever measure, but that morning my main concern was whether I would reach Terminal 3 and make my flight. My husband and I agreed to take the Edsa route and reached the airport just in the nick of time. Still, I had my cell phone ready, in anticipation of texting my friends in Davao about the horrible traffic and asking if I could postpone my flight for the next day.

* * *

OTHER commuters weren’t so lucky. A friend shared on Facebook that her driver sought all possible alternative routes, only to end up, about three hours after leaving her home in Cainta, in her in-laws’ home in La Vista on Katipunan Avenue, which is but a 15-minute drive away on good days!

I expect a drop in productivity was recorded in Metro Manila on Monday, with many students and employees either very late or choosing altogether to absent themselves. I hope employers as well as school administrators were more considerate, viewing the C-5 accident as an “act of God” akin to a typhoon, flood or other natural calamity.

Still, our gripes and the inconvenience we went through pale in comparison to the death of that pahinante (casual laborer) and the orphaning of his family, as well as the suffering of all those injured as a result of a truck crashing into them.

Such are the vicissitudes of life in the city, especially in this metropolis where life can grind to a halt all because of seemingly minor events—a traffic mishap, a stalled vehicle, an untimely rally, a public celebration, a brownout. More fun and frustration, indeed!

* * *

Sam Miguel
08-07-2014, 10:14 AM
Manmade calamity

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:42 am | Thursday, August 7th, 2014

We have suffered other massive traffic jams before, but the gridlock that paralyzed parts of Metro Manila last Monday was nightmarish for two relatively novel reasons. It was an almost Metro-wide jam that began early in the morning, on the first day of the working week; many other traffic nightmares begin in the middle of the day or at the end of office hours, as torrential rains flood the streets. (Indeed, this was the case twice last week, when late-afternoon and early-evening rains slowed vehicular traffic to a crawl until late at night.) Second, the cause of the gridlock could have easily been avoided—if only government agencies take their public responsibilities seriously.

The result—and we ask for understanding from the majority of our readers who do not reside or work in the National Capital Region—was a bitter taste of what motorists and commuters alike are beginning to call “carmageddon,” a manmade calamity involving thousands of vehicles stuck for hours in barely moving traffic. What a way to begin the week, in the region that accounts for over 10 percent of the country’s population and about a third of its gross domestic product.

It turns out that the proximate cause of the gridlock was a cargo truck on C-5 Road, attended by an incompetent crew. Because of the weight of the cargo of sand, the truck failed to crest a relatively steep slope of the highway. The crew lost control, and the truck crashed into the next seven vehicles behind it. The seventh vehicle, a delivery van, burst into flames, killing one of its unfortunate passengers.

A traffic investigator told the Inquirer that the truck had helpers on board who tried to stop it from sliding by doing the usual, but not entirely reliable, thing: by blocking its tires. “But when that didn’t work, [all three, including the driver,] escaped,” he said.

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority was quick to blame the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board for allowing the truck to operate in Metro Manila. Together with Metro Manila mayors, the MMDA has accused the LTFRB of causing the persistently heavy traffic on C-5 and Katipunan Avenue in recent weeks by extending the “no-apprehension” deadline for so-called colorum trucks. The multivehicle pileup on Monday reinforced the MMDA’s charge. While there is something to be said for the long-term economic consequences of any truck ban on the trucking industry and on businesses that depend on it, the LTFRB cannot escape this simple fact: that the truck that caused the accident was not road-worthy in the first place.

Another mix-up prolonged the government’s response time to the accident. The pileup happened at around 4 a.m.; it took the MMDA more than six hours, until around 10:30 a.m., to clear the road. Confusion about whose responsibility it was to conduct clearing operations between officials of Makati and Taguig resulted in motorists and commuters having to spend hours on the road, stuck in very heavy traffic.

What is the economic cost of a manmade calamity like Monday’s traffic jam? Many workers reached their factories, many employees arrived at their offices, two or three or even four hours late. Meetings were cancelled, flights were missed, opportunities were lost.

There is an obvious mismatch between the sheer volume of vehicles and the available infrastructure. (The situation is aggravated by dozens of public works projects already underway.) There is an equally obvious failure on the part of the government agencies—to help decongest the region’s roads by purchasing new trains expeditiously and improving light rail facilities, to settle on a common traffic policy for all of Metro Manila’s component cities and municipalities, to assert the use of alternative ports of entry, such as Batangas, which would ease the pressure on Manila.

Unless these shortcomings are addressed, Metro Manila’s motorists and commuters can continue to expect to waste several hours in traffic, any day of the week.

Sam Miguel
08-07-2014, 11:28 AM
Metro Manila can't escape its traffic and transport nightmare unless...

By: Benjamin de la Pena

August 7, 2014 10:18 AM

Benjamin de la Peña currently serves as the director of community and national strategy for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Follow him on Twitter: @benjiedlp

Metro Manila started the week with a new twist to its continuing transportation nightmare. On top of the road construction and the still unresolved failing service of the MRT, LTFRB threw another straw on to the camel's back by creating "no apprehension" corridors for colorum trucks and allowing provincial transit buses back into the megacity.

The blame game rose to such fever pitch that Malacañang tasked Almendras to resolve the row and "to find a common ground that can become the basis of an acceptable course of action." Meanwhile, Metro Manilans continue to suffer.

LTFRB seems to be on a regulatory tear since former Corona lawyer Winston Ginez became chair, issuing such wonders as blocking Makati's alternative shuttle and attempting to block app-based transport services such as Tripid and Uber. Ginez, at least, is not sitting on his haunches.

But this row and the continuing nightmare on our roads and trains and buses emphatically underscores how far behind our thinking is on urban transportation. We've been banging our heads on the same wall over the last 40 years, trying to solve the same symptom without getting to the root of the problem. We keep trying vehicular reduction programs (that's what the number coding system is), road expansion and road building, flyovers, U-turn slots, yellow boxes, bus lanes, ad nauseum. Nothing really works for very long because were attacking a symptom: traffic congestion. We have not dealt with the real problem: urban transportation.

Urban transportation is a system - therefore we need systems thinking and an institutional framework that can tackle the issue at the system level.

What we have instead is a completely fragmented system, an alphabet soup of agencies each designed for a different purpose: LTFRB and LTO are regulatory agencies, PNR, MRTC and LRTA are operators, the DOTC supervises all of the former and also builds mass transit infrastructure, DPWH builds roads and highways, MMDA manages traffic on main thoroughfares along with the LGU traffic enforcers and the PNP.

With the exception of the MMDA and the LGUs, the agencies are all national level agencies for whom Metro Manila is just a subset of the remit. No one seems to be in charge of looking at the metropolitan transportation system as a whole.

That is what we need if we want to even hope to get out of this mess. A single, executive body, tasked with the planning, management and operation of the Metro Manila transportation SYSTEM. It would be responsible for walking, biking, roads, rail, water, public, private and all forms of conveyance that traverse the national capital region. We could model it after Transport for London which is responsible for implementing the metropolitan transport strategy and managing the transport services across Greater London.

A single, empowered agency could then begin tackling the whole system and understanding how the layers of services interconnect. It could rationalize what needs to be rationalized. It could simplify the system.

More importantly, in this connected age, the metropolitan transport agency could gather and monitor the right information so that we pay attention to and solve the right problems. It could rebalance the priorities. Eight out of ten Metro Manilans travel by public transportation. The agency can focus on moving people, not just moving vehicles. It could make the critical connection to land use and housing, understanding that where people live, shop and work determine how they move across the city. It could rebuild the value chain of public transportation so we move beyond regulating to instead actively managing the layers of services.

(For example: Transport for London franchises bus services to private operators but the value chain is split so that bus operators only operate buses. Other companies are in-charge of collecting fares. The bus operators are paid per kilometer served and route operated, not per head passenger served. They also have contracts that specify minimum performance requirements around safety and on-time arrivals. The contracts are tendered every five years and can be cancelled for infractions. Passengers can only pay with an electronic card and so there is no space and no incentives for colorum buses to operate.)

Some would say we need a metropolitan governor to solve Metro Manila's transportation problem. I have my doubts because I think it would create more problems than it would solve. Plus, the political hurdles are very high.

On the other hand, Malacañang can easily create the precursor of a Transport for Metro Manila agency by creating an interagency task force and giving the task force control over and delegating the authority of the sections of the concerned national agencies operating in Metro Manila. All it would require would be an Executive Order and the task force could roll out on day one. (Meanwhile, our good legislators can get to work crafting the enabling legislation that would create the formal body.)

A new, metropolitan agency would shift the paradigm especially if the remit is on the real problem of urban transportation, not just the symptom that is traffic congestion. It would bring systems thinking to a systemic problem.

Sam Miguel
08-08-2014, 01:26 PM
LTFRB adding to Metro traffic jams

By Neal H. Cruz |

Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:10 am |

Friday, August 8th, 2014

What’s happening to the directors of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB)?

Are they blind, or do they see only peso signs? Don’t they see the daily traffic gridlock not only on Edsa and C-5 but all over Metro Manila? The reason can be seen by anybody with common sense: too many vehicles on too few roads. We should reduce, not add to, the number of vehicles on the streets. But what is the LTFRB doing? It is allowing trucks and buses without franchises to use Metro Manila’s streets, “anywhere they want,” with no risk of being apprehended. As expected, the result is bedlam—motorists stuck in unmoving traffic for hours and losing precious time and opportunities.

The LTFRB’s alleged excuse for its “no apprehension policy” is to give the operators time to complete the documents needed for new franchises. What, it will award more franchises when, clearly, there is no more room on the streets for more vehicles? What it should be doing is cancel franchises, not issue more of them. Metro Manila is bursting at the seams. There is no more room to move around. It is becoming one huge parking lot.

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and its mayors are understandably angry over this latest boo-boo of the LTFRB. They have warned truck and bus operators that drivers of colorum or out-of-line vehicles would be arrested notwithstanding the permits given them by the LTFRB. You know what the LTFRB advised the drivers and operators to do if they are arrested? Take the local government units to court. That’s the type of officials we have at the LTFRB.

The LTFRB has also allowed provincial buses to enter the inner cities. Provincial buses should stay in the provinces. They should stop at the city limits and not add to the traffic jams inside.

And yet the provinces need the buses very badly. Farmers often wait for hours for transportation to take their produce to market. Schoolchildren have to walk many kilometers to go to school because there is no transportation. Provincial folk would be very grateful to have more buses. But why do the bus operators insist on plying their route in Metro Manila, where they have fewer passengers and they have less trips because of the traffic jams, and where they operate as colorum vehicles? They must be making more money there.

The LTFRB should be issuing franchises to more bus operators to ply their routes in the provinces. But money speaks louder than common sense.

President Aquino should change the top officials of the LTFRB to bring sanity to our streets. We do not need transportation officials such as what we have now at the LTFRB. Instead of looking for ways to ease the traffic jams, they are exacerbating them.
It’s said that the LTFRB has been a den of corruption since it was first established as the Public Service Commission. The PSC then was full of fixers. It’s said that you could get anything from the PSC “if the price is right”—and that includes a franchise. Thus, we now have a surfeit of buses running half-empty even during rush hours and wasting precious fuel and polluting the air with their exhausts. And many of them are not roadworthy and driven by unqualified drivers, which result in accidents that take the lives of their passengers.
I invite LTFRB officials to get out of their air-conditioned offices, stand on the sidewalks of Edsa and watch the buses crawling bumper to bumper with very few passengers even during rush hours. There are just too many of them. Now the LTFRB wants to add more buses and trucks on the streets. Why? How many millions of reasons do they have for such a decision?

How do the bus companies survive with so few passengers? They must be overcharging their few passengers. These passengers are paying for all the empty seats. Who fixes the passenger fares? The LTFRB.

If the buses were not overcharging their passengers, they would have gone bankrupt a long time ago. But obviously they are making more money in Metro Manila even with few passengers.

The elevated train lines were intended to put the buses out of business because even then, they were already taking too much road space and contributing to the traffic jams. Commuters were expected to take public transportation and leave their cars at home. In fact, having huge parking lots for private cars at every train station was among the original plans, but that was not followed by the concessionaires.

The concessionaires, with only profit in mind, did not provide for enough trains and coaches. Now we have long lines of commuters waiting to get into the already packed trains. In self-defense, commuters, or at least those who have the means, buy cars—and these add more vehicles on the streets that cause traffic jams. Every year, 300 new cars are poured onto the streets by the car assemblers, but old ones are not being phased out.

Where will we put all those vehicles?

Sam Miguel
08-12-2014, 09:48 AM
Traffic dilemmas

By Cielito F. Habito |

Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:08 am |

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

The issue of traffic congestion in Metro Manila’s streets has again assumed prominence in recent weeks, with seemingly contradictory moves from government and similarly contradictory sentiments coming from various sectors. Consider the following:

1. Industrialists, traders and various other actors in the trade supply chain see Mayor Joseph Estrada’s earlier move to ban cargo trucks from Manila’s streets during working hours as being anti-economy and anti-employment. Already, analysts expect a significant economic slowdown this year due to the choke on commerce that has resulted.

2. The same stakeholders saw the crackdown on “colorum” (non-franchised) trucks by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) exacerbate the already bad situation, by further limiting the availability of cargo trucks. Truck rentals have reportedly been jacked up drastically—by more than P20,000 per trip in some cases.

3. When the LTFRB decided to grant a moratorium and extend the period for the “colorum” trucks to set their status aright, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority publicly attacked the agency for being instrumental in congesting city traffic.

4. The Department of Public Works and Highways has begun undertaking long-delayed but congestion-creating rehabilitation work on the 23-kilometer Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (Edsa), the country’s busiest thoroughfare. This is considered essential in light of the country’s hosting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) meetings next year. The rehabilitation of the 39-year-old Magallanes interchange also started this week, further complicating Edsa traffic flows.

5. Lack of trucks to ferry containers has created serious port congestion that has led to the Port of Manila’s container yard being filled well beyond capacity, in turn causing significant delays in unloading arriving ships. Recently, up to seven ships were reportedly berthed and waiting idly to be unloaded. Some shipping lines have reportedly decided to stop calling at the Port of Manila henceforth due to the high cost of such delays.

6. Batangas and Subic ports have been upgraded to handle international cargo traffic, with nearly P17 billion in loans from the Japanese government early in the Arroyo administration, with the express goal of decongesting Metro Manila. This was in fact prominent in that administration’s 10-point agenda then. However, in what I have termed a colossal contradiction, that government allowed substantial capacity expansion at the Manila International Container Port. This led to the serious underutilization of the Batangas and Subic ports, which had seen only about 5-percent-capacity utilization since the completion of their respective upgrades some seven years ago.

There are certain interesting policy implications that have emerged from the above.

To take the cudgels of the trading community, the very idea of having to franchise cargo trucks comes under question. When you think about it, why do we even have to have “colorum” and “noncolorum” trucks? Isn’t franchising cargo trucks a superfluous regulation that only throws unnecessary hurdles in the way of business? Should cargo trucks be treated as a public utility when hiring them entails a bilateral contract between the cargo owner/shipper and the truck owner? It’s the natural lookout of the customer whether he/she gets the proper service for the price paid, and competitive market forces should ensure achievement of desired outcomes. It’s quite different, of course, in the case of passenger vehicles like buses, jeepneys, taxis, ships and aircraft (i.e., public conveyances). Could it be that our definition of “public utility” has become antiquated—based, in fact, on the archaic Public Service Act enacted by the Commonwealth government in 1936? Under that definition, ice plants and refrigeration facilities are actually considered public utilities. But technological change and contemporary economic realities could very well substantially narrow the list of what should be properly defined as public utilities, from how it was before. The implications of this are profound. One, it can release from regulation certain industries that by now don’t really warrant it. Two, such industries can effectively be opened to foreign ownership, which the Constitution still bars for public utilities.

Another interesting argument is that Mayor Estrada has actually done us all a service by calling attention to, and forcing action on, a key long-term solution to Metro Manila’s perennial traffic problem. I refer to the need to shift cargo traffic away from the Manila port, and toward the Subic and Batangas ports. The latter actually received ISO 9001:2008 certification for quality management systems last year. One Japanese shipping line has already opened a new direct service to the Port of Batangas. If more follow suit, impelled by the serious port congestion in Manila, we may yet finally break out of the chicken-and-egg problem of low utilization (in Batangas and Subic) due to higher shipping costs arising from lower shipping volumes handled there.

Finally, there is no substitute to actual reduction in automobile usage in the city to ease traffic flows. We need to take more creative and drastic market-based measures to discourage inefficient car use in city streets, such as London’s and Singapore’s steep congestion charges, Tokyo’s strict parking restrictions, mandatory car-free days, and so on. But first we need to do a good job at providing an efficient and comfortable mass transit system to effectively lure motorists out of their cars.

Sam Miguel
08-28-2014, 09:43 AM
Flooded tracks halt MRT; signal woes bug LRT 1

By Louella Desiderio (The Philippine Star) |

Updated August 28, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Operation of the Metro Rail Transit line 3 (MRT 3) was again disrupted yesterday afternoon due to flooded tracks between the Buendia and Ayala stations, while the Light Rail Transit line 1 (LRT 1) stalled.

The standby water pump used to siphon floodwater at the MRT rail tracks also broke down, preventing remedial measures that would have allowed operations to continue.

MRT and Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) spokesman Hernando Cabrera said the MRT management suspended operations at the southern half of the line from the south end station of EDSA-Taft in Pasay to Shaw Boulevard station in Mandaluyong at 2:05 p.m.

Only the northern half of the line, from the north end station of North Avenue in Quezon City to Shaw Boulevard, was open to passengers.

The suspension of operation occurred at the start of the afternoon rush hour, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded and fuming mad at the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), LRTA and even Malacañang.

