I don’t know what Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Francis Tolentino was thinking when he issued — and, worse, publicised — a directive to his legions of “traffic enforcers” to wear adult diapers while on duty during the visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines this month.
He said there would not be enough portable lavatories for the huge crowds expected at an open-air Mass on January 18.
“If you attend an event that will last for 24 hours, you cannot go around looking for a (portable lavatory),” Mr Tolentino said.
Indeed, it is true that just about every public facility in Metro Manila (and the Philippines, in general) is swamped by the Philippines’ enormous population. Filipinos have multiplied way past the ability of both nature and infrastructure to support their numbers in any decent manner.
Toilets are not an exception. Philippine public toilets are among the world’s worst. Efforts to attract tourists to the Philippines have been thwarted by Filipinos’ stubborn aversion to getting their human waste management situation sorted out. No less than the country’s premier entry point, Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport, has been named the world’s worst for three consecutive years because of the appalling conditions of its public toilets among other things.
Vast colonies of squatters inhabit huge tracts of both private and public lands all over the city thanks to the vote farming efforts of the Philippines’ crooked politicians. Many of the residents of these colonies lack sufficient modern plumbing and sewerage facilities and services. One can only imagine where all that excrement goes!
Clues abound, however.
Metro Manila’s waterways led by the Pasig River, its natural estuaries and the storm drain channels (known locally as esteros) that weave all over the megalopolis are all clogged by garbage and other waste products. And along the very streets of Manila, raw sewage routinely bubbles up to the surface specially during the wet season when flood waters carrying a host of scary tropical diseases rise at least knee-high even after a minute’s downpour. So it is not difficult to connect the dots here.
Funny then that all this cops-in-diapers business has come to the fore considering what most Metro Manilans fear related to Pope Francis’s much-anticipated visit is the horrific traffic jam that is likely to paralyse Metro Manila in the coming days. In truth, no amount of human resources thrown into the problem of Manila’s chronic traffic mess will solve it. This is because traffic in Manila is a systemic problem that begs for modern smart solutions rather than the medieval labour-intensive solutions Filipinos are most comfy with.
Squeezing diapers into Filipino cops’ pants is another one of those solutions that reek of the sort of desperation that has come to characterise many of the “solutions” the Philippines’ supposedly “best and brightest” have to offer to a people weary of mediocrity. Traffic during a pope’s visit is one thing. Traffic on normal days is another. And the sad reality is that any traffic that Tolentino hopes to mitigate with these moronic ideas during the papal visit cannot be that much worse than the routine traffic suffered by Metro Manilans every day.
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Development “experts” often preach: It is the simplest solutions that draw upon native tradition and culture that work best.
Metro Manila’s cops don’t need to wear diapers during Pope Francis’s visit. They just need to relieve themselves at the nearest street corner. It is a world-renowned Filipino tradition that Pinoys should wear on their sleeve.
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