They say nothing dies harder than a bad idea. That saying is nowhere truer than in the Philippines where bad ideas replace one bad idea after another. What’s worse is that the bad ideas often come from government agencies that affect millions of Filipinos and make their lives a living hell. No wonder international best selling author, Dan Brown referred to Manila as “the Gates of Hell”.
Take the case of Executive Order No. 67 restricting the entry of provincial buses and Asian utility vehicles from entering EDSA. Someone from the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) must have thought that to solve the traffic congestion in Manila, they needed to think like a smoker who wants to quit smoking really quick. This could explain why they used the “cold turkey” approach in banning the provincial buses from entering Metro Manila hard and fast.
It was reported that thousands of passengers coming from Cavite and Batangas were stranded and helpless on the first day MMDA implemented the operation of the Coastal Bus terminal this week. I can imagine them weeping, wailing and gnashing their teeth while waiting for something or someone to save them from the nightmare. Who knows what happened to those passengers? I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes considering it was raining and they had to wade through muddy if not flooded streets.
It was evident that the public was not properly consulted before the bus ban was implemented. Neither was the public adequately informed of alternative public transport vehicles that would replace the buses that brought passengers to their usual destination. According to another report, the only people who were consulted were the Cavite mayors who conveniently forget what passengers go through when using the country’s decrepit public transport system.
Unfortunately, a mass and a ribbon-cutting ceremony held during the formal opening of an integrated provincial terminal at Uniwide Coastal Mall in Parañaque City for buses from provinces in Southern Luzon was not enough to pacify angry commuters who thought the coordination skills of the government agencies like MMDA and DOTC sucked. Obviously, the MMDA was good enough to organize things for photo-ops but were not good enough to organize communicating the new system with the commuters.
Banning the buses seemed like a good idea until one realizes that there is no alternative public transport system that would adequately replace the buses. The MMDA and the mayors who agreed to this scheme probably thought the commuters would accept their fate without complaining. They obviously assumed that the commuters would have no choice but to suck it up.
The banning of the provincial buses from entering EDSA would leave commuters exhausted, frustrated and disillusioned from simply trying to get to and from work. This situation will not be good for the productivity of the workers. No wonder more and more Filipinos end up quitting working all together. The simple task of going to work becomes an adventure in the Land of the lost. No wonder more and more men are becoming “tambay sa kanto”. They might as well stay home until the government agencies involved start using their common sense.
To be fair, the DOTC and the MMDA were just following orders. It seems someone from the top wanted to take the credit for fixing the traffic problem before his term ends at all costs and at the expense of the commuters. It seems President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino signed the order without asking if it will cause bigger problems during implementation. The executive order mentions the establishment of Interim Transport Terminals in three sites for the North, South and Southwest lines. However, nothing in it says anything about addressing the problem of how the commuting public will continue their journey after getting off at the said interim transport terminals.
Clearly, this is another case of “bahala na” attitude on the part of the government agencies involved. Indeed, how the commuters will get to their destination is not their problem anymore. As long as President BS Aquino’s orders are implemented, it’s all good to the agencies involved. It is useless to ask the question “what were they thinking?” It is crystal clear that the safety and convenience of the public are the least of their concerns.
The more important question to ask is this: How did the government agencies particularly the DOTC, the LTFRB and the MMDA allow the problem the buses are creating on major roads get this far? Just like the squatter problem, they did not nip the problem in the bud. Instead, they issued permits to bus operators indiscriminately and allowed bus drivers to wreak havoc by behaving like kings of the road. Now, faced with the enormous task of solving the Metro Manila’s traffic problems, they want to reinvent the wheel. Their solution is to pull the plug on the buses without thinking of the consequences of their actions.
Another irony here is that MMDA chairman Francis Tolentino is petitioning for a P2-fare reduction for bus passengers from Cavite and Batangas. Meanwhile, the Executive order states that appropriate fees for the maintenance of the bus terminals could eventually be collected from the bus operators. With the fees from DOTC and the loss of income from passengers, the bus operators will surely be unhappy with Tolentino’s petition. If anything, they could ask for compensation in the form of a fare hike.
The new scheme did not receive a thumbs up from some advocacy groups. A militant transport group, Piston has labeled the policy “anti-poor”. Another group the National Center for Commuter Safety and Protection claims that the policy is doomed to fail:
“This just shows the lack of preparedness and study by the MMDA,” says Elvie Medina, president of the National Center for Commuter Safety and Protection (NCCSP).
“Because there is no effort to really analyze what causes Metro Manila traffic, schemes like these will fail and will cause inconvenience every single day while MMDA implements this central bus terminal scheme, “ Medina added.
Medina is opposing the scheme because there is no developed intra- and inter-city modal system that would support a centralized bus terminal scheme. She says that provincial buses, which roughly consists about 6 percent of overall vehicular traffic along EDSA, is not the problem.
Medina says that city buses, colorum jeepneys, bad driving habits and lack of a more expansive road network contribute to EDSA traffic.
The implementation of President BS Aquino’s Executive Order No. 67 will definitely not solve the underlying problem of lack of discipline in Philippine society. The absence of the provincial buses on EDSA will not change the fact that ordinary drivers still ignore road rules. This is because most Filipinos including commuters and drivers have this baseless sense of being more important than everybody else. It is why you see people cutting you off on highway lanes on the road or pushing their way in lines ahead of the rest in a queue. As long as Filipinos put their own interest first before other people, the traffic chaos on the road will not be solved.
Bad ideas are just like bad excuses. Some people will never run out of it. That’s because they refuse to accept that they are part of the problem.
[Photo coutesy Adobo Talk.]
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