MMDA is living on a prayer instead of thinking about solving EDSA’s traffic problems

It seems Filipino public servants are incapable of thinking outside the square when it comes to addressing the problems that plague the nation. Most of them rely on prayer to solve issues rather than apply science and technology — an approach that could actually yield permanent solutions. Take the case of the Chairman for Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Francis Tolentino. A recent news report said that the chairman “led two convoys in going around EDSA and blessing accident-prone sites there”. Here’s what he authorized his department to do:

In a bid to rid Epifanio delos Santos Avenue (EDSA) of road accidents, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority enlisted Friday the help of Catholic priests in blessing accident-prone areas of the highway.

Shortly before 6 a.m., the convoys went around parts of EDSA accompanied by Msgr. Salvador Jose and Fr. Roderick Castro.

The convoy led by Carlos went around the Muñoz area where Jose blessed some u-turn slots and the Metro Rail Transit station, dzBB’s Allan Gatus reported.

The convoy traveled along the motorcycle lane, with MMDA personnel praying rosaries and carrying Bibles.

That piece of news may be benign to some but it is definitely a head scratcher to many rational thinking folks. It is another proof that incompetent individuals who cannot add anything new to the table are leading Filipinos down a miserable path. It is an assurance that traffic chaos in major Cities in Metro Manila and beyond can only go from bad to worse.

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Some people including MMDA Chairman Tolentino himself will tell you that praying and giving blessings can’t hurt. I disagree. Of course the act of praying won’t actually harm anyone but his publicity stunt can give a false sense of security to those who believe “praying” and “blessing” the accident-prone areas of the highway can prevent another accident from happening again. The chairman it seems is giving people the impression that his department cannot do anything short of asking for assistance from “God” to prevent the accidents. It is sort of a disclaimer from his department and is tantamount to saying that “Motorists should use the highways at their own risk.”

Don’t get me wrong. I have no objection to praying and people who pray. On a personal level, it is supposed to be good for individuals because it can help them reach some level of introspection. Besides, it is every individual’s right to practice his or her religious beliefs. In the Philippines though, praying has become ritualistic especially when practiced by groups of people — like in reciting the rosary, for example. Sometimes the spiritual aspect of this activity is diminished when repetitive behavior is involved. Still, the main purpose of praying is to put people’s mind at ease like in meditative state. “In psychology, the term ritual is sometimes used in a technical sense for a repetitive behavior systematically used by a person to neutralize or prevent anxiety”.

When people pray, their thoughts are temporarily diverted from reality to the contemplative. Prayer or meditation is supposed to help people stay focused on the good stuff or clear their minds of bad thoughts. However, there is also a down side. Some say that those who engage in too much religious ritual can have their minds go dormant because the repetitive words and actions can lull people into a stupor.

At the extreme end, people can become dazed and lose touch with reality as a result. In addition, people who are in a dreamy state can also easily fall victim to the flawed reasoning of those who want to take advantage of them. A good example of this was when the Liberal Party used religion to trick people into believing that the then Presidential candidate, Noynoy Aquino was “God’s anointed one”. It worked because a lot of religious voters actually accepted the belief that to go against “God’s plan” was a no-no. But I digress…

Going back to the MMDA and the issue of chaotic traffic conditions on Philippine roads, there are obvious measures that are sensible alternatives to prayer. As mentioned earlier, scientific approaches coupled with application of the latest technologies can address the horrendous road conditions in major Philippine cities. Instead of hiring the help of Catholic priests, the MMDA Chairman should hire the services of engineers to map out the best way to unclog EDSA.

Reducing the number of cars on the road not only can reduce the congestion on the highways, it can also reduce motor vehicle accidents and reduce the pollution levels in the air. There are also other drastic measures that the MMDA can apply in order to reduce the number of cars aside from the current coding system. This includes fixing the public transport system, which includes upgrading rail systems, banning vehicles that are not road-worthy including the inefficient jeepneys; and making the cost of buying a car more prohibitive. It goes without saying that the last two suggestions can only work when the public system can already address the public’s demand.

