Facing Manila’s traffic hell: Access to public transport is a right, owning a car is but a privilege

And so here we are, helplessly facing a future of traffic hell as all these road constructions start. To think we all raised a royal tantrum over Dan Brown’s describing Manila as the “gates of hell” in his book Inferno. What have Metro Manila’s residents done to deserve this? Well, quite simply nothing. They did nothing as all the warning signs creeped up on them over the last 20 years. Despite being the ultimate kingmakers of their government (thanks to The Vote), Metro Manilans pretty much sat on their hands and watched their beloved city go down the toilet.

manila_traffic_mmdaYou wonder, though, with the majority of Metro Manila’s residents unable to afford their own cars, why hadn’t politicians with visions of turning their city into a pedestrian- and public transport-friendly paradise been consistently voted into office?

Oh, I forgot, Filipinos don’t vote for politicians on the basis of their visions of the future.

For me, the key principle at work here is simple:

Whereas access to public transport is a right, owning personal transport is but a mere privilege.

Most Filipinos, bizarrely, fail to understand that — which is why the politicians they elect don’t.

In Singapore, owning a car is deemed an expensive privilege granted by the government to its citizens. I read a few days ago that it could cost up to US$50,000 to secure the right to own a car there — and that’s after winning a government-managed lottery to give out slots for that right.

If you think about it, owning and driving a car in the Philippines is supposed to be a privilege too. The fact that it is the Philippine government that issues drivers licenses and regulates vehicle registration proves this. Kung baga, what the government giveth the government can taketh away. If our politicians were really serious about reducing traffic in Metro Manila, it could act tomorrow and start revoking licenses and registrations. Come to think about it, they do that already — but in a half-assed manner: through the license plate “coding scheme” that prevents us from using certain roads on certain days depending on the number on your license plate. But that no longer proves effective. Traffic is gridlocked just the same.

Then I also read that only two percent of Filipinos own and drive cars. Wow. Two percent of the population causing 99 percent of its grief on the road — that’s just wrong. We like to think of ourselves as a “democratic” people but there is nothing democratic about the majority suffering so that two percent of us could make porma in our million-peso cars. For that matter, what is so ma-porma about driving that obnoxious SUV when you spend most of your time crawling at two kilometers per hour? If you think about it, there is really something dumb about paying the extra hundred-odd thousand pesos on extra horsepower you’d hardly be using. Considering that the average road speed in Metro Manila will hardly ever take your shiny steel horse past a trot, that’s money that could hardly be considered well-spent.

Mga Pinoy talaga. Metro Manilans are like the proverbial frog sitting in the pot being boiled alive slowly.

In other societies, the inhumanity we suffer under Metro Manila’s hellish environment would be nothing short of an outrage. But because we’ve had our minds conditioned to be tolerant of urban dysfunction for decades, we’re all quite happy to suffer in silence as Manila’s roads turn into a huge 24-hour parking lot. And even when we get out of this mess — sometime after 2017, we are told — the only people coming out of this happy will be all those high rollers jetting in from Taiwan and cruising on their brand-new highway from the airport straight into Manila’s glitzy ocean-front casinos. Yes, indeedy, Pinoys will, as usual, be left with the thinnest slice of the pie.

* * *

Speaking of stuck-in-traffic, what I consider really strange is how the nation’s jeepney drivers still manage to go home after a day driving their Kings of the Road and impregnate their wives six to eight times over the course of their fertile life. I always thought sitting around with the family jewels stuck in tight jeans under the hot sun causes low sperm count. Maybe that’s another thing to add to the list of things Filipinos should be proud about — our ability to multiply like rabbits despite the odds.

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Post Author: Kate Natividad

Frustrated artist doing geek for a living.

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47 Comments on "Facing Manila’s traffic hell: Access to public transport is a right, owning a car is but a privilege"

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Robert Haighton
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Maybe, just maybe, the jeepney drivers are NOT the biological dads. What about the next door neighbour?

In many countries, to own a car is not seen as a privilege (except maybe in Cuba). Its up to the car owner what kind of transportation he/she will use for going to work or going places. Its up to the government to make this decision in favour of public transport by either making public transport – at least – cheaper than private transport but also as economic and efficient as the private transport vehicle.