Swarms of irate MRT passengers were forced to take the bus, resulting in spillover crowds at bus stops and MRT stations at Taft Avenue, Magallanes, Ayala, Buendia and Guadalupe, and worsening the traffic along EDSA.

Full line MRT operation was restored at 4:36 p.m.

LRT 1 passengers, on the other hand, were asked to disembark on the northbound portion of Pedro Gil station in Manila at around 11:05 a.m. “due to the train’s faulty signaling system,” Cabrera said.

But he said operation of the LRT was not disrupted as the train with problematic signaling system just had to go back to the depot.

Yesterday’s glitches were the latest in a series of breakdowns of the MRT and LRT.

Last Saturday, the operation of the MRT was also suspended due to failure of its communications system. The line’s control center could not give instructions to train operators.

On Aug. 13, a defective MRT train slammed through a barrier in Taft Avenue, injuring at least 36 passengers, damaging vehicles and causing heavy traffic in the area.

Amid service disruptions affecting the MRT, a systems audit of the 15-year-old line is being undertaken by the operator of Hong Kong’s mass transit railway. The first meeting with the MTR experts was held yesterday.

Cabrera said communications, signaling and asset management experts from MTR are in the country for the audit.

“We expect the systems audit to take 52 days, including preparation of the report,” he said.

Cabrera also said more technical experts are expected to arrive next week.

The MRT carries about 500,000 passengers per day, well over its 350,000 capacity. – With Rainier Allan Ronda

Sam Miguel
10-15-2014, 01:55 PM
Bad news: Traffic won’t get better till 2015

Neal H. Cruz

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:16 AM | Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

I have very bad news for Metro Manilans: The horrendous traffic jams and floods will be with us until next year. This comes straight from Francis Tolentino, chair of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, although he did not say it exactly that way. What he told the Kapihan sa Manila at the Diamond Hotel last Monday (the other guest was former congressman Danilo Suarez) was that the traffic jams are brought about by a combination of factors: diggings on the streets by the Department of Public Works and Highways and by the water concessionaires, the lack of an efficient transport system, too many vehicles on too few streets, and the lack of coordination among the agencies involved in transportation.

Those too-frequent road reblocking projects by contractors hired by the DPWH naturally slow down traffic. The diggings by water concessionaires Maynilad and Manila Water are another culprit.

Ironically, the flood-control projects of DPWH often worsen the floods. One example: The construction of the Blumentritt Interceptor that would channel flood waters to Manila Bay is exacerbating the flooding in Manila’s downtown area. The Interceptor is unfinished until now and so the floodwaters cannot flow out to Manila Bay. Hopefully, it will be completed by next year.

The lack of an efficient transport system is the biggest cause of the traffic jams. The elevated rail lines should have been efficient and fast, but there are not enough trains to accommodate all the commuters needing a ride. The wait in the long lines just to go up to the MRT3 stations is much longer than the trip itself.

The government has ordered more trains from China but the prototype won’t be coming until the first quarter of 2015. The prototype will be tried on the existing rails, and only after all kinks are ironed out will the construction of the trains begin. The coaches will be delivered here in batches and it will take many months before all 48 coaches are delivered. Again, hopefully, they will all be here and running before the end of 2015.

The problem with the buses is the opposite: There are just too many of them. So they clog the streets, especially Edsa, where they crawl like snails wasting precious fuel and polluting the air but do not carry enough passengers. The buses crawling bumper to bumper on Edsa are half-empty even during rush hours. Commuters do not want to ride buses because these are too slow, and spending much time dawdling at stations to wait for passengers.

MMDA Chair Tolentino is at a loss on how the buses manage to stay on considering that they don’t have enough passengers. “I don’t know how they survive,” he told the journalists present at the Kapihan. My theory is that the bus companies are overcharging commuters. Those few passengers are paying for all the empty seats.

The inefficiency of the mass transport system, in turn, forces commuters to buy their own vehicles, but they only add to the traffic congestion.

Every year, car assemblers pour out onto the streets 300,000 new cars. That number does not include the vehicles smuggled into the country and the jeepneys and buses assembled from recycled parts. Where are you going to put all of them when very few streets are being built? Tolentino said.

Ironically, a government agency, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, is to blame for the oversupply of buses on Edsa. It has issued too many franchises to bus companies. Doesn’t it know the holding capacity of Edsa?

Then there are the colorum buses. The LTFRB cannot—or does not want to—prevent them from operating so they don’t add to the traffic jams on Edsa. Guess why?

To make matters worse, complained Tolentino, the LTFRB lifted the ban on cargo trucks earlier banned by the MMDA from Metro streets.

Can’t the Department of Transportation and Communications coordinate all the transport agencies so they don’t work at cross purposes?

It cannot even fix the problems of MRT3 and the long-delayed issuance of license plates by the Land Transportation Office.

With more and more vehicles being poured out onto the streets and almost none being phased out, traffic congestion has gotten worse through the years.

Tolentino said he had added to the public transport system by resuming the ferry operation on the Pasig River. There’s no traffic, the ferry is fast and cheap but sadly, few commuters use it. “I already lowered the fare to attract more passengers, still the passengers have not increased dramatically,” Tolentino said. Could it be people’s natural fear of the water, or the stench from the Pasig?

How about a subway? Yes, that would be a great help, Tolentino said.

Ex-Congressman Suarez said a subway system was planned during President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration but that her term ended before it could be implemented.

Tolentino and Suarez agreed that Metro Manila should be decongested by making outlying areas its bedroom and by locating industries to the provinces so the rural residents don’t have to flock to the metropolis to get jobs.

Sam Miguel
10-15-2014, 01:56 PM
Postpone fare hike

Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:11 am |

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

A fare increase in Metro Manila’s railway system is inevitable. No less than President Aquino had long been pitching for higher fares at the Light Rail Transit and Metro Rail Transit systems, arguing that the government wanted to reduce its subsidy for the trains’ operations so that the money could be used for other social services. The President claimed it was unfair for the entire country to help finance the operating cost of the railway system that benefits only residents of Metro Manila.

The government plans to bring the train fares closer to those of air-conditioned buses. The Department of Transportation and Communications is considering an “11+1” formula, which means passengers will be charged P11 to board the trains plus P1 for every kilometer traveled. With the proposed rate, MRT and LRT fares will reach nearly P30 from the first station to the last, or almost double the present level. The government is expected to save about P2 billion in subsidies from the planned fare adjustment.

The fare increase was supposed to be implemented back in 2011. It became imminent in 2013 when the President mentioned in his State of the Nation Address that the government was to raise train fares to cut government subsidies, with early 2014 as the target date. But last January, the government said there was no urgent need to raise fares and deferred the plan to do so to August; the DOTC cited the then impending power rate increase early this year.

August went by and nothing happened. Last week, the government indicated that the fare increase would likely be implemented before Christmas. The spokesperson of the DOTC was quoted as saying that the directive was only waiting to be signed by Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, after which a notice would be published. So far, however, even Abaya is noncommittal. In an interview with Radyo Inquirer 990AM last week, Abaya said there would probably be no increase in October and that there was no indicator it would proceed. But he could not categorically say if there would be no fare increase until the end of the year, except to point out that the DOTC had complied with all the requirements for the fare adjustment.

Opposition to the fare increase is expected. Imagine the howl it would raise given the sorry service being endured by MRT3 commuters. Critics assail the argument that the government should not subsidize projects like the MRT and LRT that only benefit Metro Manila residents. Following this logic, critics counter, the government should stop subsidizing the building of public schools and hospitals in far-flung areas because Metro Manila taxpayers would not benefit from those either.

One solution being put forward by groups opposing a fare increase is a renegotiation of the contracts with the private consortium holding the concessions for the mass transport system. The subsidies shouldered by the government result from the guaranteed rates of return that the private firms running the train system will get whether or not people will use the MRT and LRT. Renegotiation is indeed one plausible way to avert a fare adjustment.

Instead of renegotiation, however, what the government has in mind is a reverse privatization of the MRT3: It will take over the operation of the train system plying the length of Edsa. Recent announcements from the administration indicate that it is close to clinching a deal to buy out the MRT’s private shareholders.

But this so-called reverse privatization does not guarantee that a fare increase will not happen. At most, it can help cut the huge subsidies that end up as profit of the private concessionaire. The government can also earn from the commercial advertising space along the length of the MRT tracks. This will nonetheless be better than the current situation.

Still, this brings us back to the issue of fare increases for the MRT and LRT. Whatever explanation we get from the government, any fare adjustment should be timed properly. With the rising cost of living, any additional financial burden on the working middle class—the main market of the mass transport system—is not welcome at this time. Any additional financial burden on the ordinary taxpayer is ill-timed given the approach of the Christmas season. As Abaya himself said last January, when the government postponed the fare adjustment due to the power rate increase by Manila Electric Co., “you have to be sensitive to people’s lives, too.”

Sam Miguel
10-23-2014, 08:31 AM
Truck ban

By Peter Wallace |

Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:11 am |

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

The truck ban in Manila brought to the fore two important points: Decisions should be fully researched and openly discussed and argued before being made, and local governments cannot be allowed to make decisions that impact on the nation without agreement from the national leadership.

The local ban on open-pit mining and a review of mining taxes were examples of these two points. Then there was the mayor of Manila imposing a ban on trucks entering the city. It, too, wasn’t fully researched before it was imposed. And the impact on the national economy was obvious early on, yet it wasn’t rescinded for a full seven months. Only when the situation reached critical level was anything done.

Well, the damage has been done. I’m going to quote liberally from a friend of mine, Fern Peña, who’s deeply involved in the import/export trade, because his analysis is excellent (I have his permission).

The ban imposed by the mayor meant that not only the delivery of goods but also the return of empty containers to the port couldn’t be done. Thus began much-delayed deliveries and an accumulation of containers at the port, leading to the slowdown of the logistics chain in and out of the port. Exporters and importers as well as customs brokers and truckers were stunned at the situation and took a long time to react.

At the same time that the truck ban was affecting the industry, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board issued an order against trucks without “franchise” operating in the port. The LTFRB also imposed a ban on trucks more than 15 years old, which was a good idea but should not have been imposed then, and not without sufficient notice. These two actions led to another slash on the already insufficient number of trucks available for hauling.

Because of the port congestion, trucking costs increased along with port costs and shipping line charges due to the delays that were occurring. With the truck ban, the lack of trucks due to LTFRB issues, and the lessening of road use due to construction (the Department of Public Works and Highways is doing a number of road repair, widening, and construction projects all at once—necessary work, but it adds to the chaos), market forces came into play: The price of trucking containers to and from the port increased dramatically. If you’re thinking how much worse it could get, well, with high demand for limited trucks, trucking costs doubled and shipping lines started charging an extra $600 per container. And with the huge buildup of containers stuck in the port, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) was overwhelmed, further slowing deliveries.

And now we have Christmas shipments arriving. Well, expect all the traditional food and other products we expect to be on the shelves at Christmas to cost an awful lot more—if available at all. Thanks to the mayor of Manila.

As if all this isn’t bad enough, the BOC and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) introduced new registration requirements for importers and customs brokers. They are part of the government’s transparency and good governance program, so quite reasonable, but requiring all importers and brokers to comply at the same time has overloaded the BOC and BIR staffs, adding to an even greater slowing of imports.

It’s too many deterrents to doing business all at the same time, creating nothing less than chaos. The solution is to have a moratorium on all the measures that have been implemented, though the actions taken by the government are laudable and should under normal times be supported.

The truck ban has been lifted, so that’s a first important step. Now we need a moratorium on the franchising requirements. Implement a monthly quota of renewals, so the LTFRB is not faced with an administrative nightmare in working on 20,000 franchises all at once given the slow process of hearing approvals and paperwork requirements. Moreover, suspend the 15-year age requirement for a year or two to allow trucking firms enough time to fund and be physically capable of refleeting their units with newer models. The capital cost will be quickly recovered with more efficient units that don’t require frequent maintenance. Tied to this is the need to upgrade and professionalize the Land Transportation Office in its capabilities regarding the approval process of roadworthiness for trucks, so that older ones with valid safety records can continue operating for now.

Road repair, closure and widening projects should be coordinated and not be done all at the same time with a greater recognition of the requirements of all stakeholders on the road.

Also, the securing of the new importer clearance certificate from the BOC should be done gradually, similar to the system of motor vehicle registration, on a monthly basis. The registration of all the importers should not be done at once.

The one good thing that came out of all this is that it highlighted the need to really do something about actually using the Subic and Batangas ports, as had been intended but never done.

In the wider context, long-term solutions have to be put in place. Manila as a city is way beyond its design, way beyond a population it can accommodate without major change. A cargo rail line must be built, and MRTs completed, too. Tunnels must be built to move the ever-growing number of vehicles on the roads, or skyways where it’s practicable. Overpasses/underpasses must replace intersections. The well-researched Jica (Japan International Cooperation Agency) report should be implemented in toto, immediately. And the southern and northern areas of Luzon should be more aggressively developed to move people out of Manila and discourage more from entering.

Sam Miguel
10-23-2014, 08:46 AM
Manila’s traffic jams cost $57 million a day

By Rodel Rodis |

6:50 am |

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

For much of the last month, my Facebook friends in Manila have been posting comments lamenting their utter frustration and helplessness at being condemned to spending a great portion of what is left of their productive lives stuck in traffic with no hope in sight.

They agree with Dan Brown’s description of Manila in his book, Inferno, as “the gates of hell” because of its apocalyptic features including “six-hour traffic jams (and) suffocating pollution.”

It may feel like six hours to those stuck in gridlock hell. “These days travel time in the streets of Metro Manila can be three times longer than usual, and this is during sunny days. With a heavy downpour and flash floods, the nation’s premier region becomes paralyzed” was how one Manila daily described it.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) estimates that Metro Manila’s traffic jams are costing the Philippine economy P2.4 billion pesos ($57 million) a day in potential income, a figure that JICA warns could balloon to P6 billion ($142 M) a day by 2030.

The JICA report also pointed out that traffic congestion leads to increased fuel consumption and automobile emissions as vehicles are forced to operate less efficiently. “More vehicles on the road means increased greenhouse gas emissions which lead to increased health costs.”

Greenhouse gas emissions, JICA warned, are expected to increase to 5.72 million tons a year in 2030, compared to 4.7 million tons a year in 2012. The increase in greenhouse gas emissions affect the frequency and ferocity of the natural calamities that regularly strike the Philippines.

Rappler writer Katerina Francisco explains that JICA’s P2.4 billion a day figure “includes lost work hours, lost business opportunities due to delays and missed deadlines and wasted fuel.” She observes that these annual losses (P576 billion a year) are greater than the P400 billion infrastructure budget for 2014.

When an alternative 10 hour day/4 day work week schedule was proposed as a way to ameliorate traffic gridlock, Sen. J.V. Ejercito expressed his opposition to the idea because of what he said was its effect on family life.

According to Neal Cruz (“Will the 4 day work week work?”), Sen. Ejercito said, “the employee who has to hurry home to cook for the family would get there very late and the children would be starving by the time dinner is served. Eating a late dinner means staying up late and therefore waking up late the next morning and arriving late in schools and offices. And most of the children and adults would be too sleepy to learn and work efficiently.”

But that is precisely what is happening now with a five-day work week because commuters who don’t have chauffeurs to drive them around like Sen. Ejercito spend up to three hours commuting to and from work. The four-day a week plan at least offers hope of spending one less day in gridlock hell, which is precious time parents can spend with their children.

Sen. Ejercito and other government officials should follow the lead of Sen. Grace Poe and actually spend a day riding public transportation to work to appreciate the hell that their constituents are going through every day.

They may then consider other alternatives to easing traffic congestion like staggering the work hours of employees so that some of them can report for work at 10 am, 11 am or 12 noon and work until 6 pm, 7 pm or 8 pm. With less traffic, they may likely arrive home at the same time that they otherwise would when their work hours end at 5 pm.

What has exacerbated Manila’s traffic mess is the decision of the Department of Public Works to embark this year on the simultaneous construction of 15 major road projects which are all expected to be completed by 2016. This has transformed an already congested metropolis into a traffic nightmare.

Government representatives explain that the public works projects are intended to solve traffic congestion and help the Philippines achieve “inclusive growth.”

But UP Prof. Jose Regin Regidor questioned just exactly how “inclusive” the road projects can be when they are focused only on commuters who use cars and buses. Prof. Regidor said the government should spend more on mass transit systems to decongest a bursting mega city.

An example of what could be done to improve public transportation is what Bangkok recently entered into with a Japanese consortium to build an urban transit system there for $405 million.

As the INQUIRER.net reported on November 4, 2013, “under the deal, ordered by Bangkok Metro Public Co., the consortium will construct a new 23-kilometer (14-mile) rail line in the Thai capital, the daily said, adding the rail operation is set to start in 2016. The Japanese group will supply 63 train cars and build the power grid, signals and rail yards as well as 16 stations for the project. It will also provide maintenance services under a 10-year contract and about 20 technicians with operational expertise will be stationed in Bangkok, the report said.”

Unlike Bangkok, Metro Manila already has a rapid transit rail system in place called the Metro Rail Transit or MRT-3 which consists of a single line that runs in the general direction along the north and south lanes of Edsa Avenue serving close to 560,000 passengers a day.
It was constructed by a consortium of private companies led by Robert John Sobrepena of the Fil-Estate Management, Inc. under a Build-Operate-Transfer arrangement, which placed all the risks on the private companies to build the MRT system. The total cost for the project was $675.5 Million.

The MRT-3 was inaugurated in 1999 and operated by Metro Rail Transit Corporation (MRTC), the private consortium. In 2010, the state-owned Land Bank of the Philippines and Development Bank of the Philippines purchase a majority interest in the MRTC and began working at the direction of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) headed by Joseph Emilio Abaya, the former three-term congressman from Cavite who previously chaired the House Appropriations Committee.