MMDA should also consider consulting other countries’ governments to learn how they tackle their traffic challenges. Singapore is one country we can look to for guidance in building a more intelligent city. In an effort to study how cities work and how they can work better, the country has funded Singapore’s National Research Foundation, with nearly 600 researchers and “has turned itself into a laboratory, teaming with MIT to form the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) center to examine the “future of urban mobility” as well as other growth issues”. In addition, Singapore is also very proactive in addressing their growing population:

For decades, Singapore has been tackling the growing pains of a booming Asian city. Fearful that it will become overrun with vehicles, the government has damped demand by making them frightfully expensive. The price of a BMW 320i sedan, for example, is around $140,000, more than three times its average U.S. sticker price, in part because a buyer has to fork out about $55,000 for a “certificate of entitlement.

There certainly wasn’t any praying involved in Singapore’s plan to improve their already high-tech cities. Instead of engaging in ritualistic chanting, their leaders are putting their clear heads together to think of new ways to live smarter. We not only can pray our own leaders do the same, but we can also vote for leaders who will definitely do work instead of just pray.

48 Replies to “MMDA is living on a prayer instead of thinking about solving EDSA’s traffic problems”

  1. The epic words Lea Salonga said in her blog “Let us pray…” comes to mind:

    “Forget prayers. I want action.”
    “God’s gifts to each of us includes: a brain with which to independently think, criticize, plan (yeah, like make a blueprint), plan again (if plan A doesn’t work), and dream. We weren’t created to behave like lemmings, following the crowd jumping off a cliff. We weren’t created to passively sit and watch the world go by.”
    “God helps those who help themselves. So get off your ass already.”

  2. During the 2010 election campaign, I knew some people in our building who went to a Noynoy rally and they prayed there. There is a saying that God always answers your prayers whether you understand or agree with the answer. Would these same people agree if their prayers were answered with enlightenment that Noynoy is indeed a moron. Or if they were praying for a better country and a better leader that Noynoy is not that leader.

  3. I personally spend good amount of time in Manila and I would give up my car if the public transportation system wasn’t such a huge piece of crap seriously

  4. When people pray first before doing something, it is a conscious admission of incompetence. Kind of hoping to find that proverbial needle in a haystack in a dark room but are clueless where the switch is located.
    Prayer is just waste of time. Man started praying right after he created God but has it really benefited us?

  5. Ilda,

    To be fair to the MMDA, they do try. I just think their outmatched by their opponent (traffic).

    Limited space vs growing number of vehicle traffic?

    1. @brianitus

      Because of the growing number of OFWs and the nouveau rich, more and more Filipinos can afford to buy a car. Unfortunately, the size of the roads and highways remain the same. I don’t even see any provision for widening it because there are more and more residential buildings being built along the highway.

      1. Yeah. EDSA’s space limitation is part of the problem. I think a radical volume reduction scheme is in order. Space cannot cope with the volume, even alternate routes fill-up as quickly as main routes. It’s a good thing I spend more time outside Metro Manila.

        And, pardon that error I made in the comment above. It’s supposed to be “they’re” instead of “their.” Yikes.

  6. I only visited Ninoy airport last November 2011 going from T3 to T1 (from international to domestic and on the way back home vice versa) I got stuck in traffic while going to the other terminal and was afraid missing my connecting flight. The roads were crowded maybe even over-crowded. But I couldnt put my finger on it what caused it. Was it a typical traffic jam (rush hour) or was this normal (at any given minute/hour of the day)? One doesnt need to be rocket scientist to develop better ways to go from one terminal to another. But solving that problem places me out of the scope of this topic.

    I am sure it isnt easy but rather complicated to solve the constant traffic jams in Manila. An over-crowded city, too many cars on the road, maybe by far not all commuters (going to work but merely “pleasure” drivers).

    Is it a question of more asphalt? Is it a question of prohibiting certain license plates on even days of the week? What about a road tax (toll) to be paid when a car enters a certain zone (like in London) and when a car is already in that zone, between certain hours (7AM to 7PM from Monday to Friday). But no matter how you slice it, the public transport system must work and work efficiently and must out-do cars (cost-wise). You (the government)can also tax the possession of a car (Like Ilda already mentioned in this Blog) or the government can tax the gasoline/fuel so that each time you start the engine you will know that it is (more) expensive than public transport.

