Philippine transportation is a microcosm of the country’s socio-economic disarray

A couple of weeks ago, Filipino youngsters are back to school as face-to-face classes have officially begun. With the recent report by the World Bank, which says that around 90% of Filipino school children at the age of 10 have no reading ability, educators in the Philippines have welcomed these face-to-face classes as a way to ameliorate such a horrendous situation. While these students are returning to their respective schools, another perennial dilemma has also returned to the scene — the horrible situation of Philippine public transportation. As students start to commute, dishonest taxi drivers, rambunctious jeepney drivers, and unruly pedicab drivers are again literally taking the driver’s seat in the roads of the Philippines. In addition, long queues of peoples in train stations and airports are again highlighted as regular daily occurrences. Such is the dismaying state of Philippine transportation.

Why are these problems regarding public transport now becoming more observable recently? It is because there is an increase in demand for transportation as human interactions return to normal. This specially considers that, unlike other Asian countries, the Philippines is a predominantly service-oriented economy. In addition, it is also a reflection of an economy attempting to bounce back from the series of community quarantines and lockdowns. This can also be linked with Pres. Marcos Jr administration’s target to achieve upper-middle income country status during his term.

Philippine public transportation a century ago was an amalgamation of what’s traditional, Hispanic, and modern. The roads of Manila were shared by “kalesas”, streetcars, Ford model Ts, and also “karitons” running on cobblestones. The Americans were attempting to create a Philippine commonwealth in its own image and likeness, in accordance to their benevolent assimilation policy. Aside from the establishment of American-style political, educational, and health institutions, urban planning, housing, and even mass transportation systems were even adopted during the commonwealth years. Unlike typical British, German, or Japanese cities that depend more on reliable rail transport, American cities are known to promote automobile ownership instead, where cars are generally used to move from place to another. Just looking at how local government units in the Philippines generally resort to road-widening projects to alleviate the flow of traffic is a complete reflection of this American system.

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Another American inheritance that dominates the roads of the Philippines are the jeepneys. These public utility vehicles were initially military surplus hardware that were awaiting disposal after World War II. Eventually, they were reengineered to hold more passengers and went on to run the roads of the Philippines, most specially in highly urbanized cities like Quezon City, Manila, Davao, and Cebu. The jeepney has become the symbol of both Filipino ingenuity and innovativeness to create something original, and its indifference and resistance to change its structural predicaments. Massive dependence on these public utility vehicles has created dependence on oil, which causes environmental damage in the form of air pollution and carbon emissions. This has also been inconvenient for passengers as these jeepneys follow no regular time schedules, making the system very unpredictable. To worsen things, these interest groups intervene in the adoption of more efficient and effective means of public transport. It is completely understandable because many families depend on it for their livelihood.

Aside from these jeepney woes, traveling by air is another predicament of Philippine transportation. Philippine Airlines (PAL) is the oldest Asian airline, but has been overtaken by other companies like Japan Airlines, Thai Airways, Korean Air, and Singapore Airlines. This demonstrates how the entire industry had lost its competitiveness. Infrastructural inconveniences are also present in the Philippines, where even major airports like Manila and Mactan-Cebu are not connected by trains to the city center. This is a complete opposite of the likes of Hong Kong, Taipei-Taoyuan, Narita, Kansai, and Incheon, where reliable and affordable transportation makes traveling easy for everyone. For the Manila International Airport and its four terminals, airport shuttles that connect these terminals run infrequently. It, unfortunately, incentivizes taxi drivers to gouge passengers with exorbitant fares. To make matters worse, these things are just tolerated. How will the Philippines become the hub of the Asia Pacific if these kinds of problems are present?

With such a chaotic situation in the Philippines, reforms in Philippine transportation is long-overdue. A passenger-friendly transport system will create a more efficient economy, as it also generates new businesses and employment opportunities. Mass transportation in the industrialized cities of Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, and Metro Davao should also be given priority, knowing that these metropolises are the engines of economic growth of the country.