The DOTC has asked the Philippine Congress to allocate P54 Billion pesos ($1.285 Billion) in the next budget for the DOTC to purchase the state-owned bonds of the MRTC so that it can bid out the contract for a new maintenance provider.

This amount is a total waste of government resources. It is twice what Bangkok is paying a Japanese consortium to construct a 23- kilometer rail line with 63 cars and a 10 year maintenance contract. Government funds should be better used to improve, expand and extend mass transit.

If this is the priority of the DOTC, then it reflects a callous disregard of the needs the 12 million people stuck in gridlock hell.

Sam Miguel
10-27-2014, 08:54 AM

"*Grumble*.. uh.. He-.. Hello?", the groggy voice on the other line said. I knew my wife was already sleeping, yet I couldn't resist. "Meet me at the front of the house in five minutes", I said. "Oh, and don't forget to bring the camera".

As I arrived, the shock on Rina's face was evident. She was clearly wondering which Celebrity or politician pulled up to her gate. Much to her surprise, it was little old me.

That was my very first Uber Ride last March. I haven't taken a regular taxi since.

Like everyone else (not connected to any Taxi operation or The Land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board, of course) I am infuriated by the LTFRB's "Crackdown" on the app, UBER, and its contemporaries. I honestly don't know the legal mumbo jumbo that the LTFRB is spewing out in trying to justify its stand on treating this service - which by the way has helped hundreds get a ride in the traffic congested metro- like a crime, similar to drug dealing.

To go out of their way and do a "Sting Operation" just to "Bust" the driver, which resulted in a P200,000 fine for the operator and a 3 month impound? Was that really a smart way to spend tax payers money?

I'm baffled why the LTFRB is going out of their way to STOP a service that is clearly helping people, and is preferred by a good number of the public.

I think LTFRB Executive Director Roberto Cabrera III needs to stand out on the street and try to hail a cab more often during rush hour so he'll know what it feels like to be a stranded commuter.


If you don't know what Uber is, it's a smartphone App in which will find you an available vehicle nearest you from its fleet. Once an available driver is alerted to your location, you will be given an estimate on the time they will arrive at your pick up point, even giving you the description of the car, and the contact details of the driver (including a photo for ID Purposes!).

Everyone I know that has tried this app, has nothing but good words to say about it. If you haven't tried it yet, I highly recommend you do. Here are some reasons why I love UBER.


An Uber driver has NEVER turned me down when I told him my destination.


In my lifetime, I have taken cab rides in countries such as The United States of America, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Korea. Each of those times, I did the Pinoy habit of opening the door and telling the driver my destination before hopping in. Each time, the driver had to tell me to get into the cab first, then we'd talk about where I needed to be dropped off. Each time, I was brought to my destination with no questions asked.

NEVER did I get unceremoniously dumped back on the street because the cab driver didn't want to go that direction for fear of traffic.

Here, not only is it hard to find an available taxi during rush hour, but when you do, you have to also find a driver that will be amenable to take you where you need to go. It's sort of like "Trial and Error".

When I told my cab driver, "Makati, boss", and he answered, "Quezon City ako pupunta eh". That was a head-scratcher for me. Umm.. So the driver gets to dictate where the cab will go? The Customer has no say? This is a taxi service.. Why would he have a route like a "Bus" or "Jeepney"?

Another time, (this was around 4 years ago) I told the cab driver that I would like to be dropped off in Glorietta 4, so he let me in. As I hopped on, I received a text saying that my friend would meet me instead at SM Makati, which is across the street from Glorietta. Since it was so near, I told the cab driver of the change of plans, thinking it shouldn't be a problem.

The old man screeched his car to a halt, and kicked me out, saying "Ang gulo mo kausap! Sabi mo Glorietta!" So i said, "Sige Boss, Glorietta nalang!". He yelled, " Hindi! Ayoko sa magulong kausap!". I tried to explain, "Magkatabi lang ho ang SM Makati ang Glorietta 4!", he continued to yell, "Wala akong pakialam! Bumaba ka!". So I went down, but not before I gave his door a swift kick. He kinda saw how pissed I was so he frantically drove off.

I'm sure you have our own Taxi Horror Stories, right?


If you've ever used an Uber Service, then you know that the Uber Drivers are one of the nicest, most courteous people you would ever have the pleasure of riding with. As drivers, they take pride in their work, going out of their way to make sure that your ride is a delightful one. The only questions they ask where you would like to be dropped off, and if you have a specific route you would prefer to take.


An Uber driver has never been accused of trying to drug passengers.


Instead of cracking down on a Uber drivers, why didn't the LTFRB use their resources to track down taxi owners and drivers that try to hold up their customers? Wouldn't that be the more sensible "Sting Operation"?

You hear stories about cab drivers suddenly taking different routes and eventually picking up accomplices, even going as far as spraying the aircon with some sort of "sedative", in the effort of rendering his passenger unconscious, making them vulnerable to robberies, or even worse, rape.


A blogger friend of mine almost got robbed by a taxi driver. She was taken down an unfamiliar path, and noticed the driver constantly texting. The moment he answered a call and said, "Malapit na kami (We're near)", she told the driver to pull over, in which the driver replied with a hearty laugh. She literally had to jump out of the moving vehicle in order to save herself. The fact that the driver sped off, with no regard for his payment only reaffirmed her fears.


With Uber, you have a record of the driver's name and number, including a "rating" given to them by other Uber users. If you have any complaints, you may leave comments on their Facebook page.

Sam Miguel
10-27-2014, 08:54 AM

Uber has never sent me a car on the verge of breaking down


I try not to be so finicky when it comes to choosing a taxi cab. I really don't mind how rinky-dink the car looks like, for as long as the air-conditioning is functioning well, and the engine is running smoothly. But too many times, I've ridden on cabs wherein the driver had to stop to refill the radiator with water, or some rattling noise was heard under the hood.. Some even with a putrid smell. With the way that cab drivers use their car- complete disregard for humps or potholes- you can tell that keeping their cab in good condition isn't a priority.


My very first Uber ride was the highly coveted Black Mercedes Benz. Since then, I have ridden in vehicles such as a Ford Everest, Hyundai Starex, Mistubishi Mirage, Honda Civic, with the Toyota Innova being the most "low end" car assigned to me... All practically brand new! In fact, most of them didn't have their license plates on them yet!

All the cars were immaculately clean, and in pristine condition.


Paying with your credit card is convenient.


Some cab drivers won't let you ride unless you promise them "Plus P50".. Meaning P50 bucks ON TOP of your metered Bill! One even asked me for Plus P100!

LTFRB, is this legal? Why don't you crackdown on THESE scumbags?

To be fair, if you have no problem paying the additional 50 bucks upon hailing down a cab, then that's your business. (I do that once in awhile) But what I don't appreciate is the additional 50 bucks being demanded from me when i'm being dropped off. One time a driver told me matter-of-factly, "Ang layo pala ng bahay mo sa loob ng village, dagdagan mo nalang ng P50..".

I left him without his extra P50, telling him I'm not obligated to give him any more than what the meter reads, and that that if he wanted extra, he should have said so BEFORE he agreed to take me home.

I usually tack on an extra P10-P20 for the driver. If I like the driver, maybe a little bit more. It's not much, I know, but I hope that a small amount would help him someway, somehow.

Another thing to note is that, Cab drivers often say they don't have change for, in a way forcing you to pay them a little extra. Smooth, huh?


The credit card requirement kind of alienates some people from using the app, but I like it. I liked not needing to worry if I have enough 20s or loose change, in case the driver tries to pull one over me.

I can easily get an estimate of my fare through the app, simply by punching in your pick up point and destination in the map. Then after the ride, the driver hits the "End Trip" button on his tablet, and the amount that will be charged to your card is sent to your mobile phone and you are issued a "virtual receipt" via email.

All I need to worry about is keeping a P20 bill to give as a tip to the driver, which often times, they politely decline.

Granted, Uber is a tad more expensive than your usual cab far.. Expect to add at least up to P70-P100 to your regular cab rate. But in my opinion.. The convenience, the safety, and the quality of the ride, makes it all worth while.

As a husband, I never usually allow Rina to commute. But ever since I discovered Uber, I feel much safer.

If the LTFRB wants to get rid of UBER and the other similar apps, it needs to provide the people with a better, safer, more efficient taxi service alternative.

Provide us with cab drivers that are not "choosy" with their passengers would be a great start. But the bottom line, the existing taxi services NEED to improve. To pull the plug on Uber now is counter-productive, and it almost feels like the government agency is upset that there is a new way to make things easier for the people. It's almost like the LTFRB WANTS to make things harder for the Filipinos.

The LTFRB has bigger problems to worry about than Uber. Buses are falling from the sky and landing on passenger vehicles, because little or no inspections are being done to assure their road-worthiness. Trucks are clogging up the freeways. Jeepneys feel that they have the right to pick up passengers in the middle of the road.

Uber is one of the things that works, so they should just leave it alone. Maybe it will force the taxi services to step up their game.

The MMDA has already issued a statement in defense of Uber. But unless LTFRB starts earning from the success of Uber, don't expect them to change their stance anytime soon.

Unfortuantely, some agencies would prefer to prioritize how to make money off the plight of the Filipino people first, with finding a way to help them a distant second.

From a blog called "The Pickiest Eater"

Sam Miguel
10-28-2014, 07:57 AM
Recognizing traffic as a crisis

by Andrew James Masigan

October 26, 2014

In the past year, we’ve heard one too many cases of deaths on board ambulances, business reversals due to delivery delays, school children deprived of sleep, and families denied of time together—all because of the traffic jams holding Metro Manila hostage.

For us Manileños, making the 15- to 20-kilometer journey from one point of the city to another takes two hours, on average. This does not even take into account rainy days, when travel time can stretch to five hours. Our lives have been robbed by traffic. It has eaten away at our quality of life and sense of well-being. It has made life a daily grind of stress, anxiety, deprivation and road rage. This is no way to live.

Motorists experience heavy traffic on the early Monday morning rush August 4, 2014 southbound of EDSA. (Linus Guardian Escandor II)
Motorists experience heavy traffic on the early Monday morning rush August 4, 2014 southbound of EDSA. (Linus Guardian Escandor II)
Traffic as a crisis

What’s disturbing is that government treats the situation like any other problem and not with the urgency it deserves. It must recognize the traffic situation for what it is—a crisis, what with the many lives it adversely affects and its toll on the economy to the tune of P140 billion in annual lost productivity. Government has yet to act on the traffic crisis with decisiveness, political resolve, and stealth.

I am well aware of the projects in the pipeline and how it will improve the traffic situation in the next few years. However, what I am calling for are actions to ease our suffering now, until these projects come to fruition. There is no quick fix since the problem is the sheer lack of roads. But government must work on the next best thing, which is to minimize the cars on our highways and byways. Hence, I am calling for decisive policies in the form of four-day workweeks, two-day car bans, alternate schedules for private firms (5 a.m. to 2 p.m.), and the like. At this stage, most Mañilenos are willing to sacrifice to make conditions more bearable.

I understand government’s apprehension to impose such drastic policies. It could, after all, cost valuable political equity. But it should also realize that to do nothing would cost more. Besides, true leadership is the ability to make hard, painful decisions. The message of businessman Patrick Estella on Facebook is a fine representation of the citizenry’s mood today. In relation to the traffic crisis, Estella writes: “To PNoy, Cabinet secretaries, MMDA, mayors, councilors, barangay people, police, LTFRB, DPWH and whoever—Heed our cry for help. go and make a difference please!”

If this is not a cry of desperation, I don’t know what is.

No sense of urgency

Gnawing to most is government’s seeming indifference and lack of urgency on the matter. To make matters worse, instead of encouraging solutions to ease traffic, it is standing in the way of some of them. Here are three examples of what I mean:

The DOTC rejected three unsolicited proposals from private entities, the last one from Metro Pacific, to add more coaches and improve the signaling system of MRT-3. It would have been done at no cost to government. Instead, in a move of reverse privatization, it decided to stage an equity buy-out of MRT-3 from its current owners and make the improvements itself. As of September 16, they were still ironing details of its buy-out plan. With this, we will be lucky to see the upgrades completed by 2016, if at all.

On flood control, MMDA Chairman Tolentino says that the Metro will only be free of floods once its entire system of canals and rivers are dredged and/or expanded. It is a problem that can only be solved holistically since our waterways are interconnected. But instead of increasing MMDA’s resources to expedite the project, government has in fact decreased MMDA’s traffic and flood control allocation from P2.3B to P1.9B.

Another traffic solution that was recently waylaid is the Metro Pacific-proposed P18 billion toll road that connects NLEX and SLEX. Slated for completion in 2016, the project would have dramatically relieved congestion on EDSA and C5, as it provides an alternative route for those coming from Bulacan heading to Cavite, and vice versa. Instead of immediately green-lighting the project, the Department of Justice decided to subject this project to a Swiss challenge, a move that sets back the completion date by two years.

Relief years away

Is there light at the end of the tunnel? Yes, but it will take time and is hardly enough. First among the projects in the pipeline is the four-kilometer Daang Hari Road that connects Las Piñas to SLEX through Susana Heights. To date, it is 52 percent complete and is due for completion next year. This project only benefits the residents of the south and not the main city center.

The NAIA Expressway project will have a greater impact. This 9.98-kilometer road will link the NAIA complex to the Skyway and the Manila-Cavite Toll Expressway passing through Roxas Boulevard. Although the concessionaires (SMC Group) are targeting completion by April 2015, it is only 10.01 percent done as of last month.

Stage 3 of the Manila Skyway will be the most beneficial to all. This 14.8-kilometer elevated expressway running from Buendia to Balintawak will effectively link SLEX to NLEX. The project is set for completion on April 2017. Residents of Cavite will find relief when the LRT 1 Extension is completed in 2017. The line will connect Baclaran to Bacoor. For residents of Bulacan and Quezon City, the P63 billion MRT-7 will come as a big relief. MRT-7 will run from San Jose Del Monte to North Edsa passing through Lagro, Fairview, Novaliches, Batasan, Diliman and Philcoa. Construction has not yet started but once it does, it will take 42 months to complete. Best estimate is a 2019 roll-out. Since it will take years for these projects to come online, I second Mr. Estella’s appeal to government. Please heed our call for immediate traffic relief.

Sam Miguel
10-28-2014, 09:31 AM
Regulatory overreach

Cielito F. Habito


Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:06 AM | Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) is under fire from irate netizens following last week’s sting operation that led to the apprehension of a private car owner hiring out rides under the Uber network. One news report described it as a case of government regulators trying to play catch-up with technology. I see it as a reason why we need to revisit restrictive laws and regulations designed for a bygone era, which technological developments have rendered obsolete if not outright counterproductive.

I first heard about Uber nearly two years ago from US-based relatives, who are all raves about the service, as are those who are now up in arms here about the LTFRB’s action. Described as a “ride-sharing” scheme, Uber puts car owners/drivers in touch with people who would be willing to pay them for a ride between pre-specified points in the city. It relies on a smartphone application to connect passengers with available participating drivers, who are carefully screened and regularly monitored. Fares are pre-agreed, payments are cashless (via credit card), and one can even track the hired car’s location in real time. The service is now reportedly available in more than 100 cities in 45 countries worldwide. The LTFRB is similarly training its sights on homegrown Tripid, described as an open carpooling system that also uses the smartphone platform to connect riders with trip providers. What makes these services so popular is that they are widely seen as a convenient and safe way to travel.

What particularly irks Uber fans is the LTFRB’s insistence that it is merely trying to protect the welfare and safety of the riding public. To many, this comes as a big joke in light of the all-too-common experience with taxis refusing passengers, and the high incidence of crimes by or in connivance with taxi drivers. It is in fact these very risks with taxis that drives people to use Uber, Tripid and their variants. The LTFRB makes no secret of how its action was prompted by a complaint from the Philippine National Taxi Operators Association (PNTOA), unhappy about competition from what is increasingly seen by riders as a superior service. But neither the LTFRB nor PNTOA appears able to come up with a satisfactory way to police the ranks of the taxi industry to prevent such untoward incidents. So who is the LTFRB really protecting from whom?

Even then, the issue is not unique to the Philippines. Uber, understandably, has met with similar protests from the taxi industry in other countries where it operates. The LTFRB recognizes that it has no jurisdiction over the Uber company itself, which does not directly provide transport services, but is a technology company “through whose application, private unlicensed vehicles are able to engage in public land transportation without securing a franchise from the LTFRB.”

Uber adherents counter that the LTFRB has no business meddling into private agreements between riders and trip providers, or in voluntary carpooling or ride-sharing among commuters, which are essentially what Uber and Tripid facilitate through their apps. “It’s no different from one asking to be driven by a neighbor in his car to the airport for an agreed payment,” argues a netizen, except that Uber makes it possible to find that ride well beyond one’s neighborhood. And a “Big Brother” government may be going a bit too far to insist on watching out for the involved parties all the time, when they can well watch out for themselves in such bilateral transactions. Uber and the others in fact go a step further and help protect the transacting parties via a rigorous screening process on partner drivers, and through a user-driven rating system that helps weed out known bad performers on both sides.

If government’s concern is to tax such transactions, then Uber’s cashless payments system makes it even easier to enforce a taxation mechanism not possible under informal cash-based neighbor-to-neighbor car hire or carpooling schemes. That should not be the concern of the LTFRB, however, but of the tax authorities.

