Technical Achievement at Risk of Being Undone by PAP

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If you are a regular visitor to the Diliman campus of the University of the Philippines, you are no doubt aware of the almost-completed construction of the Automated Guideway Transit (AGT) test project, a joint venture of UP and the Department of Science and Technology. For those who have not seen it, the AGT (not a “monorail”, but go ahead and call it that if it helps you understand what it is) is an electrically-powered autonomous light train on an elevated concrete guideway that should augment and eventually replace the oversupplied, aging, dangerous, environmentally destructive, visually embarrassing, and technologically retarded fleet of “Ikot” jeepneys that currently provide commuter transport around the sprawling campus. Should, if the ‘popular media’ (I use that term very loosely, considering the source), anonymous transportation ‘experts’, and the existing transportation sector (such as it is) were not doing their level best to kill the project with PAP before it literally gets rolling.

“Pap” is an arcane English (English, despite not being the easiest language to learn, is commonly spoken by many people around the world. I know that comes as a surprise to a lot of people here.) word meaning “lacking in depth and substance and considered worthless”, and is a perfect description for way it is used here, i.e., a keystroke-saving way to write “Pinoy Attitude Problem.” There is absolutely nothing about the AGT which should make anyone less than completely ecstatic; it’s not new technology, but a smart application of proven existing technology, clean, quiet, fast, and most significantly – in something that should resonate with Pinoys’ overweening sense of pride, were they not more concerned about irrelevancies such as whether or not moon-faced Pia Cayetano feels their sex lives are satisfying enough – the system is entirely designed, funded, and built in the Philippines.

But no, rather than promoting this ambitious, sophisticated, and totally home-grown achievement, the people who would ultimately benefit from it instead express, and not at all subtly, a desire to see it fail. Rather than highlighting the future positive potential of the system, or even just objectively describing the project in the spirit of balanced news, Rappler instead suggests that the ‘livelihood’ of the Ikot drivers (a total of 60 people, mind you, in a metropolis of 14 million) is a greater concern. At the same time, an ‘expert’ – one who obviously knows at least a little about the topic, but chooses to share his insights as electronic graffiti – dismisses the project as a mere “proof of concept” (Note to Mr. Expert: The proof of concept was the small test track built at the DOST facility in Taguig. This is actually an operational test.) and declares it “not viable for the foreseeable future”, suggesting funds – which he seems to have certain knowledge are unattainable anyway – would be better spent on other things.

I don’t get it. Pinoys obviously do not fear new things, else they would not trip over each other and themselves to be first in line to own the latest gadgets or spread the latest fad, and to take pride in doing so. But show them something big, practical, and which they can legitimately take pride in – and for which the rest of the world can view them with legitimate approval – and they cringe in terror.

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About BenK

I write a column for The Manila Times on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Most of the energy sector and the heads of several government agencies probably wish I didn't.

24 Comments on “Technical Achievement at Risk of Being Undone by PAP”

  1. It’s probably because of the association between the Jeepney being a source of “Pinoy Pride”. Something new and practical (and let’s throw in a bit of “Westernized” there too, for those conspiracy-theorists) to replace the jeepney, is an affront to their “pride”.

  2. I find the root of the problem is actually not the system itself being used but the belief that public transportation (jeeps, fx, and buses) should be able to drop them off anywhere in the route, unless a cop is there to prevent the drop off.

    Until this discipline of designated stops only for the current transport system is strictly implemented, you won’t see attitudes changing for other more favorable systems.

    When you have public transport on roads, it is understood that in planning they should be provided with a proper stop for pickup and drop off. They are not allowed to unload/pickup anywhere else. However, the attitude here is the exact opposite where the “PARA PO” is the norm and being unable to stop other than at a designated point only is already an inconvenience.

    Majority are also not used to abiding by a scheduled route/stop here. They always think there is a next one in a few seconds because we are oversaturated with these PUJs, PUBs and FXs. So the options are more flexible for the commuter and time to meet a scheduled commute isn’t as important hence why I think the term “Filipino time” is actually normal.

    Anyway, I think the system of designated stops only should come first. The only ones allowed to stop elsewhere are legitemately taxis as they are not considered “mass transport system”.

    Cheers!