    Last but not least: prayers wont solve the problem(s)

  7. The YellowTards had used religion in politics. Now, they are using it to solve EDSA trafiic ,and prevent accidents. I have no quarrel with any religion. Because, they help us to grow as individuals. However, if we use it beyond its realm; like blessing a place to prevent accidents. It borders already to insanity, or stupidity. Maybe, they want to exorcise a Demon, who is causing accidents at EDSA. We already had gone to the Moon. Sent a Rover to the Planet Mars. We are now in the Age of Information Technology. Yet, this YellowTard Tolentino. Still believes in: Demons, Devils, White Ladies, Fairies, Dwendes, Tikbalan, etc…Why not commission a Filipino “Aswang” to oversee the EDSA traffic. He/She will have a better view from above…Then, order this “Aswang” to swoop down on any traffic violator…this can be a good solution..

  8. But lets admit that Tolentino’s MMDA is much better than Fernando’s dirty MMDA. At least Tolentino is a God-fearing man, even use it in his job, unlike Fernando, that abuses the human rights of those sidewalk vendors just what like Gloria did during her term.

    1. Delusional.

      “Faith without works is dead.”

      Bayani is a man of action, a man who had concrete vision, unlike Tolentino. What Bayani wanted is DISCIPLINE and ORDER.

      Sorry, troll. But you’re promoting DYSFUNCTIONALITY. No wonder why you hate nations like Singapore and Malaysia because of your immature ‘Gloria hate.’ Does that make sense? 😛

      1. @Daido & Fishball:

        To be fair to Tolentino, he also appears to have a vision and a plan. He’s almost at the same level as Bayani. However, I don’t think he’ll be able to really match the previous admin’s MMDA.

        Bayani didn’t take s#!t from no one. Tolentino shows that from time to time. Too much time on PR duties.

        1. Fair enough. What matters is that action speaks louder than words. But comparing Tolentino to Bayani is like apples and oranges.

    2. I’m a Christian who believes and fears God, but you’ll never answer this:

      “Walang kantungkulan ang Diyos sa POLITIKO. Sa bagay ilang taon na nakatingin ang Diyos sa bansa natin at palpak pa rin ang gobyerno.”

    3. @fishf*cker

      Nope, only an idiot like you would insist that anyone from this administration is better. Bayani fernando is the better one. GMA is the better president to your balding assface of a

    4. yeah their rights of just OCCUPYING THE EFFIN’ SIDEWALK, thereby depriving pedestrians of their RIGHT to use it in the first place.


  9. Great article Ilda. Something I can really relate to. 🙂

    I travel along EDSA on my work days and sitting in traffic allows my mind to think of “what-if” scenarios regarding traffic there.

    1. Traffic in front of SM Megamall has sped up slightly due to their new loading bay which is not on the road. It somewhat prevents several buses from queuing to the point that it obstructs traffic on EDSA (those who do get pulled over or honked at profusely). Other EDSA loading bays where a few buses slow down almost every vehicle behind them because they load/unload on non-loading bay lanes not to mention the loading bay is on EDSA itself.

    2. Unruly pedestrians wait along major intersections, causing (also unruly) buses to stop right after a traffic light, lessening the number of vehicles that can pass behind them.

    3. Probably not within the MMDA’s jurisdiction, but the MRT trains are long overdue for an upgrade to wider trains and more frequent trips.

    4. There seems to be too many bus lines. LTFRB should do a better job making routes more efficient (less bus lines travelling on that route, avoid overlapping existing routes with a subset of that route).

    I’m sure there’s a lot more ideas, but I agree with SimCity 3000’s transportation advisor:

    “Give people an efficient mass transit system and they’ll give up their cars”

    1. @Jerico

      1.Traffic in front of SM Megamall has sped up slightly due to their new loading bay which is not on the road. It somewhat prevents several buses from queuing to the point that it obstructs traffic on EDSA (those who do get pulled over or honked at profusely).

      I guess the public has to thank SM management for that one. Goes to show that private enterprise need to work with local government when they build their infrastructure. The government needs to look at every opportunity to exercise their clout over projects that can affect the public especially the traffic on the road. When big corporations like SM submit their proposal, the local government should ask the question, “what’s in it for the public?” more often.

      2. Unruly pedestrians wait along major intersections, causing (also unruly) buses to stop right after a traffic light, lessening the number of vehicles that can pass behind them.

      It all boils down to how the public will behave. You can build as many pedestrian walk-ways or loading bays but if the people refuse to use it, then the problem will persist. Unfortunately, most Pinoys cannot follow the rules.

