Traffic Is Caused By High Car Sales Says Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras

‘A mountain had gone into labour and was groaning terribly. Such rumors excited great expectations all over the country. In the end, however, the mountain gave birth to a mouse.’  — Phaedrus

Well… Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras didn’t exactly say it that way but that is the essence of what he said in a TV interview on ANC’s beyond politics. Here is what he said:

“I think the reason why traffic got really bad was car sales were really something else,” he said in an interview with Lynda Jumilla on ANC’s Beyond Politics.

(See full article here http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/09/09/15/too-many-cars-palace-eyes-restrictions-private-vehicles-edsa#.VfAgJXDLc90.facebook)

Uhmmm… What?!

Thing is though, such bafflingly stupid statements by Aquino’s officials are quite expected. In fact, if someone searched for all of those statements and put it together in a book, it would probably rival the sales of former President Joseph Estrada’s joke book Eraptions.

Sorry, Secretary Almendras, you are wrong.

pnoy-noynoy-aquino-mitsubishi-motors-inauguration-GMA-robert-vinasThe reason why vehicle sales have gone up is most probably because the capital region doesn’t have the kind of public mass transport system which would make it unnecessary for them to have cars.

It may come as a shock to you, but we do not have a TRUE public mass transport system.

For something to be a system, things have to be organized in such a way that each part works together to do one thing. In the case of a public mass transport system, that one thing is to transport large numbers of people from one place to another.

What we do have are hundreds of thousands of different kinds of public utility vehicles competing with one another for passengers and space on the same road network. That’s perhaps another reason why it seems appropriate that traffic gridlock in the country’s capital region is called “traffick-geddon” or “carma-geddon”.

Thing is, in order for the capital region to have a public mass transport system, changes have to be made that will affect tens of thousands of public vehicle franchise holders and that’s something a politician will avoid even broaching.

This is because, to me at least, a public mass transportation system should have at least five characteristics:

  • different modes of public transport should function together and do not compete with one another. This can imply that major thoroughfares like EDSA or Common Wealth Avenue will only have buses, jeeps will be limited to secondary streets, and tricycles will have to be done away with completely. Large subdivisions should have a shuttle system for their residents.
  • public transportation routes should connect rather than overlap. This can imply that public vehicle routes will all have the same length. As it is, there are jeeps and buses that ply routes from Baclaran to Cubao but at the same time there are jeeps and buses that ply shorter routes between Baclaran and Cubao.
  • terminals, stops, and covered walkways should be an integral part of the public transport system to discourage people from embarking/disembarking anywhere they please. The thing that causes traffic to slow down is when one vehicle suddenly stops or slows down at the head of a queue. If public vehicles can be made to strictly use terminals and stops to load/unload passengers, sudden stops or slowing down would be reduced making traffic flow more predictable.
  • all modes of public transportation work on a schedule in synchrony with business and government office hours.
  • should be a service provided by a few business entities rather than thousands of public transport operators.

Thing is, I didn’t even think this one up. These ideas have been proposed for decades now and here we have president Noynoy Aquino saying that the solution to traffic gridlock still needs to be studied less than a year before his term expires.

You know what? If I had a dirty mind, I’d say that Pnoy purposely made sure that we wouldn’t have a public mass transport system so that his cronies would make a killing from car sales. But hey! That’s just a wild idea, right?

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26 Comments on “Traffic Is Caused By High Car Sales Says Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras”

  1. >> I’d say that Pnoy purposely made sure that we wouldn’t have a public mass transport system so that his cronies would make a killing from car sales. But hey! That’s just a wild idea, right?

    This thought occurred to me regarding the complete absence of electric vehicles on the streets. Simply compelling tricycles to fit electric drive rather than made-in-China gasoline engines would massively reduce pollution. But I’m guessing there are a lot of well-placed people making money from gas.

    Of course, if they did that, someone would then have to think about providing a functioning electricity infrastructure.

  2. “Traffic Is Caused By High Car Sales Says Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras.”

