Traffic and the roads of Manila #PetPeeveStories

When it comes to the topic on traffic, we all have a say in this. And I’m sure my list will not be exhaustive.

Studies have shown that traffic is a waste of time and resources. The latest study reported by the Philippine office of the aid agency Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), as published last February 2018 in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, points out that worsening traffic condition in Metro Manila now costs 3.5 Billion Pesos in lost opportunities PER DAY (up from 2.4 Billion Pesos per day in 2012). That’s almost 1.3 Trillion Pesos (or around $25 Billion) a year!

The Philippine government budget for 2018 is 3.8 Trillion Pesos, making the lost opportunities more than 1/3 of the National budget. If this isn’t a waste in resources, I don’t know what is.

Let me put you up to speed on my pet peeves regarding the traffic condition in Metro Manila.

1. Anarchy

There is no discipline on the road. Let’s face it. The streets of Metro Manila is reigned by anarchy. There is a total breakdown in everything you see on the road. Unfortunately, it has become a way of life for those living in the metro. We can only complain and blog about it. That’s all the barking we can do. For now.

If there’s a will, there’s a way. The problems don’t seem that difficult to manage considering that half are due to poorly disciplined passengers and drivers. Unfortunately, when traffic citation has become a source of economy for traffic enforcers (read: graft and corruption), there will be anarchy on the road.

2. The traffic enforcers and the number coding scheme

The number coding scheme was implemented in 1995 as the Unified Vehicular Volume Reduction Program (UVVRP). It’s main objective is to serve as a road space rationing program in the Philippines.

This program began in Metro Manila with EDSA as the only road in the program. The public transport group was responsible for pushing the MMDA into implementing various versions of the number coding scheme to what is the current (and may I add, useless) version.

Sadly, it has benefitted corruption. If you look at the traffic enforcers, they are busy looking at the license plates of the cars on the road. They turn a blind eye to what are obvious traffic violations because the license plate is the easiest traffic violation to apprehend, it is the private car owner (read: has money to spare) on the wheel, and the driver is always willing to “settle” any form of harassment.

3. Public transport and collusion with enforcers

While it is the public transport sector that actually pushed for the expansion of the number coding (since public transport is exempted from the coding), they nevertheless are the number one violators of traffic rules (particularly when loading and unloading passengers). A case of having the cake and eating it too.

Any Philippine public transportation will load and unload passengers anywhere and anytime they want. Worst is, they even use the roads as parking zones – waiting for passengers to fully load up their vehicles before leaving! They load on narrow streets, on top of flyovers, on a bridge, on the pedestrian lane, AND in front of a traffic officer.

When drivers collude with traffic enforcers in order to get away with traffic violations, corruption becomes a way of life, and a living. It’s a vicious cycle. Local government heads will be hesitant to have an ordinance rescinded because a form of income is probably being generated by some (?) people and I’m sure someone up there is benefitting from this largesse. And ripple effect leads to more anarchy on the road.

You have to remember, this number coding scheme isn’t even a LAW! Go figure!

4. Poor urban planning

The underlying problem with bad urban planning rests with local government corruption. With malls sprouting left and right, and right in the middle of the major thoroughfare speaks smack of corruption. Someone is out to make money in order to have a right of way and access to their mall!

Even the MMDA (Metro Manila Development Authority) has acknowledged that every time there is a mall sale, the traffic is horrendous. With more people trooping to the malls, the roads can only handle so much.

And then there are the urban poor dwellers or informal settlers where the roads leading to their homes are poorly accessible. You will most probably need to bypass a makeshift wet market that has spilled to the streets, and come across a dingy basketball court and shanties one on top of another with half naked people in the tiny corridors they call alleys.

5. No parking

Too many cars. Too few roads. Partly because of the number coding. While the number coding program has probably worked in the beginning, it has also sparked the economy of the vehicle industry. With a population close to 15 million people for a land mass of 619.2 sq km, there’s no other way but living up – condominium style. But condo sellers (especially the low cost ones) don’t require everyone to get a parking when they purchase a unit.

But it’s understandable why people buy more cars – as alternative to the number coding scheme AND more especially the poor public transportation in the city.

Even flyovers and underpasses and skyways will not solve the problem. That’s because at the end of these larger thoroughfares is the small road. It’s basic physics. A wide funnel into a smaller funnel results in a lower volume of fluid that exits. Where do we even get these engineers?!?

6. Two wheeled monsters

You don’t only see them crisscrossing the streets but even occupying the sidewalks. Isn’t there a law against using the sidewalks as roads?

And it’s not only violating the law that peeves me. Law enforcers violate it themselves – no helmets, not registered vehicles, going through stop signs, and so on and so forth. Why will the ordinary citizen obey traffic rules when the people who supposedly should enforce it violate it?

I’m not saying all motorcycle owners violate the law. I’m saying, that most of them do. Hence, the anarchy on the road. When these drivers bump your vehicle they either hit and run or simply are unable to pay for the damages. And they have the temerity to drive mad on the road.

7. Trucks and trailers

I have never understood why these huge trucks and trailers have to be on the same road at the same time as private and public vehicles. While they are limited to major roads and at a certain hours of the day, they still should be limited to:

A. Being on the road only from 9pm-5am. When they breakdown, pandemonium on the street is very bad (which is an understatement).


B. Because the Philippines is composed of 7107 islands, port to port transfer of goods should be the route used and not the crowded streets of the metro.

Let’s call a spade a spade. We know that many public transportation vehicles are NOT roadworthy. If a legitimate agency were to assess fairly these vehicles, I’m willing to make a bet 90% of them would fail roadworthiness. Same is true with the trucks and trailers.

Incidentally, I’ll throw in the garbage trucks that pick up our garbages the same time as rush hour. Why the hell can’t they do that between 10pm-4am? That way they serve as a deterrent to crime because of their presence on the roads!

8. The pesky pedestrian

In a city where the pedestrian overpass is 25 meters away from a pedestrian lane and the pedestrian overpass is hardly used except as shelter for the homeless, you know that the construction of the overpass was a waste of taxpayers money. Period.

But the pedestrians are a different animal altogether. Like chickens that cross the street, it’s like a video game where you need to avoid those who refuse to cross at the appropriate pedestrian lanes.

When you run over a jaywalker it still ends up your fault and you’re charged with “reckless imprudence resulting in …”. I mean really? How can you be reckless when the turd just dashed right in front of you? Didn’t he/she violate a law on jaywalking first?!?

Road rage is real. If we only practice road courtesy and everyone followed the law, we would have half the problem of traffic solved. It’s not rocket science. It’s called DISCIPLINE. Something direly lacking in our society.

As for the implementors of the law, I guess they need to agree and update the law. After all, all else is common sense. If we’re not implementing the laws correctly, then there’s a dire lack of common sense. And the lack of discipline in the country.

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