Philippine Public Transportation and Metro Manila’s Squatters

On the wayside of an outrage fiesta over Metro Manila’s teeming population of squattersPiñata, people seem to have missed a gaily colored solution piñata: public transportation.

After people have salved their poverty butthurt and middle-class angst, perhaps it would be a good idea to revisit a column in Manila Standard called “Happy Hour” where it was pointed out that poor public transportation tends to increase the demand for housing in urban areas.

The idea is simple, really.

If we had a cheap, efficient, and reliable public transportation system, it would be possible for people to live in rural areas and then commute to work in Metro Manila.  Here’s an excerpt from Happy Hour’s “Babying the DoTC”:

So how is transportation related to the huge growth of informal settlers? Well, given the number of hours you spend in traffic (maybe four hours, both ways), wouldn’t it make a whole lot more sense to just live in your office, store, or factory?

In fact, a lot of well researched articles on poverty and in-migration cite a proportional relationship between poor quality, high cost transportation and the increased need for urban-based housing for the poor a.k.a. potential or actual informal settlers. This was explained at Global Urban Development Magazine citing a study on Sri Lanka’s informal settlers and transportation. One of its conclusions said, “… the relationship of transport facilities, distances between work and housing and the value of land have a close relationship. The need to provide for city center housing for the poor increases with poor transport facilities. Thus land use policy should take into account the quality of transport services that are available.”

One of the solutions to a booming urban informal settler population, which also concretizes long-clamored for “decentralization” is to have a cheap, efficient, and reliable public transportation system in place. Such a public transport system, if and when it happens, would make it more possible for poor people to live in rural areas and still work in the city.

A couple of months back, the DOTC very boldly said it will finish P500 billion worth of infra projects by the time President Noynoy Aquino finished his term in 2016 (which means by June that year). Let’s see: Airport projects in Puerto Princesa, Panglao, Mactan, Bicol and the NAIA rehab; various LRT extension projects in Cavite, in Masinag (Pasig); Cebu Bus Rapid Transit System; Davao wharf project; the MRT-3 and MRT-7 projects plus automated fare collection system for LRT and MRT; intermodal stations in the metro including the revival of a ferry system covering Laguna Lake-Pasig River-Manila Bay.

So how is the DOTC doing so far? Journalists/columnists seem to be underwhelmed, their accounts indicating that DOTC is not exactly doing much of the right thing with the list of still-to-be-awarded projects plus stories of alleged “extortion attempts” piling up the way traffic becomes kilometric along EDSA after a two-car collision!

Right now, one of the key pressures driving people with low-incomes or informal sources of income to live in slum areas is poor public transportation.

Just assume that the average cost of a two way trip with a total length of 16 kilometers (8 kilometers one way) is anything from 50 to 100 pesos and at its worst, it takes two hours to complete one trip (including waiting time at boarding stations).  This means that the average Pinoy has to shell out as much as 1/3 of his daily minimum wage and lose 4 hours of his time in traffic — often arriving at his place of work too frazzled to be effective or arriving home too tired to have any meaningful interaction with their family.

In a way, perhaps, the lousy public transportation we have could be the very reason why Juan is tamad (lazy), cannot attend to his duties as a father, and takes home such a small amount of money (around 250 pesos, assuming he is getting the full minimum wage).

Of course, one option commonly taken by the minimum wage earner is to just rent a room within walking distance from his work place and where else can the minimum wage earner find cheap accommodations but in slum areas.  In fact, in decades gone by, this is the reason why we had areas in Manila (places like Tondo and Sampaloc) almost completely settled in by laborers.

If only the Administration’s slogan “Tuwid na Daan” signified a strong commitment to giving the country a cheap, efficient, and reliable public transportation system, perhaps we would see a reduction in the population of Metro Manila’s squatters.

But guess what?

That’s not going to happen in a department known as “Do-Nothingness Meets Decidophobia” or the Department of Transportation and Communication, a department that was previously headed and some say is still very much under the control of my former boss, Mar Roxas.

We can trade barbs over the squatter situation, or perhaps, this early, we can tell Mr. Decidophobia that if he wants to have a good chance of winning in 2016 either as a senator again or as a Presidential candidate, he better tell his proxy at the DoTC ( Emilio Abaya) to start implementing transportation projects ASAP.

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Post Author: Paul Farol

Try not to take me too seriously.