    I’ve always suspected that the Chinese-Filipino and Korean manufacturer and sales industries were behind the MMDA’s decision to outlaw locally-assembled vehicles–like the “jeepneys,” “Tamaraw” or U.S. military jeep replicas called “owners” from plying the main highways like NLEX, SLEX, and EDSA– for safety reasons. However, the truth is to compel the general population to buy brand-name automobiles if they want to travel on these major roadways.

    This article confirmed my suspicion that these Chinese-Filipino/Korean auto manufacturer and sales companies are in cahoots with MMDA to squeze more money out of the people. Ouch!

    1. Aeta: there’s nothing magical about locally-made.

      Those vehicles you mention are mobile garbage heaps, badly-made, badly-made, polluting, and unsafe, and extremely EXPENSIVE for what you get. I have no doubt some well-placed people are getting rich from car sales, but that’s beside the point here. Those awful home-made death traps are third-world junk, and they should not be in use.

      Why would you Filipinos wasting their money on trash, when, for the SAME PRICE, you can buy a world-class vehicle from another country?

      Vehicle engineering is difficult. There are literally millions of man-hours invested into a cheap Korean sedan. No Filipino workshop can compete with that level of expertise, and they shouldn’t try to.

      What Filipinos should be doing is figuring out what THEY do best; economists call it comparative advantage. Since they don’t do ANYTHING best at the moment, they need to figure out what they COULD do best. And then do it. They can then trade with the rest of the world, instead of holding out their begging bowls to OFWs.

      1. Marius,

        ” there’s nothing magical about locally-made.”

        I agree. However, the country’s main problem is reducing traffic congestion and air pollution. So why would you replace the “most evil” (locally-made vehicles) with a “lesser evil” (brand-name vehicles)–and use that an excuse–and still have the same problems with traffic congestion and air pollution?

        It seems to me, the government should have opted for controlling the productions and sales on privately-owned vehicles and more on public transportation (like MRT/LRTs and buses). But it (the government) didn’t, which tell me there is more behind the “modis operandi” of Phil/Gov and the automobile industries than what’s being told to the public.

        Aeta

      2. Marius,

        “b) the government encourages and subsidizes faulty agricultural practices” Let me add something similar from what I saw.

        In 2011, I was assigned to one Visayan province. One day while I was there I noticed that their agricultural school building is deteriorating and the school grounds is a bit messy. That night I had a chat with a former college official there and I told him what I saw. I asked him if the local govt is neglecting the school. He said somehow yes and explained to me why the school grounds is messy knowing that that is an agri school. He said students there are taught to plant on the blackboard! There is no practice on the field because there is no budget for seedlings and planting tools.

        When I heard that, the image of one Joc Joc Bolante and the fertilizer scam flashed in my mind and I really felt like hitting someone in the face at that time.

      3. >> He said students there are taught to plant on the blackboard! There is no practice on the field because there is no budget for seedlings and planting tools.

        That’s absolutely outrageous, Vincent. I suspect it’s not that there’s no budget: it’s more likely, IMO, that the government wants to ensure the students learn nothing. Seeds are cheap (and why the hell is an ag. college not maintaining their own seed bank?).

        I have my farm tools custom-made (because they’re not even available in the marketplace) and they’re pretty cheap too.

        Materials cost for an ag. student should realistically be no more than P$500 per term, as long as he has land to practice on.

        1. What’s more surprising for me is that students seemed to be not interested too. It looks like it’s fine with them. As you said, seeds are cheap and tools can be custom-made (which I believe it should be to demonstrate future agriculturists’ creativity). That is a province, a rural area. Forest lands are everywhere thus seeds shouldn’t really be a problem and yet, how ironic, their agricultural school is… ugh.

          Here’s one story: In one company I worked for we have this utility guy. He is so lowly. One day I heard he left our company and went to the Middle East to have a work similar to what he has here. Without me asking, somebody told me that that guy is actually a Philippine licensed agricultural engineer. This happened a few years before I saw that agricultural school.

          (sigh)

          Whenever bar exams are held, most Filipinos rejoice. Heck, the road nearest to the venue are even closed to accommodate the exam takers and their supporters. It’s almost festive. But when agricultural engineers’ board exams are held nobody really notices. I’m not saying being a lawyer is bad (I am once a law student). What I’m saying is, why can’t we give these aspiring agriculturists the same attention and care?