There’s much wider significance to all this. There’s such a thing as regulatory overreach, and the Uber issue, to my mind, is but one example. I have also argued before that there need not be such things as “colorum” cargo trucks. I don’t see why government must have to issue franchises for a service that, like an Uber ride, amounts to a private bilateral contract, in this case between a cargo shipper and a truck owner (the same reasoning applies to cargo ships). With adequate competition—and a policy framework that fosters, not inhibits it, as franchising actually does—the market would ensure that satisfactory services are provided that are commensurate to fees paid. The less government pokes its nose unnecessarily into everybody’s business, the livelier the economy becomes.

Legally defined, a “public utility,” which by law requires a franchise, “provides a service or facility needed for present day living that cannot be denied to anyone willing to pay for it.” Electric power, water or mass transport services are clear examples. But the US Supreme Court once stated, in a ruling that has shaped our own jurisprudence as well, that “a private enterprise doing business under private contracts with customers of its choice and therefore not devoted to public use” cannot be a public utility.

It’s time that we revisited our official definition of public utilities, which is still guided by the archaic Public Service Act of 1936. Rapid technological developments demand it. And overall consumer welfare, along with our investment attractiveness, crucially hinges on it as well.

* * *

Sam Miguel
11-18-2014, 08:01 AM
Philippine congressmen want Uber to stop operations ASAP

While clarifying they are not against the car-sharing service, lawmakers want Uber to immediately cease operations while they try to figure out whether to regulate it and how

Bea Cupin

Published 8:31 PM, Nov 17, 2014

Updated 11:04 PM, Nov 17, 2014

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine lawmakers on Monday, November 17, insisted that the popular and now controversial Uber cease its operations while government tries to figure out whether to regulate the car-sharing service and how.

In a meeting called by both the House of Representatives' committee on transportation and committee on Metro Manila development, lawmakers also chastised the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) for allowing Uber to continue its operations despite its partner vehicles being unregulated and therefore “colorum” or operating illegally.

Uber grabbed headlines in the Philippines after one of its partner cars was apprehended in a sting operation led by the LTFRB. The operation was met with outrage on social media.

LTFRB Chairman Winston Ginez told lawmakers the operation was a result of a complaint lodged by taxi operators. He said they have since been exercising “tolerance” toward Uber following the sting operation.

Since the operation, Uber has met with transportation department officials and agreed to placing partner vehicles under a franchising scheme.

Who, what can be regulated?

What the government has yet to sort out, however, is how the LTFRB would regulate private vehicles partnered with Uber and if the LTFRB has the jurisdiction to regulate the service itself.

Ginez said this will be the subject of a public hearing on November 24.

Quoting Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, Ginez said the government “will always push for anything that modernizes transportation systems,” but added that government regulation must happen when “public services” are concerned.

Lawmakers raised alarm over the precedent that Uber supposedly sets: if its private cars are allowed to operate similar to vehicles with franchises, what’s to stop taxi companies and other public transport companies from doing the same?

“There is no hard and fast rule if they fall under the public service rule,” conceded Ginez, since Uber itself does not own the vehicles and instead only serves as a conduit for the cars and its potential passengers to book rides.

“You’re tackling a purely legal question,” said Pasig Representative Roman Romulo, who questioned whether Congress needs to pass a new law that would govern services like Uber.

Representatives from transportation services that already regulated by the LTFRB – such as taxis and airport taxis – said it was “unfair” that Uber could get away with offeirng the same services even without regulation.

“Clearly, the only thing we’re asking for is [for government] to level the playing field. If they regulate us, they should also regulate Uber,” said Philippine National Taxi Operators Association president and Quezon City Councilor Bong Suntay.

The situation Uber is facing in the Philippines in not unique. In most countries where the service has expanded, the company has faced opposition from regulated forms of public transportation.

European taxi drivers, for instance, staged a protest against Uber and similar apps in June. In Jakarta, Indonesia, government officials threatened to shut down the service over similar qualms.

Protecting the public

While some lawmakers present during the meeting wanted Uber to stop operations right away, all of the committee members made it clear that they weren’t against the service itself.

“We’re not here to make it difficult for [services like Uber]. We’re just here to protect the people who will patronize it,” said Manila Representative Amado Bagatsing.

Bagatsing noted that Uber users he has spoken to said they prefer the service over taxis because “they feel safe.” In the Philippines, it is not unusual to hear horror stories of cab rides gone wrong.

Taxis, public utility vehicles, and other forms of public transport in the Philippines are heavily regulated, at least on paper.

Recently, the transportation department and its affiliate agencies issued a new joint administrative order, which imposes higher fines for violations, such as over-charging, refusing to take passengers in, and the use of unregistered vehicles.

“With Uber, who will be liable should driver overcharge?” asked Suntay.

Uber passengers do not pay in cash when they avail of the service. Instead, fares are charged directly to their registered credit cars.

Uber did not send representatives to the meeting despite an invitation, a move which Metro Manila development committee chairman Quezon City Representative Winston Castelo said was “very suspicious.”

Representatives from the company will be subpoenaed to the next meeting, alongside officials from the trade department and the Security and Exchange Commission.

The House of Representatives transportation committee, meanwhile, has scheduled for November 19 a separate hearing on the Uber issue. – Rappler.com

Sam Miguel
11-18-2014, 08:02 AM
^^^ Uber should not have snubbed that hearing. If anything it would have given them a very public, very political venue to air their side. That they chose to snub it does not speak well of them. Are they hiding something?

11-25-2014, 09:21 AM
THE 'REPRIVATE' OF THE PHILIPPINES | Or why Metro Manila continues to deteriorate

By: Jorge Mojarro, Special to InterAksyon.com

November 24, 2014 3:35 PM

Editor’s note: Jorge Mojarro, a Spaniard, is a PhD candidate doing research on Filipiniana. He has lived and worked in the Philippines since 2009, walking its streets, taking the LRT, and even enjoying the occasional basketball game with Manilenos.

One of the more remarkable things for expats when they come here is to observe that Filipinos in general rarely complain about anything. Mediocrity is the standard, especially regarding public issues, and Filipinos seem to have gotten used to it.

As an example, let’s talk about something simple: sidewalks, a basic public asset that facilitates mobility and the livability of a city. Except for a few areas, sidewalks are absent. Or if they do exist, they are occupied in very different ways. Streets for pedestrians are science fiction. The terrible consequence is that elders, small children, and handicapped people are excluded from the streets.

Some years ago, Dutch anthropologist Neil Mulders published a tiny but solid book in which he depicted the Filipino mindset. According to him, the main reason for the lack of social cohesion in the country is Filipinos make a very deep distinction between two spheres: the public and the private.

The private sphere belongs to the kin and friends, and utang na loob obliges one to reciprocate help, support, favors, and even money. The public sphere, on the other hand, becomes the jungle where anything is valid in order to bring commodities to the private sphere. Therefore, Filipinos tend to distrust other Filipinos in public spaces, lack of courtesy is the rule, and the much-touted bayanihan is blatantly absent.

Displaying a high social status then becomes essential in order to show power and to avoid rules.

Therefore, street vendors are allowed to occupy sidewalks and sell anything there. Some areas along Taft and Pedro Gil, for example, are literally not walkable and extremely dirty. I am not saying those people do not have the right to make a decent living. I believe, though, that they should move to proper stalls, follow basic standards of hygiene, and pay taxes.

Some barangay outposts and small police stations occupy entire sidewalks, forcing pedestrians to walk on the road. Do local officials have the freedom to do in the streets whatever they want? What is the use of these outposts? Because young thieves are selling stolen smartphones at the corner of Pedro Gil and Adriatico St., right beside a barangay outpost and 20 steps away from a police container-like station.

Then we have the big companies distributing electricity: Their huge posts occupy free of charge big portions of the streets. It is time to demand from those oligarchy-run businesses to spend part of their profits for putting electricity cables underground, as what they have done in some areas of Makati, The Fort, and Alabang. The look of Filipino streets would change radically. But I am not hopeful that this will ever happen, honestly.

We also have the eternal issue of traffic, something that is technically easy to solve, as Benjamin De La Peña has proved in a series of articles on urban planning, but is permanently delayed due to the pressure of the public transportation lobby (buses and jeepneys) and the lack of vision of public servants. I wonder if there is any urban planner in any of the city halls in Metro Manila.

Let’s look at Pasay, particularly the Buendia-Taft intersection: Instead of forcing buses and jeepneys to follow the rules, authorities chose to dismantle big portions of sidewalks in order to expand the road. Bus and jeepney drivers are happier, since they have more space to do what they were already doing: loading and unloading people. The same happened on Maginhawa Street in Quezon City. These are clear examples of the short-sightedness of so-called public servants that has had disastrous consequences over the quality of the life of hundreds of thousands of people.

Lastly, we have the businesses (banks, restaurants, convenience stores, etc.) using the sidewalks in front of their establishments as their own private parking lots. People are deprived of a place where they can walk comfortably. Moreover, you will not be allowed to leave your car there unless you are a client. Again, as in all examples cited above, we have a public space used as a private asset. It is taken for granted that it has to be like that, but clearly is bad for the livability of the city -- not to mention its unfairness and illegality.

I used to think that Philippine oligarchs would be interested in improving the sorry state of public transportation for their economic gain, but I forgot to think about those with malls. Parking fees provide huge profits that would disappear with the implementation of a centralized and organized system of public transportation. Some of them also have investments in car factories. Moreover, one of the main reasons of the success of malls in the Philippines relies precisely in the horrible state of city streets. People in Barcelona, London, or Vienna do not choose to spend their free time in malls. What is the point of going to a secluded artificial air-conditioned box when you have nice beautiful streets with benches, trees, and cleanliness? The decay of Manila is the success of the malls.

The only long-term and workable solution would be the implementation of a system of city buses like the ones available in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Warsaw, Berlin, or Tokyo. Indeed, so many models to learn from.

Unfortunately, this will not take place because, for one, there are too many people taking economic advantage of the status quo. For another, given the current impoverishment of the population, the implementation of a quality system of transportation and its maintenance would require the total control of the government subsidizing heavily its functioning.

But it should not matter how much such a system cost because it would be cheaper than the millions of pesos Filipinos lose every day in the current dysfunctional situation and the priceless radical improvement in the quality of life of Filipinos.

Summing up, Filipinos do not show any sense of shared responsibility for public space. As a consequence of this particular feature of their mindset, the shared space has only become a place where street vendors, electricity companies, local government units, and business owners can do as they please.

The Republic of the Philippines should perhaps thus be referred to as the 'Reprivate of the Philippines' to reflect this apathy to the notion of sharing responsibility for public space. And this applies to education and health too. Sadly.

Sam Miguel
11-27-2014, 08:23 AM
Epic Gridlock Reigns Over Manila's 23 Million

By Karl Lester M. Yap

April 10, 2014 2:55 AM EDT 28 Comments

Joshua Mercado is waiting for a train at the end of a kilometer-long queue that snakes down three stories from Manila’s elevated Quezon Avenue station to the sidewalk below. It’s part of his five-hour daily commute.

“All I do is wake up, go to work, go home, eat, sleep,” said Mercado, 24, who rises at 4 a.m. for a trip by motorized tricycle, minivan, train and bus to his office in Makati, the capital’s business district. “All these hours of commuting and the frequent breakdowns are really stressing me out.”

Manila’s commuters are victims of a decade of neglect that President Benigno Aquino is trying to reverse with the capital’s biggest transport upgrade since the 1990s. He’s responding to Asian urbanization that’s bringing 1,700 more people a day to his capital and will add a billion residents to the region’s cities in the quarter century to 2030, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“If the government fails to address the infrastructure gaps, this will become an unlivable city,” Gil-Hong Kim, the Asian Development Bank’s director of sustainable infrastructure, said in an interview in Manila. “Traffic jams will become a nightmare, more people will move into slums. Its wealth and business opportunities will be gone.”

The population of Greater Manila, which includes the 17 cities and municipalities of Metro Manila, will rise to more than 30 million by 2025, from 22.7 million, making it the world’s third-largest urban area after Tokyo and Jakarta, according to forecasts by Belleville, Illinois-based Demographia.

Regional Race

To counter congestion and cater to a growing populace, Aquino plans to spend at least $15 billion to help Manila catch up to regional rivals like Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur.

Asia’s cities will add about 1.1 billion residents between 2005 and 2030, the Manila-based Asian Development Bank said in a report. As the Philippines’ average economic growth accelerated to above 6 percent since 2010 from less than 4 percent in the previous two decades, people flocked to the capital, where more than a third of gross domestic product is concentrated.

The metropolis is a sea of low-rise buildings and slums packed into about 640 square kilometers (250 square miles) of land sandwiched between Manila Bay to the west and Lake Laguna and the San Mateo Mountains to the east. In the center is a cluster of skyscrapers that marks the financial district of Makati, where HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA) and Citigroup Inc. (C) have their Philippine headquarters.

Soaring Population

The original settlement of Manila City, on the bay where U.S. Commodore George Dewey destroyed a Spanish fleet in 1898, is home to both the presidential palace and a shanty town called Smokey Mountain, built on a vast pile of trash.

The years of neglect have dragged on Manila’s economic prospects. While the city climbed 12 notches to rank number 79 out of 120 urban areas in an Economist Intelligence Unit report last year that sought to predict their competitiveness in 2025, it still trails the biggest cities in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.

Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok both have plans to add rail lines more than 100 kilometers long. Jakarta is building two elevated railways and expanding the capacity of its Soekarno-Hatta International airport, Asia’s third-busiest.

Aquino, who steps down in 2016, made infrastructure one of his key goals, with plans to boost spending on public works to 5 percent of GDP, a ratio the World Bank says is needed to cut poverty and strengthen the economy.

Juddering Jeepneys

In Manila, cars and motorcycles jostle for room in the streets with buses and the ubiquitous brightly painted jeepneys, souped-up passenger vehicles originally made from converted U.S. Army Jeeps. The number of vehicles in Manila rose to 2.1 million last year from 1.67 million in 2008, an increase of 26 percent, according to the Land Transportation Office.

Marlon Balalio, 48, has been driving a jeepney for 20 years, taking up to 20 passengers at a time. His 15-kilometer route used to take 30 to 40 minutes. Now it takes two hours.

“Who would have thought the streets would become this crowded?” he said. “There’s just too many vehicles and too few roads. You step on the clutch, you step on the gas, you move a few meters, then you stop again. It’s very exhausting.”

Metro Rail Transit Corp. carried an average 561,650 passengers a day during weekdays in 2013, compared with a designed capacity of 350,000, according to the operator. To ease congestion, new coaches have been ordered, with delivery expected beginning next year, according to transport department spokesman Michael Sagcal.

San Miguel

Manila completed its first elevated highway and the 16.9-kilometer Metro Rail in 1999. Since then, many public works stagnated. Now, Aquino is getting companies to help fund the new highways and rail lines.

San Miguel Corp. (SMC), the Philippines’ largest company by revenue, in February began construction of a 26.6 billion-peso ($592 million) elevated expressway intended to cut travel time between the Makati and Quezon districts to 20 minutes from almost two hours. The company, a century-old brewer that has transformed itself with investments in oil, power and infrastructure, also is building a road connecting the airport terminals to expressways.

Ayala Corp., the country’s oldest conglomerate, and Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPI) are building other highways in the capital. Ayala shares rose 1.1 percent today and Metro Pacific climbed 1.9 percent, more than the 0.6 percent gain for the benchmark index.
Work probably will start this year on a railway to Bulacan, about 30 kilometers to the north, and an extension of a line in Manila, Sagcal said.

‘Game Changer’

“It’s a sign that the government is finally delivering on its promises,” said Gundy Cahyadi, an economist at DBS Group Holdings Ltd. in Singapore. “But for it to be a game changer, the rest of the country should not be left behind.”

Development has concentrated around Manila partly because of the difficulty in building over an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands. The Philippines has one of the youngest and fastest-growing populations in Asia. It’s set to cross 100 million this year and reach 150 million by 2045, according to the government.

All rail lines are on the main island of Luzon, where Manila is. There is less working rail track than before World War II, when much of the infrastructure was destroyed.

Still, the new road and rail projects will make only a dent in the congestion.

Bureaucratic Delays

The Japan International Cooperation Agency, which supports economic programs in developing countries, is working on a proposal that indicates the Manila area will need a 2.6 trillion-peso upgrade by 2030, including 1,260 kilometers of expressways and roads, 318 kilometers of rail lines and a new airport, according to Shizuo Iwata, author of the study.

Efforts to improve infrastructure also are hampered by bureaucracy and delays. Submission of bids for a 35-billion peso expressway connecting Cavite and Laguna provinces has been postponed to May while the awarding of the Cebu airport project was delayed for months.

With only two years left in Aquino’s presidency, “there are risks that policies may not be continued by the next administration,” said Jeff Ng, a Singapore-based economist at Standard Chartered Plc. “This year represents a golden opportunity. If a lot of these construction projects are implemented or implemented faster than expected, there could be an upside to growth this year.”

Improved transportation is key to development, said Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr.

‘Important Drivers’

“Infrastructure is one of the most important drivers of competitiveness,” Binay said in an interview. “While these projects initiated by the national government will benefit Makati, we are also taking initiatives to ensure a sustainable urban-transportation system.”
Makati plans to spend 18.5 billion pesos this year to upgrade roads, street lights and flood control. While the country’s wealthiest district has 530,000 residents, its population swells to about 4.2 million on weekdays.

In Quezon City, Mercado has finally got to the train platform after queuing for 30 minutes.

“I can’t wait for them to finish all these projects,” he said. “Maybe a Manila without traffic is too much to ask for. But hey, this is a beginning.”

Sam Miguel
11-28-2014, 08:37 AM
Revolutionary colorum

1:36 AM | Friday, November 28th, 2014

Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya hit the nail on the head. If taxicab operators are worried that mobile-phone-based competition like Uber are luring away their customers, the solution is for the taxicabs to level up to Uber, and not for Uber to dumb itself down.