One of the easiest methods of mass transport that the country can easily adopt are streetcars or trams in major cities. The European cities of Edinburgh and Prague, and Japanese cities of Hakodate and Nagasaki have relied on trams to transport people within them. These can be easily adopted since it only entails partial reconfiguration of roads while purchasing these streetcars from overseas makers that have the know-how in maintaining these machines. Since they can be treated similarly with jeepneys that are more predictable with scheduled departure and arrival times, Filipino commuters can easily adapt.

Another possible solution to relieve Metro Manila of its traffic woes is to empower the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) by restructuring the National Capital. With a faulty presidential system, the Philippines rarely gets decisive MMDA chairs like then-Marikina city mayor Bayani Fernando during the Arroyo administration. Cities that comprise the National Capital Region (NCR) have competing, vested interests, where they attempt to accumulate and concentrate employment and investment opportunities as much as they can. This intense competition between cities, in turn create an unmanageable traffic situation. Just look at how disorganized EDSA is. Motorists call it the “mother of traffic” and avoid it all costs. The presence of a Metro Manila governor, who is hierarchically above these NCR mayors, may bury the hatchets of these squabbling city mayors.

Finally, amending the 1987 constitution’s protectionist stance with its 60-40 system should be done to allow the entry of foreign direct investments. Facilitating infrastructure-related investments with foreign entities who have the expertise and experience in mass transportation would be greatly beneficial to the economy as a whole. Not only that it will provide employment opportunities to ordinary Filipinos, but the whole country would also benefit from the multiplier effect caused by these kinds of investments. In the long run, the Philippine economy would be more productive and competitive through these projects.

A commuter-friendly Philippines is a consumer-friendly Philippines, but currently, the country is not friendly to these lowly commuters. Because everyone is a consumer of public transport in one way or another, Filipinos should not tolerate Philippine transport to languish and be derailed with political bickering and leveraging.

14 Replies to “Philippine transportation is a microcosm of the country’s socio-economic disarray”

  1. The gov’t is too stubborn to realize that decentralization of development plays a big part in solving the traffic problems in Metro Manila. Another problem which is a cancer in the Philippines is unfairly heavy taxation on cars. It’s really unfair that cars in 1st world countries(except Singapore) and even India are cheaper than car prices in Philippines. Cars in Philippines are unfairly expensive for no good reason at all. Another problem is the gov’t still insists on implementing coding scheme which is not a solution at all, that and the proposed rush hour fee are just too bothersome for car owners and solid evidences that most officials in PH lack critical thinking and unqualified for their positions. Philippines is too hostile towards car owners, the question is why? Do they want people to commute with the crap public transport like jeepneys? In Singapore, public transport are beautiful and safe which is why you don’t really need a car there. Why can’t Philippines lower taxation on cars and match their prices with US car prices? It’s really pathetic.

    1. That’s true. The problem with many voters in PH is the lack of critical thinking abilities, they vote for politicians who give them money and “serve” the public for publicity, not to mention they get angry if someone criticizes their favorite politicians and resort to personal insults while those politicians don’t even care about their fans. Seriously, people should demand for competent and honorable officials. If the politicians just give some money away to people, many people get happy, they don’t even think if it’s part of a politician’s job like for example, lawmakers should stick with making laws. Another big problem in the Philippines is anti-intellectualism is part of that country’s culture, many people are quick to bash intelligent people or say some anti-intellectual slurs such as “edi ikaw na magaling!”, no wonder Philippines is and has always been a 3rd world country, no improvement or whatsoever.

      1. There is no electoral problems in the PH that cannot be compared with other countries. I think we are better than the US when it comes to respecting results of elections.

        How about talking about election deniers in the USA? Or the siege on the Capitol in Jan. 6, 2021?

        I mean, the electoral processes in the Philippines is not perfect and voters have their respective quirks, biases, etc. Does the US have a perfect voting system?

        1. Here you go bringing up the US again and saying that PH is better than the US to defend the faults and problems in your country. I didn’t even specifically bring the US in this topic.