        2. >> What I’m saying is, why can’t we give these aspiring agriculturists the same attention and care?

          IMO one good farmer is worth 20 lazy lawyers 🙂

          But there are very few good farmers, for precisely the reasons you outlined. I won’t say NO good farmers – I’ve heard of several making good money – but they’re 99% self-taught. If you go to school in the Phils, you’re guaranteed to come out dumber than when you went in. I’m convinced this is the purpose of schools: to keep people stupid, and therefore poor.

          >> Forest lands are everywhere thus seeds shouldn’t really be a problem.

          Absolutely – but I’ve noticed that one of the first things a Filipino farmer will do is burn down the forest. He has no understanding of or interest in the natural processes that go on there. There are many plants that he can propagate and use (ipil-ipil is the obvious example). One of the first things any ag. teacher should do is take the class to the forest and get them to observe how nature works, and grow wild plants from seed (a good introduction to various seed behaviors). Only when they understand that should they be allowed to grow anything else.

        3. Vincent: incidentally, agriculture is one area where the Philippines’ ban on foreign teachers is really causing the country real pain. Many other countries in Asia – notably China and Korea – achieved what they did by inviting foreign universities and private companies to set up language schools, business schools, and technical colleges.

          These schools were (still are) immensely popular. There were a lot of sharks in the early days – people looking to make a quick buck – but they were quickly found out and disappeared. Most of the foreign education now on offer is very high quality .. and quite affordable.

          The Philippines is missing out on a whole world of knowledge. I’m saddened by how little the local farmers know about growing things, how poor their seed selection is, and the low-quality tools they have to work with. Their obsession with pesticides and chemicals is appalling. If foreigners were allowed to set up demo farms, there might be some progress in this area.

        4. “The Philippines is missing out on a whole world of knowledge.” – One reason that I saw is there isn’t really any incentives in this area. In my mother’s barangay in the province, I am perplexed why a few farmers/head of the families, despite owning hectares of land, dreams that their children will someday own a condo unit in Metro Manila where they can all live in and leave their property. Thus they struggle to keep their children in school so that they can be OFWs in the future, not looking back on how they can develop and make their property profitable.

          One time I went with my mother when she sold some of her copra and pili nuts to a buyer. There I saw how low these buyers are pricing such products. In the case of my mother, she needs to pay the men who helped her in the harvesting and for the tranportation. Her net profit is too low that she can’t get anything from it that can be used as capital for the next selling. Indeed, being a farmer in the Philippines is a low-earning work. I understand law of supply and demand and that could be the cause for making such products cost cheap. That is why I turn my question to the govt. If so many farmers are producing the same products, isn’t it the govt’s duty to raise awareness or at least create a plan as to what portion of the province will produce what products? To prevent oversupply.

          I noticed too what you said. A few farmers spell government support as P-E-S-T-I-C-I-D-E-S and C-H-E-M-I-C-A-L-S. Whoever gives them those gets their votes.

          Oh, by the way, insurgency adds to the problem. One of cousins, one time, was in the field harvesting rice grains. He has a few sacks lined up to be filled. At the end of the line, one NPA member also has his sack waiting. He argued and the NPA left. He was only able to do that because that NPA is a close neighbor. Had it been a hard-liner, I don’t know what would’ve happened to my cousin.

    2. Ah, I understand where you’re coming from now.

      If the Philippines had a functioning government, I’d agree with you. My comment was based on the fundamental reality that the country is run by intellectually-challenged thieves, whose every decision is driven by the need to line their own pockets.

      In that scenario, removing a bunch of dangerous, filthy vehicles from the road and replacing them with Korean imports is the least-bad scenario; the best we could possibly hope for. The chances of the government having the will or the skill to install proper infrastructure is essentially zero.

      1. Marius,

        “…the country is run by intellectually-challenged thieves, whose every decision is driven by the need to line their own pockets….The chances of the government having the will or the skill to install proper infrastructure is essentially zero.”

        I agree with you on your assumption, and those areas of the government officials’ real intention is what we need to hammer them on.