“People prefer to use these tech-based transport services because they are more convenient. It’s that simple. So my advice to taxi operators: Modernize, innovate and improve your systems and services,” Abaya said. “Commuters say they feel safer taking these private vehicles-for-hire, that the fleet is newer, that app services are faster and more efficient. So why put a stop to what is clearly for their benefit? Poorer services should be upgraded to match their competition, not the other way around.”

He has effectively repudiated the backward position taken by his subalterns at the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, which has apprehended and fined the operators of private vehicles who offer their services to the riding public via smartphones.

This is all about the government’s Luddite rejection of new technology and new uses of old technology. Remember how, a decade ago, the LTFRB hounded the FX operators of Asian utility vehicles? The FX drivers had to peddle their services on the sly, as if they were trafficking cocaine, when all they were offering were nonstop, air-conditioned rides from Fairview to Ayala. In a country where schools offer fancy courses in entrepreneurship, for a decade we treated honest hardworking drivers as if they were coke dealers.

We again face the same regulatory dilemma today with motorbike-taxi services, the so-called habal-habal, that have long served communities in the Visayas and Mindanao, and today have emerged in the heart of the Makati commercial district, plying the Ayala-Fort Bonifacio route. (And—not to endorse the contraption—but you’ve got to hand it to Pinoy creativity when, in the provinces, they plunk a wooden plank across a motorbike to expand seating capacity and call it “Skylab.”)

Have they thrived despite government antipathy or even outright suppression? Yes! And why? Because they offer the consumer a real service at a cheaper price. There’s nothing wrong with that. That is exactly how markets work! This is free market capitalism in operation, and fortunately the capital outlay, at least for the FX or the habal-habal, is within reach of the balikbayan OFW or retired employee wishing to invest hard-earned savings.

For sure, with regard to mobile-app-based transport services, the government has legitimate concerns: reckless drivers and road safety, criminal syndicates who prey on their passengers, substandard equipment and the sheer volume of vehicles on the road. But it’s not as if heavy government regulation has saved us from all that aggravation!

The solution is not to force them underground and call them colorum. The solution is to license them so that they are more susceptible to public regulation however ineffectual. Even then, these mobile apps have admirably succeeded where government has failed—namely, quality control of service providers. These mobile apps offer clean and efficient services, and enable the riding public to evaluate each car and driver and tell riders whom to avoid or reward. Since Filipinos generally don’t rely on government accreditation for this, accustomed as we are to shoddy services, we rely on the market, through word-of-mouth endorsements and brand consciousness. The mobile apps merely up the ante and make it all digital.

We must recall where we got the term “colorum” to refer to unauthorized operations. It comes from “saecula saeculorum” (for “forever and ever,” or literally, “in a century of centuries”), a part of Latin prayers that pious Catholics properly call ejaculations. It first referred to an 1843 religious movement led by a disqualified aspiring friar, but eventually became the popular term for widespread anti-American uprisings in the 1920s that were portrayed as outcasts by the colonial government.

We refuse to license the colorums, and then punish them for being unlicensed. Yet licensing is no guarantee of good service, while a free, Internet-enabled market can effectively perform the quality control that public regulation has failed. The real test of a public utility service is whether it benefits the consumers and the riding public. By that standard, colorum is the true revolution. Who would have thought that it would take the Internet for “colorum” to finally recapture a part of its original liberative meaning?

Sam Miguel
12-01-2014, 10:08 AM
Metro traffic getting worse every day

Neal H. Cruz


Philippine Daily Inquirer

5:12 AM | Monday, December 1st, 2014

Traffic jams are getting worse every day in Metro Manila and environs. This situation is exacerbated by stupid planning and the lack of coordination among government agencies in charge of transportation and traffic enforcement and concerned local government units.

Last Saturday, friends and I had a birthday lunch in Chinatown. We left a press forum at Annabel’s in Quezon City in two cars at 12 noon. We had the birthday lunch in just a little over an hour, but we didn’t get home until 7 p.m. The reason: traffic jams all over Metro Manila.

We took Quezon Avenue, España, Quiapo, and up Quezon Bridge. At the foot of the bridge at Plaza Bonifacio, we turned right to the tunnel under Sta. Cruz Bridge, planning to come out at the service road between the Post Office and the Postal Savings Bank to turn right at Jones Bridge and then to Chinatown.

In the tunnel, however, debris was scattered across the road. The street was being repaired but there was no worker in sight. It was as if the road repair job had been abandoned. There was no sign that the road was closed to traffic. The site is just five minutes from the head office of the Department of Public Works and Highways in the Port Area.

We turned back, went through Intramuros and came out of the Walled City near the office of the Bureau of Immigration beside the Pasig River. We were planning to use the road beside the river to reach the foot of Jones Bridge. But that road was also closed.

We turned back again, went past City Hall and the National Museum and around the rotunda to reach the flyover to Jones Bridge, but the traffic there was hardly moving. We moved by inches, literally. It took us more than an hour to get to Jones Bridge. At its foot is the welcome arch to Chinatown. But there was no welcome; that part of the road was also closed. We had to go around a few blocks to get to the street just after the arch. The street under the arch had been cemented over. The part was no more than 10 or 15 square meters long, but it held up traffic for nearly a kilometer.

Past the Binondo Church, Chinatown traffic is always congested. In spite of the fact that the streets are narrow, double parking is allowed. Again, we had to literally crawl forward. The lunch host and guide, Inquirer food columnist and Manila Hotel crooner Margaux Salcedo, who came from Makati, texted that she also had to crawl through traffic to get to our restaurant.

When we found parking places, we left the cars and walked the rest of the way to the Hole in the Wall where we had a quick Chinese lunch. Then we started to walk back to the cars, but a downpour prevented some of us from even crossing the street. We waited it out in another restaurant.

Finally, we were in the cars and got out of Chinatown at Plaza Sta. Cruz and across the bridge, past City Hall, the National Museum and around the rotunda again, across the bridge to Mendiola, turned right toward Malacañang, then to Sta. Mesa and Quezon City.

At Quezon Avenue, the Elliptical Road, Commonwealth Avenue and all connecting streets, traffic was crawling again. These are very wide streets. Commonwealth is the widest in the Philippines and traffic there was never that heavy except when the Iglesia ni Cristo held one of its birthday bashes.

The reason this time: The Quezon City government was holding a marathon in the streets after an only-one-day notice. A marathon on city streets during the evening rush hours, on a Saturday after payday, at the same time that malls were having their Christmas sales? Isn’t that stupid?

We made shortcuts through two private subdivisions and came out on Congressional Avenue where we found the traffic also hardly moving. The reason: those infernal road reblocking projects—again. Huge cement mixers, giant cranes, and jackhammers were blocking two lanes of the avenue; only one lane was left for the long line of vehicles that included huge cargo trucks and trailers. There were no sign of workers on the job. It seemed all the road workers had taken a holiday.

That trip to Chinatown took us seven hours, the same time it takes to drive from Quezon City to Baguio and back.

What I and many other motorists cannot understand is this: Congressional Avenue Extension is a relatively new street, but it has already been repaired several times, although there wasn’t anything wrong with it. Private contractors would just arrive with jackhammers and tear up perfectly good streets, then pour new concrete into the holes. This is also happening in many other streets. Isn’t that a waste of the people’s money just to make some contractors so happy that they would be willing to share some of their profits? In the meantime, many other streets in the provinces are not being repaired allegedly for lack of funds.

Another puzzler: Can’t the DPWH, the Metro Manila Development Authority, the Department of Transportation and Communications and the agencies under it, and local government units coordinate their street and traffic plans to minimize traffic congestion? Imagine the billions of pesos squandered in lost man-hours, lost opportunities, lost wages, late deliveries, wasted fuel, etc. All because of stupid, or lack of, planning.

It is as if all these government agencies are conniving to irritate the motoring public.

Ano ba kuya?

Sam Miguel
12-18-2014, 08:17 AM
Car-based transpo system cause of PH traffic: expert

by Ryan Chua, ABS-CBN News

Posted at 12/15/2014 7:34 PM

MANILA - An environmentalist and lawyer called on government to implement policies that would discourage the use of cars and promote healthier and more environment friendly modes of transportation, particularly walking and biking.

At a hearing of the Senate public services committee on Monday, Atty. Antonio Oposa Jr. proposed the building of four-meter sidewalks, requiring vehicles to have a garage before they can be registered, prohibiting private parking on public roads, and providing more incentives to people who use bicycles, among others.

Oposa, who was invited as a resource person for bills promoting sustainable transportation, criticized the country’s “car-based” transportation system as the cause of the horrible traffic condition.

“I’m not against cars. I have a car,” he told the committee. “But I’d rather not have a car if good public transportation is available.

Oposa also said building more roads for vehicles is not the solution to the traffic problem.

“Building roads as a solution to traffic is like trying to fight a fire by pouring gasoline instead of water,” he said.

Heavy vehicular traffic is a daily reality for many Filipinos especially those living in the capital. Public transportation is another problem, with the infrastructure barely able to keep up with the number of commuters.

Senator Pia Cayetano, chair of the subcommittee on transportation, has filed a bill seeking to promote sustainable and alternative modes of transportation.

Senate Bill 26, which she co-authored with Senator Cynthia Villar, mandates the installation of walkways at least three meters wide, a shift towards public transportation as a primary means of moving around cities, the commissioning of a bus rapid transit system, the designation of bike lanes, and the establishment of a water ferry system.

“The heavy reliance on motor vehicles/cars promotes an unhealthy lifestyle as the public has become sedentary, refusing to walk or bike even short distances. In practically all of the major cities of the country, this is causing terrible traffic congestion, unnecessary stress, and even countless accidents resulting in loss of life and limb,” Cayetano, a cyclist and health advocate, said in the bill’s explanatory note.

Various government agencies expressed support for the measure, and said they have already begun programs to make transportation sustainable and environmentally friendly.

The Metro Manila Development Authority, for instance, has built bike lanes along Roxas Boulevard, Marcos Highway, Commonwealth Avenue, Ayala Avenue, and Ortigas Avenue, according to planning officer Michael Gison.

“We are promising… 200 kilometers of bike lanes all over Metro Manila to connect the network,” he said.

The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), meanwhile, has included policies promoting walking and biking in its national environmentally sustainable transport strategy.

“It has a policy framework component that looks at promoting, for example, non-motorized transport, walkability,” said Assistant Secretary Sherielysse Bonifacio of the DOTC’s Road Board.

Still, Cayetano said government must do more and asked for the cooperation of various agencies in crafting a law that would promote sustainable transportation in the country.

Sam Miguel
12-22-2014, 08:56 AM
Commuters bewail MRT, LRT fare hikes


Christian V. Esguerra, Jovic Yee, Penelope P. Endozo |

Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:45 AM |

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

MANILA, Philippines–Commuters are railing against the upcoming fare increases of 50 to 87 percent on the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) starting Jan. 4, pointing out that LRT-1 and MRT-3 trains often break down.

Marvie Villanueva, 28, a daily MRT-3 commuter from Makati to Ortigas, found the increase “too much,” given the bad shape of the trains.

In August, an MRT train went off track and slammed into the concrete barrier at the Taft Avenue Station in Pasay City, injuring some 40 passengers.

“Is the almost double rate a good increase? Can’t they increase the rate gradually? For me, the acceptable increase is from P15 to P18 or up to P22,” Villanueva said.

Rates at LRT Lines 1 and 2, and MRT Line 3 are set to increase by 50, 67 and 87 percent, respectively, with the base fare set at P11 (from the current P10) plus P1 for every kilometer.

In a statement issued on Saturday, Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya said the fare increases would result in marked improvements in the LRT and MRT services.

Malacañang asked for commuters’ understanding, saying it was “time to do what is right.”

Based on the fare matrices issued by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) and published in the Inquirer on Dec. 20, the rates for end-to-end trips for the three lines are the following:

— LRT-1: P29 for stored-value fare and P30 for single-journey fare from the current P20 (from Baclaran to Roosevelt and vice versa).

— LRT-2: P24 for stored value fare and P25 for single-journey fare from the current P15 (from Recto to Santolan and vice versa).

— MRT-3: P28 from the current P15 (from North Avenue to Taft Avenue and vice versa).

The DOTC approved the rates in 2011 after several hearings.


In a Facebook post, Train Riders Network (TREN) said the fare increases would prove disadvantageous to the public, especially to the poor.

“Isn’t it (LRT-1, LRT-2 and MRT-3) called ‘public mass railway,’ [hence] run using public funds? It should serve the majority of taxpayers,” it said.

The group said the fare increase would worsen the “already monstrously congested” traffic situation in the metropolis.

“Many would prefer to ride in jeepneys and buses, aggravating traffic. According to a Jica (Japan International Cooperation Agency) study, every day the Philippine economy loses at least P2.4 billion to traffic. Our economy stands to lose more if the citizens are disenfranchised from using the trains,” it said.

1.2M passengers daily

The three commuter trains ferry 1.2 million passengers daily. MRT-3 alone carries more than 500,000 passengers every day, well beyond its capacity of 350,000.

TREN said government management and not fare increase would guarantee that services at the country’s three train systems would improve.

“The fare increase isn’t the solution to make services better. The solution is that the government should be the one handling the train system and not the private sector,” the group said.

“The government should also purchase more efficient and safe trains and it should discontinue onerous MRT/LRT contracts that only compound the government’s debts to foreign banks and private firms.”

TREN said it was in talks with lawyers on the legal action that it may take after the DOTC “surprise announcement” of the fare increase over the weekend.

“The reason why fare hikes have been overwhelmingly opposed and always delayed is simple: They are unjustified,” said TREN spokesman James Relativo.

Villanueva said the fare increases “can be justified if [the authorities] make sure there will be more trains or the MRT will be well maintained.”

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. reiterated the government’s position that “every Filipino,” even those outside Metro Manila and not using the train system, should not continue paying part of the fares with their taxes.

“It’s time to do what is right and that is to charge fares closer to those on air-conditioned buses (along Edsa),” he said over government radio.

Coloma asked for public “understanding and cooperation,” saying the existing subsidy could instead be used for “important social services that will benefit millions of Filipinos.”

In his State of the Nation

Address last year, President Aquino argued against the government subsidizing MRT and LRT fares. He pegged the amount of subsidy at P25 for every LRT trip and P45 for the MRT.

“In the end, each and every Filipino pays a share of the subsidy. Whether you live in Mindanao or Visayas, and not once have you ever stepped onto the LRT or MRT, you help to fund this,” he said.

“Perhaps it is only reasonable for us to move the fares on the MRT and LRT closer to the fares on air-conditioned buses, so that the government subsidy for the MRT and LRT can be used for other social services.”

More classrooms

The fare increases are aimed at reducing the P12 billion in annual subsidies by about P2 billion, according to the DOTC. It said the P2 billion was equivalent to 8,240 classrooms, or 11,440 hectares of irrigated farmlands.

The DOTC said the government was subsidizing about 60 percent of the fares for LRT-1 and LRT-2, and about 75 of the fares for MRT-3.

The LRT-1 fares were last increased in 2003, while LRT-2’s fares have not been adjusted. MRT-3 fares were lowered from P17 to P34 in 1999 to P12 to P20 in 2000. The current fares range from P10 to P15.

Aquino said the decision not to increase fares in the past had been made by “leaders [who] did everything they could just to keep a firm hold on their power—at the expense of the suffering of present and future generations of Filipinos.”

“What’s worse: because past leaders gave away our commercial development rights, each peso that we can earn from the posters and billboards in the stations goes to private companies, instead of going to the government. What we could have used to subsidize the cost of maintenance and operations was given away,” he added.

Special session proposal

A Bayan Muna lawmaker is asking his colleagues in the House of Representatives to take a few days off from Christmas break to conduct hearings on the LRT and MRT fare increases.

“We are calling on the House leadership to call a special session for this or for the transportation committee to hold hearings for House Resolution (HR) No. 111 even during the Christmas break because the fare increase will be implemented as early as the first Monday of January,” Rep. Neri Colmenares said in a statement.

HR 111 sought a probe of the then proposed fare increases for the LRT and the MRT.

“The argument that the subsidy allotted to the MRT/LRT should be lowered or given to other regions because they do not use it is wrong because such an argument can also be used against projects in other regions,” Colmeneras said.

He likened this argument to not constructing or rehabilitating a bridge in Eastern Visayas because the people of Mindanao would not be using it.

He said there was nothing wrong with subsidizing the transport needs of a predominantly poor population. “[W]hat is wrong is to create conflict and division among regions and provinces, and pit the projects and benefits of one region against the other.”–With a report from Gil C. Cabacungan

02-18-2015, 09:25 AM
Traffic jams invade Ayala Alabang

Neal H. Cruz


Philippine Daily Inquirer

2:50 AM | Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

Question: What street is worse than Edsa in traffic congestion? Answer: Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City during school days.

And the reason for the congestion is Ateneo de Manila University. There are two other schools on Katipunan—Miriam College and the University of the Philippines—but they don’t attract as much traffic as Ateneo.

In Mandaluyong, there is La Salle Greenhills. Vehicles unloading and loading students clog Ortigas Avenue. The rich kids also make Ortigas their private parking lot.

Passengers of buses and jeepneys, along with other motorists who pass through these two major thoroughfares, can only gnash their teeth in exasperation.

While Ortigas and Katipunan are public roads, traffic enforcers are mostly afraid and unwilling to tangle with the parents of the rich kids.

The Metro Manila Development Authority tried to remedy the Katipunan traffic jams by instituting traffic rules, but these do not do much good and sometimes make the congestion worse.

The surefire remedy, as I see it, is to construct a flyover leading to the Ateneo campus—but at the expense of the university because it would be for the benefit of the school and its students. There is plenty of space on campus for parking. Taxpayers have already spent billions of pesos to ease the traffic congestion caused by Ateneo.