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27 Comments on "Philippine Public Transportation and Metro Manila’s Squatters"

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VinceHerrera
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Why do I find this article not convincing and a tad bit shallow? It must be the tone, plus throwing out a journal based in Sri Lanka doesn’t really support your argument that much due to the differences in the values of our society which is most probably different from Sri Lanka. But it was good to put out at least some basis. Multiple Philippine based articles would have helped. Moving on. Try to think, why do they squat in metro Manila anyway? Are you sure its because of jobs? Are most of them even employed? Or do they just… Read more »
Paul Farol (@paulfarol)
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Paul Farol (@paulfarol)
Hiya Vince! Phew! And some people say we GRP writers are perpetual nitpickers… Haha! I actually had to rush this one and there were many other references that I could have included, but didn’t. As for being shallow, well, what would you consider deep and do solutions necessarily have to be deep or profound? I find that people sometimes overwork themselves with complicated ideas that the solution becomes unworkable, if not outright fantastic. Take the Broken Windows Theory. Simply keeping a place clean, well lighted, and well maintained thwarts criminal activity. Simple and doable. Thing with public transportation is that… Read more »
jobert
Guest

he can start doing something great OR again – by the wonders of the PCOS machines – ahah! there – they’ll program it again and viola! we have a winner!

Johnny Saint
Guest
The essay is unconvincing because the article cited uses Sri Lanka’s squatter problem vis-à-vis mass transportation as an example? What about “People and Housing in Third World Cities” by D. J. Dwyer (1977) or “Man’s Struggle for Shelter in an Urbanizing World” by Charles Abrams (1964)? There are also studies by the World Bank — “Evaluation of Shelter Programs for the Urban Poor: Principle Findings” by Douglas Keare and Scott Parris (1982). The causes (and effects) of squatting — excuse me, “informal settlers” — have been documented for several decades. None of them contradict the Global Urban Development article. Over… Read more »
Paul Farol (@paulfarol)
Guest
Paul Farol (@paulfarol)
Good one Johnny! I should remember those references you put out and include that in another post I plan to make. Very helpful! One thing that the first Aquino Administration really let go off was the PNR. That was a huge, huge mistake. It was actually during the latter part of the first Aquino administration and throughout the Ramos Administration that the population of informal settlers on the Riles increased quite a bit. Thing is, FVR should have been more serious about re-developing the railway. It wasn’t until Gloria Arroyo that most of the railways were cleared of squatters. Right… Read more »
Johnny Saint
Guest

I don’t know if Jun Abaya is completely to blame. As I understand it your old boss still sits in on meetings with the section heads he brought in. Abaya is more of a figurehead than anything else. No real decision making power.

Mar Roxas is like the Ghost of Christmas Past. He won’t go away. (Or maybe he’s like a case of herpes. You think it’s cleared up but the infected end up passing it on 😉 )

concernMAN
Guest

sana may bulet train, subway system, double decker bus system, amtrak, etc tayo dito sa Phil… kaya naman natin bumili nun diba? ayaw lang ..tsk tsk…

pano na kaya ang ncr nyan, pano nalang pag baha+trafic+dami tao, etc etc??

complete overhaul cgro sa transport system ang kelangan, wel just my 2cents..

faux_ph
Guest
I agree that an efficient, affordable mass transportation is one solution to the problem of decongesting the Metro and making resettlement outside the Metro a viable option for the squatters, and perhaps even the working middleclass and upperclass. An example is my previous experience working in UK wherein my rented place is 20km from my work in central London (i.e. equivalent to working in Makati with home residence in Novaliches or Imus, Cavite or Morong, Rizal) which only takes me about 40 min via London Tube. One of my boss who lives 40km from our London office (i.e. equivalent to… Read more »
Paul Farol (@paulfarol)
Guest
Paul Farol (@paulfarol)

You see, that’s the thing that this administration should try to accomplish and perhaps that alone would be a great accomplishment, manifesting “Daang Matuwid” in a very concrete way.

Moreover, rather than dole outs like the CCT, I think it would be better for the government to provide transportation subsidies for low income earners — minimum wage earners.

vince
Guest

i’m happy that a lot of commenters did not act like zombies. They tried to critically appraise this post.

Aegis-Judex
Guest

Don’t be so sure; I can only imagine what this would look like if the squatter apologists will have a really good look at this.

Johnny Saint
Guest

You mean they might actually have to face the prospect that they will run out of excuses for the squatters not to work? Qué horror!

ra
Guest

Yes. Public transport. And accessible basic social services

bida kapamilya
Guest

I agree with the most sentiments here in the comments section that the write up is a fail. It is high time the writer changes his career from writing to cleaning.

WinterSoldier
Guest

Nice TROLLING you got there, whore.