          This doesn’t change the fact that many voters in Philippines lack critical thinking abilities and anti-intellectualism is still a big part of your country’s culture. Why did you guys vote for BBM and Sara Duterte? Is it because of their fathers? Many people there are fond of voting for candidates based on their parents and last names. Many people there also vote for candidates who “help” people all for publicity. Look at some of your senators, 2 of them are convicted of crimes yet you voted for them. Why did many of your countrymen even vote for people with criminal records?

        2. Here you go bringing up the US again and saying that PH is better than the US to defend the faults and problems in your country. I didn’t even specifically bring the US in this topic. – No Data
          – – – – –
          Well, that is your point of reference: US is better than RP. That is how you play the game and now that I joined you, you’re complaining?

          Before you bellyache, respond properly to what was being said. I did not say RP is better than US per se. This is what I actually and accurately said:

          “I think we are better than the US when it comes to respecting results of elections.”

          Now, you address that paragraph and tell me why I’m wrong.

          Why did you guys vote for BBM and Sara Duterte? Is it because of their fathers? – No Data.
          – – – – –
          Well, if you’re still unaware of what’s happening in the country, both BBM and Sara were current office holders when they run for Pres. & VP. They did not run solely under their father’s name. They have education and experience in public service, and people, from the looks of it, gave them thumbs up because of those experiences.

          How ‘bout you, why did you vote for Donald Trump (pwe!)? Does he have the comparable education and experience BBM and Sara have? As far as I know he is a moron who became famous as a TV star. And his election slogan was ‘Grabbing pussies!” Qué barbaridad!

          You think the US, in electing a hairbrained, is better than RP for that? I-DON’T-THINK-SO!

          Lesson for you, never compare your country of birth, a dirt-poor, small and weak country to a powerhouse USA. They are not equal in so many things material.

          But in common sense? I think Filipinos has the edge. Prove me wrong.

          If you can.

        3. I rescind my statement a bit about not bringing up the US in this topic, I mean in this comment but in the other comment about this topic, it’s just about US car prices.

          But let me reply to this comment.

          “both BBM and Sara were current office holders when they run for Pres. & VP.”

          Let me stop you there. BBM was not a gov’t official when he ran for president this year, he was a former senator.

          “They have education and experience in public service” did you forget his claims of graduating from Oxford and Wharton Universities which both universities denied?

          “How `bout you, why did you vote for Donald Trump (pwe!)?” You’re making a baseless assumption there.

          The problem with you is you always bring up the US to argue that Philippines is better whenever someone criticizes your country instead of just humbly accepting that these problems are real and striving to improve.

          I’m not even talking about election results, I’m talking about how people vote. In Philippines, many people vote based on fame. One of your senators is convicted of libel in the past so why did you or your countrymen vote for him? If companies don’t hire people with criminal records, then what makes it okay for people with criminal records to run the country? Answer this.

          The political dynasty is very real in the Philippines that it’s virtually impossible to stop it because it’s in the culture? Want proof that many voters there vote for candidates based on their last names? Look around you, mayors in certain cities and even the president and VP. I’ve seen BBM supporters who support him for his dad, like they praise his dad more than him. For example, how long Davao had a Duterte person as mayor whether the former president his child or children?

          “But in common sense? I think Filipinos has the edge. Prove me wrong.”

          Has the edge compared to who?

          “Lesson for you, never compare your country of birth, a dirt-poor, small and weak country to a powerhouse USA. They are not equal in so many things material.”

          Another invalid opinion. Both USA and Philippines are countries. The Philippines had a chance to be a 1st world country but many people blew it big time.

          Want more? Why do some of your countrymen laughed at the Ukrainians for voting for a comedian for president while many of those same people vote based on fame too? Isn’t that hypocrisy? Some PH gov’t officials even have criminal records. Many of your countrymen voted for an actor, newscaster, what else?