Note that UP on Katipunan and the University of Santo Tomas on España do not create traffic jams because they have plenty of space on campus for parking.

I do not know what can be done for Ortigas Avenue, where La Salle Greenhills is located, except to open its gates to allow vehicles waiting for students to park inside.

De la Salle has also created a problem in Ayala Alabang. It is primarily a residential subdivision, but a number of schools, the biggest of which is De La Salle-Zobel (DLSZ), were allowed to locate inside.

The influx of vehicles of students living outside the subdivision creates traffic jams like those on Edsa. Imagine the irony: Residents of Ayala Alabang are those fleeing the concrete jungle and traffic congestion in Metro Manila. They thought living in their village would give them plenty of open space and fresh air. They thought wrong. The traffic jams and smog have followed them inside the village.

The Ayala Alabang Village Association tried to remedy the situation by imposing a color-coding scheme on vehicles using the narrow streets. But apparently, DLSZ officials—including a particularly imperious one, it is said—opposed the scheme. They used the names of students as complainants and were able to secure a temporary restraining order from a court. The imperious official has supposedly even threatened to tell the students not to come to school when the TRO expires in 20 days.

If this is true, DLSZ officials are using blackmail, refusing to admit that they are to blame when students miss their classes because of the traffic jams. Now they want the students to boycott classes in order to oppose a scheme intended to ease the traffic jams inside the village.

That would be like the MMDA asking single-car families to stop sending their children to school during their turn at number-coding. Who would be the loser? Wouldn’t it be the school and the students?

In the short time after Pope Francis visited the Philippines, DLSZ officials seem to have already forgotten his admonition that church people should set the example and not to be too preoccupied with material wealth.

Education is supposed to be a nonprofit enterprise. That is why it is tax-exempt. But what is this we hear that DLSZ is raking in huge profits—to the tune of P800 million last year? DLSZ is engaged in a whirlwind expansion of the school, with nonstop construction work going on from Monday to Saturday, extending to the early evening.

DLSZ inside Ayala Alabang was originally intended to serve only the residents of the village. It has also promised to limit its student population to 4,000. Records at DLSZ show, however, that in school year 2014-2015, it has 4,188 students, 78 percent of whom are nonresidents.

Its claim that it is fighting for the public good has no basis because Ayala Alabang is a gated community without any egress to any other place in Muntinlupa. You enter through one gate and you leave through that same gate.

Why DLSZ does not want to give the color-coding scheme a try is puzzling. Ayala Alabang’s narrow roads just cannot accommodate the vehicles of its 3,000 nonresident students.

Under the color-coding scheme, the 1,787 vehicles of the school’s nonresident students would be assigned either a white sticker allowing entry into the village on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, or a green sticker for entry on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

The scheme is intended to encourage carpooling and the use of school buses. Residents of Ayala Alabang have the right to bring back order inside their community through this ordinance.

The educators of DLSZ should be educated that its welfare should be balanced with the welfare of its host community. If DLSZ cannot abide by the rules of its host, then it should feel free to pack up and leave.

Sam Miguel
05-08-2015, 07:48 AM
Bacolod City bans jeepney barkers, imposes penalty on violators

By: Philippines News Agency

May 7, 2015 10:37 AM


The online news portal of TV5

BACOLOD CITY - Jeepney barkers operating in the streets of Bacolod have been banned according to an ordinance passed by the city council.

Violators will be fined P500 and/or 15-day imprisonment for first offense; P1,000 and/or 30-day imprisonment for second offense; and P2,000 and/or 60-day imprisonment for third and succeeding offenses.

Councilor Wilson Gamboa Jr. authored “Ordinance Regulating the Acts of Passenger Calling to Vehicles-for-hire.”

Gamboa said the ordinance aims to make “Bacolod an orderly urban locality with a comprehensive, measurable, and sustainable traffic management coordinated by the united efforts of all traffic agencies concerned.”

He said Bacolod cannot achieve this goal if so-called barkers “who exact nefarious, oppressive, and coercive fees to drivers and commuters alike are operating in the streets.”

According to the ordinance, the practice is “prejudicial and detrimental to the transport sector in general.”

These acts of procuring, soliciting passengers, or would-be passengers for a fee have continued unabated and unregulated, Gamboa said.

He said the anti-barker ordinance will free both drivers and passengers of public utility vehicles (PUVs) of coercive fees exacted by barkers and also ease traffic congestion caused by PUVs forced to park along streets waiting for passengers called by said barkers.

Gamboa said that while barkers will be displaced upon implementation of the ordinance, there are livelihood trainings and programs in place for them facilitated by the City Department of Social Services and Development and the City Cooperative and Livelihood Development Office.

“It is in the best interest of the transport sector as well as the general public that the aforementioned activities of passenger calling by ‘barkers’ be regulated and violators penalized,” the ordinance added.

Sam Miguel
05-13-2015, 09:03 AM
Railway blues

Philippine Daily Inquirer 1:03 AM | Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

THE PHILIPPINES’ policy on urban mass transportation needs a serious rethink.

But perhaps not only a rethink. Given the penchant of the Aquino administration’s policymakers to study and review plans for major infrastructure projects ad infinitum, the matter actually needs a major push in the right direction to get things moving. It’s that urgent.

Consider the decrepit rail system. Last week the commuting public suffered another major blow with the decision of the Philippine National Railways to suspend operations starting on May 5. The decision was made a week after two cars of a southbound train derailed,injuring 70 passengers.

Operations were suspended to allow for the inspection of bolts, angle bars, rail clips, concrete rail ties, etc., and the necessary replacements and repairs, according to the PNR spokesperson. The PNR had earlier announced a projected expenditure of some P2.5 billion for upgrading and refurbishing the infrastructure.

Thoroughly inconvenienced by the suspension of rail services are an estimated 60,000-70,000 commuters who daily take the PNR’s aging and lumbering trains on the 60-kilometer route from Tutuban in Manila to Calamba in Laguna.

Of course, 60,000-70,000 inconvenienced people are a drop in the bucket compared to the half a million who use the Metro Rail Transit system that traverses Edsa, plus the 200,000 who ride the older Light Rail Transit trains in Manila, and finally the millions more who commute to and from work daily on buses, jeepneys, taxicabs, tricycles and pedicabs.

But the fact that far less than a million of 100 million Filipinos, and not more, move around our cities each day on trains—causing the majority of working people to waste an average 10 percent of their productive lives stuck in vehicular traffic—shows how bad the problem is. And it highlights just how much our policymakers have failed.

It wasn’t always the case, if the truth be told.

Only a few know that the Philippines was an early player in the mass transit game, with the capital city enjoying an efficient commuter rail system as early as the turn of the 20th century. Indeed, the abbreviation “Meralco” stood for Manila Electric Railroad and Light Co. (with the once ubiquitous electric “tranvia” tramway system) before power distribution overtook rail services as the firm’s main revenue source in the 1940s.

As the usual narrative goes, the Philippines was ahead of everyone else in the region before it shot itself in the foot.

What happened after World War II—and continues to this day—was that the desire for expediency (some use the term “laziness”) took over and held sway. Postwar Filipino policymakers succumbed to the sweet music of US lobbyists who persuaded them to implement an American-style highway system populated with private vehicles (mostly American-made at that time, of course) instead of a more practical rail system based on the European model.

It was a poorly studied decision; its adverse effects continue to burden us today, generations after it was made.

But there is still a way to change the national destiny as far as urban mass transportation is concerned. And it can start now.

The Aquino administration—with its still-untapped political capital and goodwill on the economic front—can reorient the national policy to put the creation of a new rail system on equal footing with new road networks. And the overriding benefit is that the government does not even have to spend a centavo. All it has to do is get out of the way of the private sector, where many corporate players are aching to build mass rail commuter systems.

Worries about private firms’ profit orientation are misplaced. Private companies will keep prices affordable because they want to make money. And charging exorbitant fees for rail services will deter commuters, and result in lower revenues. Private-sector managers are smarter than that.

Modern nations rely on vast webs of rail systems to allow citizens from all social classes to move efficiently from one place to another, and back. Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, the great cities of Europe, even car-centric America, are devoting more resources to high-speed rail.

The Philippines must do the same, if Filipinos are to enjoy a better quality of life. With an open mind, the Aquino administration—even with just a year left in its term—can help make an efficient rail-based urban mass transportation system a reality.

Never mind if another president gets to cut the ceremonial ribbon.

Sam Miguel
06-16-2015, 08:06 AM
From James Deakin...

Banning über is as ridiculous as banning email while we still have post offices


Barely a week after the DOTC and the LTFRB gave the green light on the usage of Uber, Grab car, and other similar ride sharing platforms, along comes Congress to create another unnecessary roadblock on what would have been a landmark decision by any national government agency worldwide; a decision that can put the Philippines back on the map as a forward thinking, progressive country. Instead, thanks to a select few, we run the risk of taking one step forward and a hundred back.

For what reason, I’m not entirely sure. But it is probably for the same reason we privatise the buses and refuse to maintain and expand the MRT, due to a paralysing fear that it may eventually lead to progress. Because as Mark Twain so eloquently pointed out, “If the opposite of pro is con, then the opposite of progress must be…?” Think about it. What other valid reason would a country like ours, which is not only the traffic capital of the free world but home to arguably the worst public transportation system, have to refuse to adopt a ride sharing platform?

Security? I don’t think it can get any worse than it is right now with our cabs. Besides which, Uber is the only platform that requires the mandatory use of a credit card for identity verification and cashless transactions. Taxation? Refer to the previous answer. Regulation? Rinse and repeat the first and second answer, add the word ‘Seriously?’ and apply it to anything Congress throws your way. Bottom line is, Filipinos have embraced Uber and other similar platforms because the government has failed to provide us a safe and reliable alternative. Period. And trying to impose that on the commuter when there’s a better option is like banning the use of cellphones and email to protect the pager and fax machine industry.

We’re on the cusp of a breakthrough. It’s time we put politics aside for the greater good and pave the way for a possible revolution in public transportation––at least on a taxi and private car use level. The Philippines has the chance to make history here. Never before has Uber been given authority to operate in any country on a national level. The DOTC is a national agency. It has already been approved by secretary Abaya, who is now slowly being credited as a forward thinker and a man in search of solutions rather than pointing out problems. And considering the current fiasco surrounding the LTO––an agency that falls under his watch––they could seriously use the PR, don’t you think? Remember the first rule of a hole? When you’re in one, stop digging.

Besides, nobody is asking for taxis to be phased out or banned. All we ask is to be given a safe and more efficient alternative. Let competition take care of extinction. If the cabs can level up, they should have no problem. Right?

This is the future. At least until something just as radical replaces it. And resistance is futile. Imagine if one Uber car replaces 15 private cars in Metro Manila? That would be far more effective than coding. And while it can be argued that one Uber car cannot replace 15 cars on the road at once, it can definitely be applied to the parking situation. But whatever math works for you, it is impossible to deny that it would significantly ease congestion. And once Uber launches Uber pool, which is a ride sharing within ride sharing, you can expect these numbers to only get better.

Just freshly out of Beta phase, the Philippines will be one of the first markets outside the U.S. to experience it. The idea, according to Uber, is to match people who are going the same way as you and give you the option to share your ride. Should you agree, you could save almost 50% off the ride (it won’t be exactly half according to the head of Uber Philippines, Laurence Cua) but it will be close. This means each passenger saves about 40% or so, while the driver earns a little more than normal, making it a win-win-win situation so long as you are willing to share and possibly make a new friend. Think of it like inception for ride sharing.

As it is now, Uber is roughly 40% cheaper than a regular cab ride in San Francisco. With Uber Pool, this makes it almost 80% cheaper. And with enough competition, there’s no reason it can’t be similar in the Philippines. This is just the beginning. There’s a reason why Google Ventures has said that Uber has become the fastest growing company in the history of the Internet, and it comes down to one simple thing. They dared to reinvent the wheel.

So I make a humble plea to those in government that are trying to stop this. Kindly look at the social impact first and work your way backwards to find a way to make this happen. It can be done. It is just a matter of political will. And you now have the chance to make history for yourselves and change the public’s perception of the traditional politician by reinventing your own will.

Sam Miguel
11-12-2015, 08:31 AM
It’s the cars, stupid

By: Cielito F. Habito


Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:08 AM November 10th, 2015

THE REAL way out of the horrendous traffic mess in Metro Manila, and increasingly in other major cities of the country as well, is not to build more roads to accommodate more cars. It’s to have fewer cars on the city’s roads. That is, the solution lies more on the side of demand, not of supply. The lasting solution is not increasing the supply of roads, but reducing demand for it. In short, our goal, as far as metropolitan areas are concerned, is to get people out of their cars.

Enrique Peñalosa, mayor of Colombia’s capital city of Bogotá, has long argued that building more and bigger highways as a response to traffic jams is like putting out a fire with gasoline.

Peñalosa has just won a fresh 2016-2019 term from the citizens of Bogotá, in the position he last held 14 years ago. At that time, he changed the city dramatically with his out-of-the-box approach to its traffic problem. As described by British paper The Guardian, “Peñalosa is remembered fondly by Bogotá’s eight million residents for declaring war on the automobile when he previously served as mayor from 1998 to 2001, restricting traffic during rush hour, implementing a mass transit system and rolling out a network of bike paths that now stretch over 300 kilometers.”

I’ve had the pleasure of listening to Mayor Peñalosa twice, including on a visit he made to Manila years ago, with his first-hand account of how he literally fought to transform Bogota into a much more livable city for its people. Having led on the credo that “cities are for people, not for cars,” he declined a $15-billion highways program from foreign aid agencies. Instead, he opted to restrict car use and create quality public transport, against strong criticism and even ridicule from detractors. The city decided that money was better spent building a 35-kilometer “greenway” exclusively for bicyclists and pedestrians, in lieu of an eight-lane highway proposed by foreign donors that would have benefited primarily those who own cars. Those bicycle lanes had since multiplied nearly 10 times in length.

In an advocacy that he has pursued internationally, he argues that experience all over the world shows that building more road infrastructure in cities ultimately brings about more traffic jams. The reason is simple: Supply creates more demand. It seems logical enough: In the absence of restrictions, building more roads attracts more people to buy cars. To stress the point, he challenges his audiences to name one city in the world that solved its traffic problems with more road infrastructure. If there were more space for cars in New York or London, he declares, there would be more cars. But if there were less space available for cars, then there would be fewer cars—and he reminds his audience that access to parking space has never been a constitutional right anywhere. Among his controversial moves was to return sidewalks to pedestrians. He removed cars from sidewalks by raising their level and installing bollards (short posts) on them, while also clearing them of informal vendors (sounds familiar?).

Recognizing that transport lies at the center of city life, Peñalosa sees transport as a peculiar challenge: Unlike most other concerns, it gets worse as a society gets richer. He further laments how car owners who comprise a minority in developing country cities nonetheless dominate political power therein. In particular, public investments in cities tend to be inordinately directed toward them in the form of more road infrastructure. Infrastructure investments can indeed be regressive, that is, hurt the poor and help the rich, especially if these are focused prominently on roads.

He notes that the only means of transport accessible to low-income citizens in developing country cities, and to children in all cities, is the bicycle. Bicycling to work can save up to 30 percent of a minimum wage earner’s income. When he started as mayor of Bogotá there was not a single meter of bicycle lane, and few people rode bicycles. He takes pride in the fact that more than 350,000 people from all walks of life have since been biking to work daily. To Mayor Peñalosa, a great city is one that provides much free joy: parks, sidewalks, waterfronts, sports facilities, libraries, quality public education at all levels, pedestrian promenades, marvelous waterfronts, and, yes, protected bicycle lanes. The last, to him, is a fitting symbol of democracy, as it demonstrates how a citizen on a $40-bicycle matters as much as one in a $40,000-car.

Not everyone can ride bikes, of course, so the other critical element in a city’s transport system is an efficient mass transit network. In 2000, Peñalosa started construction on the TransMilenio bus rapid transit (BRT) system, which by 2012 had 12 lines traversing a total of 112 kilometers throughout the city, now the world’s largest BRT system. In Metro Manila, where bicycling may not be easy in certain areas with rolling terrain (Edsa between Makati and Mandaluyong comes to mind), we need an extensive and efficient mass transit system far wider and far better than what we have so far. I was excited by a recent briefing from the Japan International Cooperation Agency on a proposed (and long-overdue) Mega Manila Subway Project that would traverse 63 kilometers from Bulacan down to Cavite. Given Metro Manila’s population density, we will need hundreds of kilometers more.

Over time, we must get motorists out of their cars and get them to ride bicycles (Marikina City has led the way on this), or where not possible or practical, into an efficient mass transport system. After all, these, not more cars, are the future—and the mark of a truly livable city.

* * *

Sam Miguel
11-12-2015, 08:32 AM
It’s the cars, stupid

By: Cielito F. Habito


Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:08 AM November 10th, 2015

THE REAL way out of the horrendous traffic mess in Metro Manila, and increasingly in other major cities of the country as well, is not to build more roads to accommodate more cars. It’s to have fewer cars on the city’s roads. That is, the solution lies more on the side of demand, not of supply. The lasting solution is not increasing the supply of roads, but reducing demand for it. In short, our goal, as far as metropolitan areas are concerned, is to get people out of their cars.

Enrique Peñalosa, mayor of Colombia’s capital city of Bogotá, has long argued that building more and bigger highways as a response to traffic jams is like putting out a fire with gasoline.

Peñalosa has just won a fresh 2016-2019 term from the citizens of Bogotá, in the position he last held 14 years ago. At that time, he changed the city dramatically with his out-of-the-box approach to its traffic problem. As described by British paper The Guardian, “Peñalosa is remembered fondly by Bogotá’s eight million residents for declaring war on the automobile when he previously served as mayor from 1998 to 2001, restricting traffic during rush hour, implementing a mass transit system and rolling out a network of bike paths that now stretch over 300 kilometers.”