        This outward effort by the government in trying figure out out the best way to end traffic congestion, and reduce toxic emission in the air, is just a “dog and pony show” to pacify public outcry, and to deflect the attention on what they’re really doing: to enrich their bank accounts and to facilitate foreign companies’ plan to fleece the country.

        Aeta

        1. I’m not convinced foreign companies are interested in ‘fleecing’ the Philippines, for the simple reason that there’s nothing there worth fleecing. Can you think of anything in particular?

          There are so many other countries with rich pickings, the Philippines is waaaay down on the Conglomerates’ list of places to dominate.

          Anyway, there’s a big difference between exploitation and trade. In those cases where the Philippines does allow itself to be exploited – the food industry is an excellent example – it’s because they’re more than willing to bend over and take the shafting that’s being offered. Foreign companies sell garbage in the Phils because the Pinoy consumer is happy to buy it.

          Going back to the subject of transport, where would the country obtain (say) LRT systems if they excluded foreign offerings? When you’re buying specialist kit, the best and cheapest option is to go to the specialists: and in this case, it would probably by Hyundai.

        2. Marius,

          Foreign companies doesn’t have to come in a shape and form that we’re used to seeing, like Apple, IBM, Exxon, or other major conglomerates–to name a few–who make their presence obvious when they set up shops in foreign countries.

          The foreign companies that I’m talking about (whether as individuals or cartels) can make their presence felt, by the money they infuse into the economy and influence they exert on specific businesses and politicians, respectively.

          Without naming a specific business or company, just look at the rate in which the Chinese-Filipino businesses have grown since the EDSA Revolution in 1986 and the U.S. bases’ eviction in 1992. Then look at the growing number of Korean setting up businesses in the Philippines.

          These foreign money (and influence) have destroyed our locally run industries like agriculture, manufacturing, and export–and deprived millions of Filipino of their livelihood and raised the cost of living in the country–through their vast network of political and businesse alliances.

          You can’t help but ask yourself the question, ‘where is all that money coming from and what has it done to our way of life in the Philippines?’

          Just look around you.

          Aeta

        3. Marius,

          “Going back to the subject of transport, where would the country obtain (say) LRT systems if they excluded foreign offerings? When you’re buying specialist kit, the best and cheapest option is to go to the specialists: and in this case, it would probably by Hyundai.”

          Where is it written in the Philippine Constitution that you have to allow foreign businesses to have complete access to our economy, instead of just assisting us set up and maintain our LRT system? All we need from these foreign companies–like Hyundai– is their materiel and technical expertise, and still keep their money and influence out of our country.

          But we Filipinos don’t do that, do we? We’re always trying to come up with ‘individualized’ novel ideas to bring “more bang for our money,” and see how we can profit from it, without thinking about how our self-servingness will affect those around us.

          Aeta

        4. Aeta: I don’t really understand what you mean. I’ve had enough contact with the government to know exactly why agriculture, manufacturing, etc are broken, and really, it has nothing at all to do with Chinoys, Koreans, or foreigners-at-large.

          – Agriculture is broken because:

          a) land administration/registration is a disaster, mired in the worst corruption and incompetence I’ve ever seen;

          b) the government encourages and subsidizes faulty agricultural practices;

          c) farmers are subject to extortion from government agents if they produce anything of value.

          The net result is that farmers can’t invest in their farms, don’t bother to educate themselves, and generally subsist hand-to-mouth because they will be punished severely if they attempt to make money from their farms.

          – Manufacturing is broken because:

          a) It is incredibly hard to comply with the mass of red tape involved in setting up and running a business. You need to employ someone full-time to deal with government nonsense. Half of the red tape is a direct result of the “no foreigners” policy; the other half is designed to give government agents a free hand to extort bribes.

          b) Manufacturers are not allowed to import the high-tech equipment, components, or materials that they need – again, the stumbling blocks are BOC red tape, corruption and incompetence, and the “no foreign products” attitude.

          – Export is broken because import is broken; if you block imports, it is mathematically the same as blocking exports. Economics 101.

          >> Where is it written in the Philippine Constitution that you have to allow foreign businesses to have complete access to our economy, instead of just assisting us set up and maintain our LRT system?