        4. I rescind my statement a bit about not bringing up the US in this topic, I mean in this comment but in the other comment about this topic, it’s just about US car prices. – No Data
          – – – – – –
          Good because you realized that it is a losing proposition: to treacherously attack your mother country just because you found greener pasture on your adopted country. I hope I helped you learned something from there in some way.

          BBM was not a gov’t official when he ran for president this year, he was a former senator. – No Data
          – – – – – –
          So, he was not experienced in public service then, is that what you are saying? When you nitpick it shows the kind of reason you have. Weak.

          “They have education and experience in public service” did you forget his claims of graduating from Oxford and Wharton Universities which both universities denied? – No Data
          – – – – –
          So, he was uneducated, illiterate and untutored, is that what you are saying? Again, you are not responding to simple facts. He has decent education than the Trumps, Schwarzenegger, etc.

          “How `bout you, why did you vote for Donald Trump (pwe!)?” You’re making a baseless assumption there. – No Data
          – – – – – –
          Assumption? Where and why? I think you are either caught in a bind or lost in understanding what I said.

          The problem with you is you always bring up the US to argue that Philippines is better whenever someone criticizes your country instead of just humbly accepting that these problems are real and striving to improve. – No Data
          – – – – – –
          Again, you’re going back home. I’ve only known you in your post when I read you attack the Philippines, a poor and weak and third word country and praise the most powerful country in the world, US, and compared her to my country.

          Now, you are accusing me of “always bring up the US” ek-ek? You started it, you stop it.

          I’m not even talking about election results, I’m talking about how people vote. – No Data
          – – – – –
          Well, there goes your pivot again. Regardless whether it’s voting or election results, it’s the same animal.

          In Philippines, many people vote based on fame. One of your senators is convicted of libel….
          Answer this. – No Data
          – – – – – –
          I’m glad to answer that. There are stupid voters in RP and more stupid voters in the US where you are a refugee.

          The political dynasty is very real in the Philippines that it’s virtually impossible to stop it because it’s in the culture? – No Data
          – – – – –
          True. However, there are also political dynasty in the US. If you want me to post it to inform you (because they’re a bit long) I’ll be glad to. Again, as a refugee in the US, you don’t seem to know much about her.

          Both USA and Philippines are countries. – No Data
          – – – – – –
          What a statement. Really?

          Why do some of your countrymen laughed at the Ukrainians for voting for a comedian for president while many of those same people vote based on fame too? – No Data
          – – – – – –
          Same thing with why do you laugh at us on how we conduct our affairs when as a refugee in the US you already have a good life there.

          Isn’t that hypocrisy? – No Data
          – – – – – –
          It’s not hypocrisy my friend, its simple reality.

          Some PH gov’t officials even have criminal records. Many of your countrymen voted for an actor, newscaster, what else? – No Data
          – – – – – –
          Again, I also have records of US politicians who have criminal records. I’ll be glad to give you a copy if you insist.

        5. “to treacherously attack your mother country just because you found greener pasture on your adopted country. I hope I helped you learned something from there in some way.”

          Treacherously attacked my mother country? Is it treason to criticize the country left and right? Where in the law states that criticizing the country like how I did is traitorous? Btw, I will never call your country “mother” for nothing is motherly in that country. I would accept it if you mean the country is a “mother of corruption”, it is a cesspool after all.

          If I’m gonna be honest, your country is the worst country I’ve ever been to but even in electoral results, you keep on bringing up the US.

          So you’re saying that if some of your countrymen laugh at Ukraine for voting a comedian for president while those same people vote for actors and mere celebrities is not hypocrisy? Let me stop you there, it is hypocrisy because they make fun of people from other countries because they do something bad yet they themselves do the same thing. That’s hypocrisy. Want another hypocrisy example? When a foreigner comments his opinion about Philippine politics such as PH presidential elections, I’ve seen many comments telling him not to interfere with their political affairs but many Filipinos comment their opinions about Brexit, US presidential elections, Russian-Ukrainian War, etc.