Please make me laugh harder. 😀

Johnny Derp
Guest

oy vey, you really went retard there with your post, TROLL. What’s the matter? You ran out of ammunition again and now you resort to heckling the author without bothering to read?
No wonder you always get humiliated here, you have really low E.Q and I.Q

Fact is that you fail again

libertas
Guest

IBM have this week ‘ donated’ the services of 12 of their consultants from abroad for free to help solve the traffic problem.
a) ibm will get their pound of flesh in other ways.
b) sad that for every problem there are no skills/abilities in the country to solve them, and tge philippines always want something for nothing from others and have to run crying asking for free help.

Johnny Saint
Guest

I don’t believe the problem is caused by a lack of experts in country. Rather it is the persistence of a succession of less than competent bureaucrats who DISTRUST local talent. Likely for fear of being shown up as incompetents in front of their peers.

faux_ph
Guest
True. We do have sufficient technical skills to solve the transportation problem. It’s just our bureaucrats don’t want to appear dumb and that the politicians are not willing to take risks on their political career if the structural solutions are implemented because of potential displacement of their constituents on the right-of-way of these infrastructure. Furthermore, there’s this cultural aversion in undertaking megaprojects. For example, I proposed a solution (in another online forum) for Metro Manila addressing multiple issues such transportation/traffic, flood management, waste management, urban redevelopment, and enhanced economic activity. The solution involves moving the current NAIA/MIA airports to an… Read more »
Robert Haighton
Guest
From a European/Dutch point of view: Efficient and affordable do NOT go hand in hand. Train prices in UK are high (at least that is my experience); train prices in the Netherlands are also high. This means that commutting by car is as almost as expensive as going by train while the government wants people to travel by train (less pollution). By far not everyone owns a hybrid or electric car (running on batteries). And commutting by train doesnt bring the commutter straignt in front of his office building; it always needs additional travelling (bus, tram, metro/tube/underground, biking, walking). The… Read more »
Paul Farol (@paulfarol)
Guest
Paul Farol (@paulfarol)

Good point there Robert about efficiency and affordability, that’s why I was thinking that fare should be subsidized. I haven’t really thought of it extensively, but perhaps the subsidy should be available to people living a certain distance away from the city.

As far as housing prices are concerned, house rental cost in the provinces or rural areas of the Philippines is still lower. Moreover, the cost of food is lower and public schools are not as crowded as they are in the city.

Johnny Saint
Guest
And that’s why the FREE MARKET will be the best determinant of transportation costs. The debacle we have had over the last 30 years with respect to fares and tolls on the SLEX and NLEX reflect the wrongheaded approach to the mass transport problem. We HAVE subsidized tolls, fares, road maintenance costs and all its gotten the riding public is a massive shock when the government proposes a fare hike of several hundred percent to reflect the current market costs. Subsidies are a bad idea. They eventually get you into the mindset that the CCT is a great idea that… Read more »
Robert Haighton
Member
Hi Paul, I can only share here with you how things work in my country regarding subsidized public transport and maybe it is applicable to the Phili situation ever. Only pensioners (65+ of age) get discount on bus fares (and maybe also train fares, not sure about this). And maybe scholars,pupils, students get discounts. This system only works if the filing of the population is in good hands. And distance is not a criteria for getting discounts or rebates. Then the person has to move closer to his work/job/employment. Maybe its an option to build seperate bike lanes so that… Read more »
Gerry
Guest

a good point. too much traffic for laborers to even want to try to make it home after working all day in the blazing sun. and for what? 5, count ’em, 5 fuckin dollars?
it can be understood why people would rather sell drugs, gamble, OR thieve their way through life than be a fuckin slave. it really is too bad that the country has such low-paid workers, a disgrace really.

Paul Farol (@paulfarol)
Guest
Paul Farol (@paulfarol)

A couple of relatives of mine are building contractors and usually, for jobs that last more than a month, the workers sleep on the work site.

Usually, the workers are paid below minimum wage.

trackback
[…] Unlike Detroit’s underpopulation problems, the Philippine capital and its vast suburbia collectively known as “Metro Manila” is, of course, suffering from a fundamentally different terminal disease — an explosion in population within a burdensome underclass of illegal settlers (more aptly known as “squatters”) that engulf the city in squalor, dump refuse that clogs waterways and traps flood waters, and complicate much-needed city planning and development further hobbling implementation of systemic solutions to the megalopolis’s horrendous and infuriating traffic mess. To Detroit’s degeneration into a barren wasteland, Manila had become a fetid shithole. And much of the shared causes of… Read more »
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