I’ve had the pleasure of listening to Mayor Peñalosa twice, including on a visit he made to Manila years ago, with his first-hand account of how he literally fought to transform Bogota into a much more livable city for its people. Having led on the credo that “cities are for people, not for cars,” he declined a $15-billion highways program from foreign aid agencies. Instead, he opted to restrict car use and create quality public transport, against strong criticism and even ridicule from detractors. The city decided that money was better spent building a 35-kilometer “greenway” exclusively for bicyclists and pedestrians, in lieu of an eight-lane highway proposed by foreign donors that would have benefited primarily those who own cars. Those bicycle lanes had since multiplied nearly 10 times in length.

In an advocacy that he has pursued internationally, he argues that experience all over the world shows that building more road infrastructure in cities ultimately brings about more traffic jams. The reason is simple: Supply creates more demand. It seems logical enough: In the absence of restrictions, building more roads attracts more people to buy cars. To stress the point, he challenges his audiences to name one city in the world that solved its traffic problems with more road infrastructure. If there were more space for cars in New York or London, he declares, there would be more cars. But if there were less space available for cars, then there would be fewer cars—and he reminds his audience that access to parking space has never been a constitutional right anywhere. Among his controversial moves was to return sidewalks to pedestrians. He removed cars from sidewalks by raising their level and installing bollards (short posts) on them, while also clearing them of informal vendors (sounds familiar?).

Recognizing that transport lies at the center of city life, Peñalosa sees transport as a peculiar challenge: Unlike most other concerns, it gets worse as a society gets richer. He further laments how car owners who comprise a minority in developing country cities nonetheless dominate political power therein. In particular, public investments in cities tend to be inordinately directed toward them in the form of more road infrastructure. Infrastructure investments can indeed be regressive, that is, hurt the poor and help the rich, especially if these are focused prominently on roads.

He notes that the only means of transport accessible to low-income citizens in developing country cities, and to children in all cities, is the bicycle. Bicycling to work can save up to 30 percent of a minimum wage earner’s income. When he started as mayor of Bogotá there was not a single meter of bicycle lane, and few people rode bicycles. He takes pride in the fact that more than 350,000 people from all walks of life have since been biking to work daily. To Mayor Peñalosa, a great city is one that provides much free joy: parks, sidewalks, waterfronts, sports facilities, libraries, quality public education at all levels, pedestrian promenades, marvelous waterfronts, and, yes, protected bicycle lanes. The last, to him, is a fitting symbol of democracy, as it demonstrates how a citizen on a $40-bicycle matters as much as one in a $40,000-car.

Not everyone can ride bikes, of course, so the other critical element in a city’s transport system is an efficient mass transit network. In 2000, Peñalosa started construction on the TransMilenio bus rapid transit (BRT) system, which by 2012 had 12 lines traversing a total of 112 kilometers throughout the city, now the world’s largest BRT system. In Metro Manila, where bicycling may not be easy in certain areas with rolling terrain (Edsa between Makati and Mandaluyong comes to mind), we need an extensive and efficient mass transit system far wider and far better than what we have so far. I was excited by a recent briefing from the Japan International Cooperation Agency on a proposed (and long-overdue) Mega Manila Subway Project that would traverse 63 kilometers from Bulacan down to Cavite. Given Metro Manila’s population density, we will need hundreds of kilometers more.

Over time, we must get motorists out of their cars and get them to ride bicycles (Marikina City has led the way on this), or where not possible or practical, into an efficient mass transport system. After all, these, not more cars, are the future—and the mark of a truly livable city.

* * *

Sam Miguel
01-13-2016, 02:16 PM
“It’s the Traffic, Stupid!”


By Rose Fres Fausto (philstar.com) |

Updated January 13, 2016 - 12:00am
“It’s the economy, stupid!” was coined by James Carville, the campaign strategist of Bill Clinton’s successful run against the sitting Pres. Bush (the daddy, not the son) in 1992. This slogan was a huge success that it did a re-run during an integrity crisis in the two-term Clinton administration. The boy from Arkansas was not kicked out of the oval office despite the highly publicized and TV series-worthy Monica Lewinsky sex scandal.

Back home, we’re now on our second week of the year and after we’ve done our new year’s resolutions/business plans, high in optimism ready to take on 2016 to be our #BestYearEver we realize, “Uh oh, we’re back to same old same old!” Particularly, same old TRAFFIC! We wonder, why is it still very much like the last Friday before Christmas? Isn’t it supposed to improve even just a little?

I see a lot of rants on social media about our epic Metro Manila traffic, one of which was written by a friend who came home after a business trip and she just poured it out narrating her horrible experience from her touch down at the airport all the way to her doorstep. She was so pissed and I understand her not only because our traffic situation has really gone from bad to worse but also because of her job. Her business trip was all about selling the Philippines to foreign investors. The alarming thing here is that she ended up by saying, “…and you want me to vote for your candidate?” Then she went on to lambast the president for his ineptitude, excuses for not solving the traffic problem, etc.

This post must be one of her most “liked” posts with a lot of comments empathizing and agreeing with her. We’re in trouble when the people who try to sell the Philippines are not longer sold on the product. To this I say, “It’s the traffic, stupid!” This is not to call anyone in particular stupid but I’m just using that effective Clinton campaign slogan. We ought to do something about traffic. Fast!

When we see faces like this on tv, the newspaper and social media, after having gone through a terrible commute due to traffic, chances are our blood pressure will shoot up and we think of the coming elections in May and say, “No way!”

It’s very easy for us to forget all the good things brought about by the current administration – the high trust rating it gained internationally when it started in 2010; the investment grade ratings we got from S&P, Fitch and Moody’s, the very first time it ever happened in Philippine history; the high GDP growth rates, even becoming the second fastest growing next to economic giant China; the booming Philippine Stock Exchange also recording robust growth of recent.

Can the monstrous traffic situation make us forget all the good things that happened during the current administration?

All of these we tend to forget because we are subjected to the everyday grind of traffic, the helplessness, the waste of time, energy and resources that were estimated at P3 billion a day, according to a study of Japan International Cooperation Agency in 2012.

What to do

I am not going to discuss the things that the government should do like improve the mass transit system, decongest Metro Manila, etc. Those have been written about several times. I am not taking the government off the hook in this mess but instead of just lambasting them, why don’t we also look at ourselves and see what our role has been in this worsening traffic problem. Our traffic problem is beyond chaotic not just because of government ineptitude but because we (yes that includes me who’s writing this piece, you who’s reading it, and all the people around us) allow it to happen! Sorry to say but we cannot just pass on the blame to PNoy and Abaya and the rest of the bubble gang. It’s time to examine ourselves honestly and see how we have been contributing to the problem.

1. How many cars does my family own?

Okay let’s be honest, chances are for some families who are comfortable, they probably own more cars than the number of members they have in the family. And the excuse is the number coding system. There has to be an extra coding car so that there won’t be a shortage on each day of the week. So now we know that this solution did not only not solve the problem but it actually worsened the situation because we can now have more cars on the road whenever coding is lifted on certain days.

2. Do I have garage space for all the cars I own?

We buy cars even if we don’t have the garage space for them and end up occupying precious road space as private garage. In Singapore they require a Certificate of Entitlement before one can buy a car. Maybe we can start by requiring a car buyer to prove that he has garage for the car before we allow the purchase.

3. Do I consider carpooling for myself and my kids?

Because we want to have autonomy of our time and sometimes value our privacy, we don’t take heed of this call to carpool. Go to any school on weekdays especially drop off and fetching time and it’s really terrible. And we subject our kids to this every single school day.

4. Do I try to avoid the busy streets during peak hours or do I just go as I please?

Well sometimes the penalty of being stuck in traffic is itself the motivation to avoid these streets, but maybe on a regular basis we should schedule our trips on off-peak hours so as not to add to the congestion. Maybe all companies should advocate work from home days. It could prove to be even more productive.

5. Do I try to bribe the officer who issues me a ticket for traffic violation?

Or do I accept my punishment and hopefully learn to obey rules more and help ease traffic? We usually reason out that we’re too busy so a few hundred pesos grease money is the practical and socially acceptable thing to do. Let’s remember that this is a corrupt act (petty as you may think), something we always accuse our government of.

Sam Miguel
01-13-2016, 02:21 PM
^^^ (Cont'd )

6. Do I get on and off a ride only at designated stops?

We allow people to occupy one or two lanes to compete in getting a ride. We allow passengers to get down anywhere they want, even in the middle of the road. We should totally enforce rules on bus/jeepney/cab stops. We should apprehend both the driver and the passenger.

7. Do I cross the streets only on pedestrian lanes?

I think there was a time in the Marcos era when they tried to discipline jaywalkers by detaining them in makeshift jails open to public viewing. It may not be very humane to do this again but there should be some form of humiliation in the penalty when an ordinance is being introduced for it to be effective.

8. Do I have too many drivers?

Decades ago family drivers were employed only by the very rich and they served the head of the family and the very young members who couldn’t drive yet. There was an excitement among teens, especially boys, to get their own diver’s license prior to legal age that they falsified public documents lying about their age. Most of the time, the eager teenaged son was given a corresponding task to drive for his younger siblings as a way to earn his use of the family car. So siblings would go to school together using one car, wait for each other and go home together. But now we see a lot of drivers employed by middle class families, sometimes more than one in a family. Come on, does your grade schooler really need his own driver? What about the school bus? Some have his/hers/kids’ drivers in a single family. The problem with multiple drivers is that we tend to be lax in scheduling our trips causing more cars on the roads at any given time.

9. Do we make our children get their driver’s license the legal way or do we pay off someone or pull strings in order to get one without having to go through all the trouble?

Making our children get their driver’s license the legal way makes them experience bureaucracy and hopefully, the little pain felt will make them value it more and take this privilege of driving more seriously; consequently, making them more decent drivers.

10. Do I cut or swerve and drive like a maniac bus driver on the road because everyone else is doing it?

I remember when the boys were growing up and they would ask why the bus drivers drove that way? In one of my pissed off moments, I answered, “Because they are bus drivers, “bus” is short for “bastos!” For a time they believed that answer to be true and I had to correct it later on. But seriously, this is a question we have to answer honestly, “Am I also a “bas driver?”

11. Do we occupy sidewalks?

Pedestrians are discouraged from walking because we don’t have sidewalks. We see sari-sari stores and other structures extending up to the sidewalks.

12. Do we use the roads as our basketball court or palengke or extension of our living room when there’s a wake?

Some barangays allow their residents to use their precious roadways as basketball courts, palengkes and funeral parlors where tables and chairs are set up. Waze gets confused with these roads. Sometimes she directs you to detour to avoid congested main roads and you end up being delayed more because you didn’t anticipate all these “occupy barangay road” practices.

There are many more that you can add to this list. Again, our traffic problem is so because we allow it to happen! Admittedly, I am guilty of some of the above items. I hope that these 12 points plus the ones you will add will make you look deeper into your own contribution to the chaotic and, contrary to what Abaya said, really fatal situation. Once we all do, we will be kinder in lambasting the government officials and be more proactive in doing our own little share in solving the Metro Manila traffic mess.

As I end this article, I somehow feel more hopeful. Why? Because come to think of it, there are at least a dozen things we can do to ease traffic which are behavioral in nature and which we can readily do before those mass transport systems are put in place. Instead of just making new traffic ordinances here and there in an experimental basis, I think PNoy should call on the entire nation. He should deliver a speech declaring that we are in a state of emergency, apologize for their shortcomings and ask everyone to come together and sacrifice as a nation for the common good. Hmm… I actually imagine writing PNoy’s speech (in parody so I don’t bore my readers) once he declares Metro Manila in a fatal state of emergency! Watch out for that speech. smiley



I will speak at the First Quarter Macroeconomic Briefing to share my insights on the presidentiables, to be held on February 4 at the Ateneo Rockwell Campus from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. For reservations, please contact 4265661 or e-mail eaglewatch.soss@ateneo.edu.

Rose Fres Fausto is the author of bestselling books Raising Pinoy Boys and The Retelling of The Richest Man in Babylon (English and Filipino versions). Click this link to read samples - Books of FQ Mom Rose Fres Fausto. She is the grand prize winner of the first Sinag Financial Literacy Digital Journalism Awards. Follow her on Facebook and You Tube as FQ Mom, and Twitter & Instagram as theFQMom.

Sam Miguel
01-13-2016, 02:21 PM
^^^ (Cont'd )

6. Do I get on and off a ride only at designated stops?

We allow people to occupy one or two lanes to compete in getting a ride. We allow passengers to get down anywhere they want, even in the middle of the road. We should totally enforce rules on bus/jeepney/cab stops. We should apprehend both the driver and the passenger.

7. Do I cross the streets only on pedestrian lanes?

I think there was a time in the Marcos era when they tried to discipline jaywalkers by detaining them in makeshift jails open to public viewing. It may not be very humane to do this again but there should be some form of humiliation in the penalty when an ordinance is being introduced for it to be effective.

8. Do I have too many drivers?

Decades ago family drivers were employed only by the very rich and they served the head of the family and the very young members who couldn’t drive yet. There was an excitement among teens, especially boys, to get their own diver’s license prior to legal age that they falsified public documents lying about their age. Most of the time, the eager teenaged son was given a corresponding task to drive for his younger siblings as a way to earn his use of the family car. So siblings would go to school together using one car, wait for each other and go home together. But now we see a lot of drivers employed by middle class families, sometimes more than one in a family. Come on, does your grade schooler really need his own driver? What about the school bus? Some have his/hers/kids’ drivers in a single family. The problem with multiple drivers is that we tend to be lax in scheduling our trips causing more cars on the roads at any given time.

9. Do we make our children get their driver’s license the legal way or do we pay off someone or pull strings in order to get one without having to go through all the trouble?

Making our children get their driver’s license the legal way makes them experience bureaucracy and hopefully, the little pain felt will make them value it more and take this privilege of driving more seriously; consequently, making them more decent drivers.

10. Do I cut or swerve and drive like a maniac bus driver on the road because everyone else is doing it?

I remember when the boys were growing up and they would ask why the bus drivers drove that way? In one of my pissed off moments, I answered, “Because they are bus drivers, “bus” is short for “bastos!” For a time they believed that answer to be true and I had to correct it later on. But seriously, this is a question we have to answer honestly, “Am I also a “bas driver?”

11. Do we occupy sidewalks?

Pedestrians are discouraged from walking because we don’t have sidewalks. We see sari-sari stores and other structures extending up to the sidewalks.

12. Do we use the roads as our basketball court or palengke or extension of our living room when there’s a wake?

Some barangays allow their residents to use their precious roadways as basketball courts, palengkes and funeral parlors where tables and chairs are set up. Waze gets confused with these roads. Sometimes she directs you to detour to avoid congested main roads and you end up being delayed more because you didn’t anticipate all these “occupy barangay road” practices.

There are many more that you can add to this list. Again, our traffic problem is so because we allow it to happen! Admittedly, I am guilty of some of the above items. I hope that these 12 points plus the ones you will add will make you look deeper into your own contribution to the chaotic and, contrary to what Abaya said, really fatal situation. Once we all do, we will be kinder in lambasting the government officials and be more proactive in doing our own little share in solving the Metro Manila traffic mess.

As I end this article, I somehow feel more hopeful. Why? Because come to think of it, there are at least a dozen things we can do to ease traffic which are behavioral in nature and which we can readily do before those mass transport systems are put in place. Instead of just making new traffic ordinances here and there in an experimental basis, I think PNoy should call on the entire nation. He should deliver a speech declaring that we are in a state of emergency, apologize for their shortcomings and ask everyone to come together and sacrifice as a nation for the common good. Hmm… I actually imagine writing PNoy’s speech (in parody so I don’t bore my readers) once he declares Metro Manila in a fatal state of emergency! Watch out for that speech. smiley



I will speak at the First Quarter Macroeconomic Briefing to share my insights on the presidentiables, to be held on February 4 at the Ateneo Rockwell Campus from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. For reservations, please contact 4265661 or e-mail eaglewatch.soss@ateneo.edu.

Rose Fres Fausto is the author of bestselling books Raising Pinoy Boys and The Retelling of The Richest Man in Babylon (English and Filipino versions). Click this link to read samples - Books of FQ Mom Rose Fres Fausto. She is the grand prize winner of the first Sinag Financial Literacy Digital Journalism Awards. Follow her on Facebook and You Tube as FQ Mom, and Twitter & Instagram as theFQMom.

11-27-2017, 02:29 PM
From pAbaya to TuGrabe


By Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 27, 2017 - 12:00am

No, I didn't think up that headline. I saw it as a hashtag on social media. Filipino humor can be devastating during difficult times. Unfortunately for whoever is the transport secretary, they are only as good as the performance of the MRT3.

MRT 3 had long been falling apart, but lately, it seems things are getting intolerably worse. The past and present transport secretaries have been nibbling at the periphery of the problem?as if rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

Both of them, pAbaya and TuGrabe are lawyers so they should know it all starts with the Original Sin: the MRT 3 BLT contract entered into by the FVR administration. It had been revised by succeeding administrations. After all the financial gymnastics, the Sobrepena-led MRTC still owns the system.

What has been sold to the financial market are MRT bonds representing 77 percent of the securitized future monthly rental payments for Phase 1 of the MRT 3 project and excludes any economic interest in other aspects of the MRT3. This was what government bought through DBP and LandBank.

The GFIs bought their MRT bonds at a big discount to face value. Market perception of the credit worthiness of the bonds may have been tarnished by the delayed lease payments.