Dirch
Guest

“Two percent of the population causing 99 percent of its grief on the road”, that just explains one thing, a failure in city planning. Manila is a perfect example of coming up with stuff as we go along. For one second can these MMDA and DPWH guys stop and think. Do these guys really have no one who knows how to build a city? Manila is now the most densely populated city on earth and the government isn’t doing anything about it.

mario gonzales
Guest

if the mayors in metro manila managed to remove the double parking in the side streets used now as an alternative route,the sidewalk vendors in some major thoroughfares,maybe traffic situation may improve.

libertas
Guest

Every cloud has a silver lining.
Invest in car parking spaces.

Gogs
Member

Kate. That might be something neglected in the RH Bill.

Jim DiGriz
Guest
First off: Who ever came up with the coding scheme is an imbecile of the highest order. Coding has been tried in major cities around the world and they found out within a month that this piggy does not fly. Only here we stuck with this moronic idea which led to more cars on the road, because the rich just bought another car. Without a doubt, there is just no political will in this corrupt administration to make the long necessary changes. Traffic could be improved easily. 1. There are about 2-3000 buses too many. Get rid of them! 2.… Read more »
Robert Haighton
Member
What about the London “Congestion Charge Zone”? (copied from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London#Roads) A plan for a comprehensive network of motorways throughout the city (the Ringways Plan) was prepared in the 1960s but was mostly cancelled in the early 1970s. In 2003, a congestion charge was introduced to reduce traffic volumes in the city centre. With a few exceptions, motorists are required to pay £10 per day to drive within a defined zone encompassing much of central London.[223][224] Motorists who are residents of the defined zone can buy a greatly reduced season pass which is renewed monthly and is cheaper than a… Read more »
sancho alconce
Guest

Today, “Metro Manila”. Tommorrow will be Cebu City, Davao City, Cagayan de Oro City and the rest of the larger cities of the archipelago. Just like metro Manila, these cities have the anatomy of a failed transport and infra sector. There seems to be an absence or the lack of it of an all encompassing development plan.

Toro Hyden
Guest

These problems should be addressed to: Estrada, Moreno , Tolentino and Aquino. Ask them for solutions. They are paid to solve these problems….maybe they promised also to solve these problems…

Ever think of over promising during elections?
Nabisto na, na walang alam, ang mga tarantado…

Bjorn
Guest

Kate’s picture is WOW-OW-Ow-OOOO!!!

Ms.Kate, R U SINGLE?

libertas
Guest

The congestion charge in london has generally been a success, much to everyone’s surprise.
And if people travel in at night or weekends for entertainment then there is no charge.
And if you live in the centre then you are exempt from any charges anytime.
Uses number plate recognition as you say.
Hefty fines if you don’t pay.
It would never work in manila.
The average traffic speed in london 2000 was about 8 miles an hour – the same as a horse and carriage a 100 years previously.
Quicker to cycle.

Robert Haighton
Member
Back to Ms. Kate’s claim that having/owning/possessing a car is a privilege. I think in most richer countries, owning a car is a sign of freedom and a sign of individuality. The car sits there waiting for the owner to drive it, whenever the owner wants to drive it. The car owner is not limited to departure times of a bus, tram, train (or whatever means of public transport). In his car, he is alone and can play his own favorite music on the car stereo. If I want to drive from my house in Breda, Netherlands to – lets… Read more »
NYC2MNL
Guest
“Then I also read that only two percent of Filipinos own and drive cars. Wow. Two percent of the population causing 99 percent of its grief on the road — that’s just wrong. We like to think of ourselves as a “democratic” people but there is nothing democratic about the majority suffering so that two percent of us could make porma in our million-peso cars. For that matter, what is so ma-porma about driving that obnoxious SUV when you spend most of your time crawling at two kilometers per hour? If you think about it, there is really something dumb… Read more »
John Manila
Guest
I live and drive my self daily in this city the past 12 years. I read the article and the comments. As a foreigner and endless times wondered about this torturing traffic I have the below thoughts of how to reduce traffic. 1. Filipinos is the major cause of this traffic. They have respect for no one else on the road. They will squeeze 3 lanes in to 5 but do they really know what the lanes are for? Ask for heaven’s sake just ask the drivers who has priority, who ever points his nose first (not the one coming… Read more »