    1. And I notice many Filipinos hate walking. It’s the laziness issue again. And then they’ll say “getting exposed to the sun causes cancer.” But I hear doctors say you should get exposed to the sun for Vitamin D. Misinformation hits Filipinos easily.

      1. I agree on the cancer part when it’s searing midday. But haha, a typical Pinoy can still bring umbrellas with him. Besides, tipid pamasahe, at saka, haha, dahil UP Diliman iyon, aren’t the sights and the greenery spectacular to view?

        Too many excuses for them, LOL.

  3. Personally speaking, I think this is the topic where I say, “I’ve had it with you people.” I don’t know what the problem is, and upon reflection, I don’t actually care. If this thing works even close to the way it’s expected to, I’m going to make it my business to see it expand, because it’s a good thing, it’s exactly the sort of thing some of us have been browbeating the country into doing, and everyone except for the intrepid few who have put sweat and brainpower into it are behaving like total weenies about the whole thing.

    No. Not acceptable. My ability to be a obnoxious pain in the ass about something I believe in is boundless, and I’m going to apply that until you have your slick little trains all over the damn place, and you’re going to like it. Or else.

  4. Must be in the same league with the nuts who kept the railways passing through my town TRAIN-free for like, how many decades. Pft.

    Hope this gets through.

  5. Better read the article again so you won’t get lost in what was being explained there. That AGT is not viable for the UP campus because of the ridership. I myself wouldn’t want a few people benefiting from an expensive thing like this. It says it should be good for a CBD or as a connection to the airport where it should serve more people rather than a campus.

    1. No, I understood it perfectly, I’m just pretty certain it’s wrong. I think the AGT is completely viable on the UP campus, as well as in other applications. When I have time, I’m going to work out that will some hard information, as opposed to somebody else just making a naked assertion.

    2. And I think they were only testing this out on UP campus right now, and it’ll be considered for that airport plan, I’m sure. Don’t shoot down the idea before it proves to be a real solution.

  6. Good luck on the hard information. But don’t you think this thing is better built elsewhere? Perhaps Katipunan where it can probably solve congestion? Or perhaps connecting the airport to Fort Bonifacio? As for naked assertion, the guy in the interview’s from UP’s Center for Transport so I guess he probably knows something we don’t.

    1. Then he should say what that mysterious knowledge is. No, I don’t think this thing is better built elsewhere, I think it is better built in additional places, unless it proves to have some tragic flaw. Why does it have to be one place OR another?

    2. Before it goes to the airport or Katips or Fort Boni, wouldn’t it be better to test out the technology in a small scale, like UP? Isn’t that common sense?

      1. First test was the mock-up/test platform to determine feasibility at the DOST compound. This is test number two: Live runs with actual loads over an extended period of time on a short piece of real track (with a bend in it, too). Third stage, if this goes well, should be to build a small circuit (UP campus), and start the legwork for other areas where it could be used. Of course it will take time. Which is why crabs shouldn’t be so quick to shoot it down. The DOST/UP team, they’re doing it right.

        1. Yeah, I think they are. So if the test proves it works… build it where you want it. Some guys out there are too dense to get that.

    3. Just like a car, you shouldn’t shift full gear after the 1ast (unless you’re driving a matic, then the system does that for you).

      I’d rather have the train failing on the campus (no accidents though) and sabotage a few classes (hope the profs are riding the train :P) than fail for workers and sabotage a day of work.

  7. When the MRT was first being built, I thought it would be like the AGT. One “rail” or thin construct around which the train unit will be built. That would save a lot of space. I dunno about the speed though, I reckon the MRT and LRT were built as such to go 80 kmh, or that fast. But if the AGT-type design could go that fast, I would have supported that.

  8. I would prefer that these “ikot” drivers are just mooching in a way. I understand their predicament but using that as an excuse for some real progress is not enough.

    A good remedy for our problematic “labor force” (like jeepney drivers) is to acquire new skills and be ready to step-up into new developments. (In short, educate ourselves!)

  9. Wish David Letterman would host one night good ol’ Arnold Schwarzenegger and have him blow some Philippine Jeepneys sky high with a rocket launcher for the promotion of Expendables 3, probably those UP jeeps would be perfect complete with politicians faces and Rappler website promoting it on their sides..

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