          But why is it their responsibility to help you? They are offering products at a fair market price for anybody to buy. Likewise with service contracts and technical training, no doubt. Any company has to make a profit, so if the Philippines can’t afford what’s on offer – and it will be cheaper than re-inventing it from scratch – they need to figure out why.

          >> All we need from these foreign companies–like Hyundai– is their materiel and technical expertise, and still keep their money and influence out of our country.

          Life doesn’t work like that. It is physically impossible to “protect” the economy, or bits of it. Attempting to do so invariably hurts the very people you’re trying to help – the locals – by creating complicated hoops that everyone has to jump through.

          You don’t need to be afraid of foreigners. Most of them aren’t interested in hurting your country. Most of them would like to help. However, the government encourages precisely the people it doesn’t want – predatory traders who are prepared to bend the rules – because honest businessmen recognise instantly that those rules will put them out of business.

          A trade is a two-sided bargain in which both parties should walk away happy. The Philippines cannot expect to receive without giving something back.

        5. Marcus,

          And you really believed what the Philippines government has told you when the whole focus of this website is to expose its dirty little secrets? I’ve heard those same arguments you’ve just made from numerous government officials,too; yet all the evidence around me point out otherwise. By the way, just out of curiosity, what is your connection with the government? You don’t have to answer that question if you don’t want to. I’ll understand.

          Aeta

        6. Aeta: you misunderstand. I’m not talking about what the government SAYS. This is my experience of what they DO.

          If you read the investment brochures, the Philippines welcomes foreign companies with open arms.

          That’s not how it actually works. The government does not want anybody starting businesses: not foreigners, not the locals. Nobody … except, of course, their favoured friends (including, I guess, favoured foreigners).

          I came to the Philippines originally intending to set up a farming corporation. I quickly found out this was impossible. I later found out it’s equally impossible for the locals.

          I have no connection with the government. If I did, things would no doubt become magically more possible … in exchange for money, of course. I don’t roll that way, and neither do most honest businessmen.

          Therefore, nobody is interested in investing, helping, or engaging with the Philippines in a productive way. The only people who ARE interested are the people prepared to bribe officials, break the law, or worse. This is the direct result of economic protectionism.

  3. Yes Mr. Farol, you hit it right there. The fact is that the misery that is the NCR of Manila-Quezon City is something the people have learned to live with. A cure would make it worse in the short term, but much better in the long run.
    Which would the avg. Filipino choose?

  4. Poor mannered motorists with no courtesy or discipline is a large part of the problem. Can’t see that behavior changing soon.

  5. Our government is a Feudal Oligarchy. Everything that the Oligarch, like Aquino and his buddies; who are getting richer, and richer, than they ever were. They are Greedier than Marcos, or any other politician, who ever served in the Philippine government. It is now, the “Reign of the Greedy”…

    “Traffic is the because of the rise of car sales”…what a stupid statement from an idiot, like Almendras. If there is flood, there is traffic. If they don’t follow traffic laws, there is traffic. If every driver is for, himself/herself; there is traffic. If there are no improvements of the roads; there is traffic.

    Aquino, Almendras and the rest of their minions are trying to grasp any reason, to cover their incompetence and irresponsibilities. What a country, we have…

  6. Then we have people agreeing with the proposal for banning cars with 3 or less people on the road – which is likely not going to have any effect. Also, it’s passing on the burden of Juan’s wrongdoing to Pedro.

    Marius, you Vincent Marius on Facebook? What you posted made the exact sense. Reducing the number of vehicles on the road is not the solution, fixing the broken systems is.

    But our Filipino government seems to believe broken systems are part of our Filipino identity.

  7. ChinoF,

    “Marius, you Vincent Marius on Facebook? What you posted made the exact sense. Reducing the number of vehicles on the road is not the solution, fixing the broken systems is.”

    I don’t get your statement at all. If the system is already broken–and no chance in hell it’s going to get fixed soon–why wouldn’t the addition of uncontrolled number of motor vehicles on the road excacerbate the symptoms of that broken system? Could you explain?

    Aeta

  8. The reality about transportation is that it’s future-oriented. If we’re planning for what we have, we’re behind the curve.

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