Around 2007-2009, there were periods when the then DOTC was almost one year in arrears. DOTC also neglected to set up the standby L/C in PNB which was supposed to be the cure for late payments. The last tranche of the bonds will mature on 2025, or the end of the lease period.

Since government banks hold 80 percent of total outstanding bonds, it is like paying from one government pocket to another to some extent. But Sobrepena?s MRTC retains ownership. As owner of the system, it is the responsibility of MRTC to maintain MRT 3 and make capital investments such as new trains.

But as it happened, Mar Roxas and his successor, pAbaya unilaterally took over the maintenance responsibility and awarded a contract to replace Sumitomo. Then pAbaya went on to award the P3.8 billion contract for new trains to a Chinese supplier.

MRTC claims the transportation department did all those in violation of their contract. MRTC also claims they tried to talk to both pAbaya and TuGrabe, but both refused.

I can understand why a government official will try to avoid having to deal with Sobrepena. I would too. The guy has a terrible track record in business, from the College Assurance Plan fiasco, Fil-Estate and Camp John Hay.

Perhaps the reason Mar Roxas ruled against Sobrepena is because MRTC has not kept their side of the bargain. I am told that maintenance, even under Sumitomo, had deteriorated just before the contract was cancelled.

But, as I said, there is no escaping the need to deal with MRTC. Ignoring MRTC means they will be indefinitely tied up in litigation while commuters suffer.

The MRT 3 contract has provisions for international arbitration of disputes. Indeed, there is a pending arbitration case in Singapore that needs to be cleared.

The only other thing government can probably do is to expropriate the system in the public interest. They can argue forever about the just compensation, but in the meantime, government can ask another group to invest and fix the system.

But such a drastic move will unnerve investors who will now worry about the sanctity of contracts with government. Doubts will likely affect investor attitude on everything else having to do with risking capital here.

We lost an opportunity to amicably fix the problem during the watch of Mar Roxas. At that time, Sobrepena had an agreement with Manny Pangilinan to make a joint proposal. Manny will pour in the needed investments, fix the dilapidated system and charge a fare competitive with aircon buses running at-grade. P-Noy reportedly commented that MVP may get too rich and that was the end of it.

Now, I understand the deal between Sobrepena and MVP is no longer operative. MVP made an independent unsolicited bid together with Ayala (part of the original MRT 3 consortium) and the transport department gave it original proponent status.

The proposal involves an investment of P12 billion to rehabilitate the train system without any fare increase for at least two years, as well as the handling of operations for a period of 30 to 32 years. It also includes resolving issues on the MRT-3 including the buyout of the government's stake held by LandBank and DBP, as well as other shareholders in MRTC or the private owner of the train system.

But MRTC, as the owners of the MRT-3, now wants to reassert their rights. They claim they can rehire Sumitomo and fix the MRT-3 system without stopping operations, if DOTr would allow them.

MRTC claims they have submitted several letters to Transportation Sec. Art Tugade and President Duterte as early as February. But they got no response.

The rehabilitation plan of MRTC will include a full inspection of the MRT to be completed within 30 days by 100 engineers, the purchase of $50 million worth of spare parts, replacement of broken rails, the complete overhaul of all 73 MRT cars.

MRTC has, likewise, expressed willingness to advance the $150 million for the rehabilitation of the trains, to recover later only through fares, even without increasing MRT fares beyond the rates of air-conditioned buses.

Trusting Sobrepena to perform or even have the financial capacity to carry out his proposal is another thing altogether. It may be cheaper for President Duterte to talk to him, appeal to his sense of patriotism and when everything fails, to threaten him with Tokhang.

As unpalatable as dealing with Sobrepena can be, he has to be dealt with or no lasting solution is possible and MRT 3's problems will just worsen. That will be TuGrabe.

11-28-2017, 07:04 AM
Maria Isabel Lopez's license revoked over ASEAN lane infringement


Posted at Nov 27 2017 01:16 PM | Updated as of Nov 27 2017 03:56 PM

MANILA - (UPDATED) The driver's license of former beauty queen Maria Isabel Lopez has been revoked after she used a traffic lane reserved for ASEAN delegates earlier this month, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority said Monday.

The Land Transportation Office also prohibited Lopez from applying or reacquiring her license for the next 2 years, said MMDA spokesperson Celine Pialago.

Lopez must also pay an P8,000 penalty for reckless driving, disregarding traffic signs, and violation of the Anti-Distracted Driving Act, MMDA added.

The actress earlier this month admitted in a Facebook post that she removed the traffic cones along EDSA which allotted a lane for delegates of the ASEAN Summit.

Her lawyer said their camp is saddened by the revocation of her license, but they will file "necessary remedy for the reconsideration of the LTO's decision."

"We reiterate that revocation is too harsh a penalty for a first time offender like her," said lawyer Sol Taule.

11-29-2017, 10:36 AM
Ma'am Karen's burden


By Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 29, 2017 - 12:00am

I have ridiculed the transport department for having too many lawyers and not enough engineers calling the shots. But it seems they just have the wrong kind of lawyers. After hearing UP Law and Harvard trained Atty Karen Jimeno discuss how she is updating the cumbersome and antiquated legal system at DPWH, I must say the infrastructure agencies need lawyers like her.

Ma'am Karen made a presentation on behalf of DPWH before the Foundation for Economic Freedom last week. She bravely responded to questions from FEF's normally skeptical members. She came out of it pretty well, her fever and bad cold notwithstanding.

Actually, I have seen her presentation on the P8-9 trillion Build Build Build program in one form or another over the last year. But her last slide is important. It was about the reform measures she initiated to make DPWH more effective.

The most important items are about how Atty Karen thinks they should handle right of way (ROW) acquisition. ROW problems are seriously slowing down delivery of infra projects.

Indeed, even with leftover PPP projects like the NLEX-SLEX connector road being undertaken by San Miguel, I see a two-year delay in completion because of ROW problems. The original delivery was supposed to have been last September. The project won?t be delivered in 2018. If we are lucky, maybe we can start using portions of it by end of 2019.

The project is important because by one estimate, it can reduce EDSA traffic by 50 percent. And Ramon Ang of San Miguel plans to run a BRT system on top of it that goes all the way to Susana Heights in Muntinlupa. That means it will benefit not just car riders but ordinary commuters many of whom are probably using MRT3.

The Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX) should have been completed by now all the way to La Union but ROW problems caused so much trouble and delay. DPWH was moving too slowly to enable the contractor to complete the expressway construction faster.

ROW problems severely affect the ability of DPWH to absorb all that money being made available under the Build Build Build program. To Ma'am Karen's credit, she admitted the system is a mess. But she has introduced reforms that should help somewhat.

Usec Karen informed us they have decentralized the approval of ROW payments, an improvement of the current system where everything must go up to central office in Manila. On her recommendation, they created a task force to minimize delay in project implementation.

But Usec Jimeno also shared the problems she found when she took office. For one, they don't have enough lawyers to handle the ROW cases. They have vacancies but could not get capable lawyers to join the staff because of the pitifully small salary.

She didn't deny that the bureaucracy is too laid back and with no sense of urgency. But that's also because a good number of them are casual employees for years and years and have no motivation to do better.

But Usec Karen is now more hopeful they can move faster on ROW cases thanks to the new ROW Law for big ticket projects. They however also have problems in complying with property appraisal requirements as those authorized by law to do appraisals like the DBP and Land Bank have their own priority concerns.

Actually, I can understand why DPWH officials are reluctant to move fast on papers sent to them for approval. Look at what happened to former secretary Babes Singson who is now facing an Ombudsman case over ROW payments he authorized that turned out to be problematic.

Criminal syndicates are entrenched in the system. It is not easy for a top official to know if the papers sent to him by his staff are legitimate.

Usec Karen admits that having a more efficient ROW system is critical to their mission and it is her responsibility to make sure the legal staff is up to the challenge. Inasmuch as I am sure the Usec joined DPWH because she thought she could make a difference, I am hopeful things will improve in the coming months.

But, I suggested to her to revise the rest of her powerpoint presentation to provide a more realistic delivery date of projects. They have to take into account the delays that will still happen due to ROW and other bureaucratic problems.

I do not believe they can institute 24/7 work schedule on the urban infra projects given that all have serious ROW problems. Costs will just dramatically increase if they mobilize a work force for a 24/7 schedule but are slowed down by ROW problems.

In any case, Usec Karen also revealed that DPWH has also issued orders to streamline procurement process based on the New Procurement Manual. They have also started to implement Project and Contract Management Application (PCMA) that will improve transparency and accountability of physical and financial outcomes through use of online geographic based status reporting and geo-tagged photos.

The Usec also said they created the Infrastructure Monitoring Advisory Groups (IMAGs) that will enable participatory and transparent monitoring of big ticket projects. They have also created a multi-media citizens feedback mechanism to receive and take action on any complaint, query or suggestion.

I must say that the good intentions are there but whether they can execute is another. In the end, it is project delivery that counts.

I admire people like Usec Karen who leave well paying private sector jobs to make a difference in delivering public service. That's Ma'am Karen's burden.

For now, it would be nice to see work started on those seven bridges across the Pasig River being constantly announced by DPWH Sec Mark Villar.

12-27-2017, 07:43 AM
Traffic to get even worse

By: Jovic Yee - Reporter / @jovicyeeINQ Philippine Daily Inquirer / 07:21 AM December 27, 2017

Traffic in Metro Manila is bound to get worse before it gets better, as the government rolls out its infrastructure projects meant to ease road congestion in the third quarter of 2018.

"There are many projects next year that are part of the 'Build, Build, Build' program ? that will simultaneously [start construction by this time] till the end of President Duterte's term. For us to have better infrastructure, we need to go through heavy traffic. So we have to keep our patience up," Transport Undersecretary for Roads Tim Orbos said on Tuesday.

Among the big-ticket projects scheduled next year are the construction of several bridges, the rehabilitation of Guadalupe Bridge, and the construction of a common station for the metro's three train systems; as well as the construction of the Light Rail Transit 1 (LRT 1) extension, the Metro Manila subway system and the South Integrated Terminal.

These are on top of the ongoing construction of the LRT 2 extension, the Metro Rail Transit 7 and the Southwest Integrated Terminal Exchange.

Though traffic was expected "to get worse" around the third quarter of 2018, Orbos said motorists could use alternative routes as new roads were expected to open next year, among them the Harbor Link and the Skyway Connector.

The government was also working out possible solutions to the expected road congestion like a possible flexitime schedule for office workers that, however, still needs the approval of the private sector, Orbos added.

Other programs being looked into were nighttime commerce and carpooling.

Orbos earlier said that the government was looking at releasing by the first quarter of 2018 an order setting the allowable grade of tint for car windows.

The regulation would enable the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to implement more effectively the "high-occupancy vehicle" lane to encourage carpooling among motorists.

The MMDA has been having a hard time enforcing this lane restriction along Edsa since majority of the cars recorded to have used the innermost lane have heavily tinted windows.

12-28-2017, 03:52 PM
Stop Tailgating. It Only Makes Traffic Jams Worse.

New research from MIT shows that leaving a little space between cars can make traffic jams disappear almost completely.

By AVERY THOMPSON | Dec 21, 2017

If you've ever been stuck in traffic, you might have tried to go faster by tailgating the car in front of you. Instinctively, you probably know that tailgating doesn't help you get where you're going any faster, but it's hard to overcome that urge to drive as close to the car in front as possible.

New research from MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory not only confirms that tailgating doesn't work, but demonstrates that it actually makes the situation worse. Tailgating triggers traffic jams and makes traffic move more slowly. As an alternative, the MIT researchers suggest the best course of action in traffic is to maintain an equal distance from both the car in front of you and the car behind you.

This idea - driving far apart from the cars in front of and behind you - is called bilateral control, and if everyone adopted it we could almost completely eliminate traffic jams. Even at an individual level, "driving like this could have a dramatic effect in reducing travel time and fuel consumption," says researcher Berthold Horn.

The problem is that all driving, even on a smooth highway, has kinks that can interrupt the driving experience. These 'perturbations,' as Horn calls them, can be anything from an animal crossing the street to a sudden lane change to a driver unexpectedly braking. If cars are too close together, these perturbations can add together into a gigantic traffic jam.

"Our work shows that, if drivers all keep an equal distance between the cars on either side of them, such 'perturbations' would disappear as they travel down a line of traffic, rather than amplify to create a traffic jam," says Horn.

Of course, asking drivers to pay attention to their bilateral control is easier said than done. Instead, the researchers suggest that auto manufacturers add rear-facing sensors to cars and update their adaptive cruise control software. According to the study, if only a small percentage of cars used this feature it could dramatically reduce traffic jams.

Hopefully automakers will start including rear-facing sensors on their cars in the future. In the meantime, try not to tailgate, no matter how much you want to.

02-27-2018, 10:22 AM
Costly traffic

Philippine Daily Inquirer / 05:11 AM February 26, 2018

Metro Manila's traffic mess is one problem that is proving too difficult to untangle. A confluence of events since many administrations ago has led to this nightmare in the capital.

Last week, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) estimated that the worsening traffic congestion in Metro Manila now costs at least P3.5 billion in lost opportunities a day - a jump from the estimated P2.4 billion a day in 2012.

The future does not seem to present much promise either.

According to the Jica study, Metro Manila's population in 2015 was nearly 13 million while Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna and Cavite combined had almost 11 million. That puts Mega Manila's population in 2015 at 24 million.

By 2025, Jica projected that Metro Manila's population would be 16 million, and that of Mega Manila 38 million - becoming one of the largest cities in the world and, as a consequence, more congested.

The Metro Rail Transit 3 or MRT 3 that runs the stretch of Edsa could have helped much, but it has deteriorated so much that technical problems and stoppage have become a daily occurrence.

Yet Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade remains ever hopeful, saying he still felt there were solutions to address the MRT 3 problem. He was most likely referring to again tapping Sumitomo Corp. as MRT 3's maintenance operator and finally privatizing its operations.

The Department of Transportation has been in talks with Metro Pacific Investments Corp., which had offered to take over the operations and rehabilitation of MRT 3.

Another potential solution has been pending for some time in Congress. In August 2016, Sen. Grace Poe filed Senate Bill No. 1284 seeking to give President Duterte emergency powers to address the traffic problem.

The measure, however, is in limbo, legislators having focused their priorities on the proposed shift to federalism and on televised investigations purportedly in aid of legislation.

Add to all these issues the lack of discipline on the road and you have the perfect storm insofar as choking Metro Manila’s streets is concerned.

Jica, which has been helping the Philippine government find solutions to the traffic problem, pointed out that the huge cost of congestion highlighted the need for new and modern infrastructure to ease the traffic situation.

One such undertaking is the initial phase of the Metro Manila Subway Project. Groundbreaking for the subway project has been moved to the third quarter of this year instead of early 2019. The 25.3-kilometer underground rail will connect Mindanao Avenue in Quezon City and Food Terminal Inc. in Taguig City, with a spur line to Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City. It will cost P356.9 billion.

It is just part of the Duterte administration's ambitious "Build, build, build" infrastructure program to help ease the congestion, especially in the metropolis.

Under the program, the government will roll out 75 infrastructure projects, with about half targeted to be finished within Mr. Duterte's term. A total of more than P8 trillion will be spent on modern infrastructure such as skyways, railways and bridges until 2022.

This is not to say that traffic congestion will disappear once the new roads and bridges and railways have been built. Sadly, traffic congestion in the future will still be very costly. The traffic cost is P3.5 billion a day in Metro Manila today. If nothing is done, Jica estimated, it would worsen to P5.4 billion a day by 2035.

With "Build, build, build," it could be reduced to P3 billion a day. With additional projects other than those identified in the infrastructure program, it would be reduced to P2.4 billion a day, which is still a very high price to pay for traffic congestion.

We can only dream of the day when we citizens would have smart choices in going from one place to another. A subway/elevated train system, efficient public buses and taxis, all environment-friendly by running on electricity or natural gas. Or even dedicated bicycle lanes for the health buffs. These will all take a long time to implement. But now is the best time to start.

04-04-2018, 06:58 AM
Philippine Competition Commission will review Grab-Uber deal

By: Roy Stephen C. Canivel - @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer / 05:34 PM April 03, 2018

The government’s competition watchdog has decided to review Grab’s takeover of its main rival here in the country, but it is not yet clear if it could still prevent Uber from stopping operations next week.

The Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) said on Tuesday that it would review the Grab-Uber deal, hoping to buy more time by convincing the popular ride-hailing firms to delay their transaction.

This developed days after Grab said it would acquire Uber’s operations in Southeast Asia, calling it the largest acquisition by a Southeast Asian Internet company. Uber is already scheduled to stop operations on April 8.

PCC would be reviewing the deal even after the parties involved said that the transaction was not notifiable under current PCC rules. Technically, Uber and Grab are already allowed to push through with their deal.

However, the law also allows PCC to review a non-notifiable deal if the antitrust body finds a “reasonable basis” to do so, according to PCC Chairman Arsenio Balisacan in an interview with reporters.

Notifiable transactions are mergers and acquisitions (M&As) that meet certain requirements deemed to be potentially anti-competitive in the market. Such deal is not allowed to be acted on until PCC finishes its review of the notifiable M&A.

Depending on how the companies would cooperate, the review, which would see if the acquisition is anti-competition, could take months.

The first phase of the review takes at most 75 days, Balisacan said.

However, if there would be “serious gaps in our analysis because of a lack of information,” the review could extend for another 120 days at most, he added.

What would happen in the meantime is yet to be seen.

PCC officials would meet with Grab and Uber to discuss interim measures which both PCC and the companies would have to agree on.

“The interim measure is intended so that the review would not be compromised. [Essentially, it means] that the situation that was prevailing before the consummation of the transaction would continue to prevail,” he said.

It is still unclear if the upcoming monopoly would agree on PCC’s terms. /atm