          What does Philippines have to offer for it to be a mother country? For several civilians, it’s more on taking the best offer than patriotism, no wonder many Filipinos migrate to the US. Trump’s admin even had to ban Filipino citizens from applying for H-2B visas because of human trafficking and high overstay rates, it was lifted last year.

          By the way, about your traitorous remark, nothing traitorous with what I did according to the law. If Filipinos join the US military, they are not traitors because they never swore an oath to defend Philippines from threats in the first place so what more me?

        6. If I’m gonna be honest, your country is the worst country I’ve ever been to but even in electoral results, you keep on bringing up the US. – No Data
          – – – – – –
          I keep bringing up the US because you promoted her in your desire to bad mouth my country. It’s okay if you think RP is the worst country but to put up the US for comparison is just shameful and abominable.

          Do you want me to call you ugly and feces-face and compare you to Tom Cruise? You think that’s fair?

          I brought up the election issue because the U.S., unlike RP, has a problem with election deniers there. You want to deny that?

          So you’re saying that if some of your countrymen laugh at Ukraine for voting a comedian for president while those same people vote for actors and mere celebrities is not hypocrisy? – No Data
          – – – – – –
          Look, people are people, they do stupid things whether here or there. You want to argue why people make fun of other people? I don’t.

          Let me stop you there, it is hypocrisy because they make fun of people from other countries because they do something bad yet they themselves do the same thing. – No Data
          – – – – – –
          Again, you don’t get it. It’s reality because it happens everywhere. It’s hypocrisy to you because you are against my country and countrymen. That’s the whole point. There is nothing fair, balance or neutral to you. If it’s about the Philippines, all the bad things will come out of your mouth.

          What does Philippines have to offer for it to be a mother country? – No Data
          – – – – – –
          It’s a ‘mother country’ because it’s the land of your ancestors. If you cannot call it that, fine, you are free to do so.

          “…no wonder many Filipinos migrate to the US. – No Data
          – – – – – –
          And how ‘bout you? As a refugee, you are also like them.

          “By the way, about your traitorous remark, nothing traitorous with what I did according to the law. If Filipinos join the US military, they are not traitors because they never swore an oath to defend Philippines from threats in the first place so what more me?” – No Data
          – – – – – – –
          I used the word ‘treacherously’ to convey the idea of you being faithless and disloyal. Of being fake and untrue as a civilized person for you are not expressing fair and just expression but one that is full of hate and abomination.

          What you are doing is simply trolling. And the sad thing is, whether you are a U.S. citizen or not, you cannot deny who you really are. You are not an original American or whose citizenship was by birth. Your ethnic origin will always betray you. Always.

  2. If No Data is indeed honest to himself he will tell everyone that he’s actually still living in a third world country with zero contribution among those he refers to as idiots.

    And If he is trying to impress to everyone that he is among the class of intellectuals by posturing as a world citizen, he’s not actually. He’s just seeking a baloney entitlement of exemption.

    An real intellectual does not stop in identifying problems, he provides solutions to perceived problems. No Data’s solution to his perceived problem is non-involvement and abandonment. In other words, it’s selfish, coward escapism of someone with a loser mentality.

    No Data, a non-achieving pretender throwing tantrums, failed to recognize that he’s part of the Filipino problem. He represents what makes a third world country worst!

    1. No Data:

      “What does Philippines have to offer for it to be a mother country?”

      Philippines:

      Well, I’ve provided all of you arable lands, plenty of fishes in the ocean, beautiful beaches, diverse flora and fauna, vast natural resources, earth minerals, natural wonders and sources of energy… all for free.

      I’m very certain you’re very much aware of the historic words of the former President JFK of your mother country of choice, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”

      Think about it. You offered me nothing, what will you offer them?

      1. All for free? Are you kidding? Anyway, Philippines also took a lot of money from me.

        I have great respect for President Kennedy but I beg to disagree on that quote because if you’re an ordinary civilian, then you should focus on giving yourself and your family bright future even if it means leaving your country. Nothing wrong with leaving your country for a better future because migrating is not even a crime.

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