      3. Probably not within the MMDA’s jurisdiction, but the MRT trains are long overdue for an upgrade to wider trains and more frequent trips.

      I agree. I almost fainted when I tried the MRT. It was a hot day and we were like sardines. I don’t know how they can get wider trains when the rail line is meant for smaller trains though.

      4. There seems to be too many bus lines. LTFRB should do a better job making routes more efficient (less bus lines travelling on that route, avoid overlapping existing routes with a subset of that route).

      The bus system really sucks. There are just too many bus operators that hire unscrupulous drivers. They don’t stick to their lanes and don’t stop at the designated bus stops.

  10. Once again, the problem is with Filipinos and their essential nature. You could have the best roads in the world – wide and many-laned – but Filipinos drive like complete morons. You will still have people turning right from the left-most lane, driving on the wrong side of the road, doing u-turns by blocking 2-3 lanes of traffic while waiting for an opening on the other side etc…. It’s your fundamental lack of discipline and lack of respect for others – two things which define Filipinos as a people – that will ensure that the roads are always a mess.
    Just like everything else in this benighted nation….

    1. Filipinos Matthew rather take credit from somebody in American Idol who has never been here than improve motorists who who have no idea they are part of a community and hold life in their hands when they wield a big bus. Pedestrians are no walk in the park either. Unruly, obnoxious and no consideration to the big picture, that is the Philippines . That’s why it’s more fun here cause there are no rules and there is no order .

    2. Um, hasn’t it occurred to you that the U-turn slots on main roads is a dumb idea? In a way, the road conditions here compliment bad driving attitudes.

      You can add lack of training in defensive driving as a possible culprit. I mean, if people can’t learn to respect others off the road, the least they can do is try to drive defensively. That one you can have training on.

      1. Brainitus, to quote Homer Simpson who oddly has the mindset of a Manila jeep/ taxi driver “the best defense is a good offense” .

        1. Wasn’t that Mr.T?

          I love it when a plan comes together, said Hannibal.

          The best plan is to have no plan at all
          — Lucky Strike

  11. Ilda, have you seen this proposal? They used this system in Europe.maybe the netizens should push this.

    The problem with MMDA chairman, he is lawyer not an engineer. They don’t think like an engineer. This is the problem with this government most people don’t belong to their position. The only one that make sense is Jimenez. He chair as tourism secretary, his line of work is marketing for many years. just like illiterate showbiz personalities turned politicians who are expected to write laws as a legislators.

    1. Hi JOn

      Oh I see. Yes, it would have been better if he had a background in engineering or was exposed to the industry. But what could really help him is if he hired engineers instead of priests to fix the traffic problems on the roads.

  12. MMDA aside, there is this infographic spreading in Facebook about the Pasig Local Government and an Advertising Agency teaming up to create artsy-fartsy pedestrian lanes.

    I don’t know if it’s true, but while I do admittedly like the creativity of these, I doubt that there will be any significant benefit. Moreover, creative proponents of these must be careful not to deviate too much from the actual standard design. There is a reason why the standard design is used worldwide; it is immediately recognized as a pedestrian lane, and deviating too much up to the point that these “not-so-pedestrian” lanes become unrecognizable would only be wasted, or worse, it can be an inviting “visual playground” for younger users, seeing that these cartoonish designs would most likely be implemented first at school crosswalks, without them realizing that crossing the streets is a serious matter, especially in highly-urbanized areas.

    1. Hi az_121490

      OMG. I think that is a silly idea. And I don’t think treating pedestrians like kindergarten kids will work. It’s really absurd that they have to “entice” Filipinos into using the pedestrian crossing. What a waste of tax-payer’s money.

      1. Ilda. Getting Filipinos to do the right, smart, safe thing has never historically been easy. That’s why Edsa is what it is. That defines our culture.

    2. I think it’s better to have a policy that if someone gets hit while jaywalking, he/she has to pay the owner of the vehicle or get a few years of jail time.

  13. When you can’t do anything about a problem, you pray.
    The whole thing’s silly to me though. I think it’s better to put in a lot of lights and a lot of signs indicating that the area is accident prone.

  14. De-congest the metro it can only handle so much, prepare a plan to move the all the national government offices to another area say the 80,000 hectare SBMa,or Clark or even the typhoon free City of Davao.Wishful thinking?

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