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Our struggle is not a spectacle

By Denver del Rosario

I was supposed to be in San Juan for work at around 2 pm. I left my house at noon like I always do because, oftentimes, that two-hour allowance is enough. But with the infernal Metro Manila traffic, expect the worst to happen.

I checked my phone. 3:57 pm. And I was still in Kamuning, far from where I was supposed to be. In an act of surrender, I told my editor a minute after that I won’t be pushing through with my coverage today. What should have been moments of productivity became time wasted on the road. I got off the bus, but then came a heavy downpour. I spent an hour in a fastfood restaurant to wait for the skies to clear and then I went out to wait for a ride home.

But then it was past five, and many people were trying to go home. To see buses jampacked with passengers was both frustrating and discouraging: frustrating because we don’t deserve this; discouraging because I wasn’t sure if I could get on a bus in this area with many people also waiting. So I chose to do the 40-minute walk to Philcoa. From there, I finally found a jeepney ride home.

This is the harsh reality many of us face where workers and students have no choice but to wake up a bit earlier in order to avoid the morning rush, only to find themselves still waiting for hours. Some say that the metro traffic is the great equalizer, but I call this bull—-. To say that is to be devoid of class analysis.

When the powerful and the influential romanticize the plight of the ordinary people by telling us that our daily sacrifice is the very definition of Filipino resilience and perseverance I don’t smile in gratitude, I rage. For our struggle is not a story of inspiration, but rather of gross neglect and plain arrogance, one where the grievances of the citizenry are easily ignored by those who should be listening and taking action.

Standing in the middle of an overcrowded bus while passengers still try to shove their way in is not a metaphor, so are burning railroads and dysfunctional trains. This is the reality of the masses, a never-ending cycle of waking up early and going home late while losing hope in the process. With these difficult circumstances, we have fallen into compromise; we don’t care anymore about safety and inconvenience, if the vehicle is too cramped, if the aircon is not working, because we all just want to go home.

It isn’t surprising to know that this denial of a mass transport crisis by the administration has earned the ire of the citizenry. Recently we learned about goverment officials telling us to be more “creative” when commuting, or that Superman is the only one who can save the day. When people shrug off their statements as comical relief instead of recognizing its plain insensitivity, this only manifests how much hypocrisy and incompetence we are willing to tolerate as a society just because we keep hoping change will happen. This is them not doing their mandate, and us willingly accepting that.

What government officials say is a reflection of the principles they hold in shaping public policy. For example, do we really expect a leader who catcalls female journalists and jokes about rape to strengthen laws regarding sexual harassment? Or an elected official who steals agricultural lands for profit to genuinely advocate for farmers? Go figure.

To the rich and the powerful, to hell with you and your uncalled-for sense of superiority. Your oppressing kind has the gall to tell us to hang in there as you look outside from your comfortable seats? Please. Our struggle is not a spectacle. 𝘞𝘢𝘭𝘢𝘯𝘨 𝘱𝘢𝘨𝘴𝘪𝘴𝘪𝘺𝘢𝘴𝘢𝘵, 𝘸𝘢𝘭𝘢𝘯𝘨 𝘬𝘢𝘳𝘢𝘱𝘢𝘵𝘢𝘯𝘨 𝘮𝘢𝘨𝘴𝘢𝘭𝘪𝘵𝘢. We don’t need your condescension; we need you to wake the hell up.

And to us who keep enduring hell, we have no other option but to carry on. We wake up early and go home late for we have bills to pay, mouths to feed, and dreams to fulfill. As we brave the metro traffic again, may we always remind ourselves that we should never settle for less, because we deserve more. But as we all know by now, we don’t wait for the world to change. We take action, rage on. #

(The author is a sports journalist. He has contributed stories to Kodao since his student days.)

Scrap provincial bus ban, find pro-people solution to traffic–IBON

Government should find another way of decongesting Metro Manila’s major thoroughfare instead of aggravating the inconveniences of hundreds of thousands of provincial bus commuters, research group IBON said.

Commuters’ welfare should be the primary consideration of the Duterte administration in addressing transport woes but its approach should be comprehensive and regulation should cover private vehicles as well, said the group.

During a hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Public Services, IBON supported calls to scrap the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA)’s Regulation Number 19-002, which aims to remove all provincial public utility bus (PUB) terminals from the entire length of EDSA in order to ease traffic.

That provincial buses are instead directed to load and unload in integrated terminals in Sta. Rosa, Laguna for PUBs coming from the south, in Paranaque for those with terminals in Pasay City, and in Valenzuela City for those coming from the north, is inconsiderate of hundreds of thousands of commuters who have to take the provincial bus regularly, the group said.

IBON said that the MMDA regulation nitpicks on provincial buses servicing a big number of commuters without addressing the fact that private cars make up most of daily EDSA traffic and pollution.

Based on MMDA and commuter network Move Metro Manila/ Komyut figures, IBON estimates that provincial buses move up to 425,000 commuters, while cars plying EDSA move at least 370,000.

Cars, however, comprise 65% of traffic and also contribute more to pollution and carbon dioxide emissions, noted the group.

Buses, meanwhile, 66% of which are provincial, take up only 3.5 percent.

Metro Manila’s transport system lacking a last-mile system makes relocating provincial bus terminals to limited spots more difficult for provincial bus commuters, IBON added.

Memo 19-002 adds another layer instead of simplifying the transportation process for commuters.

It not only aggravates their plight in combating traffic but even adds cost due to additional rides for example.

IBON said that in other countries, last-mile solutions include publicly available shuttle rides or bicycle infrastructure that ensure seamless mobility from a central hub or terminal to a passenger’s final destination.

IBON said that the bus ban also disregards how many ordinary passengers live in neighboring provinces but work in the National Capital Region (NCR) for lack of job opportunities elsewhere. 

Taking the train is no viable alternative because the country’s rail systems and interlinkage remain quite underdeveloped to say the least, said the group.

The public Philippine National Railways has not been restored to its full potential and only runs from Tondo to Laguna; the other public Light Rail Transit (LRT) systems operate only within Metro Manila.

The private Metro Rail Transit 3, meanwhile, traverses EDSA but only partially, and has a record of multiple breakdowns and mishaps due to inefficient management regardless of fare hikes.

Looming public utility jeep (PUJ) phaseout worsens the scenario and not only for provincial bus commuters, said IBON.

This is because PUJs currently play a proxy role in first mile and last mile functions, or in taking commuters to and from areas near central transport hubs.

IBON said that traffic solutions that are arbitrary and inimical to the public such as the bus ban should be rescinded. Instead, government should forge a pro-people solution to traffic woes that can start with conducting genuine consultations with affected sectors for all mass transport endeavors. 

The group added that congestion due to too many private cars can be checked, such as with a congestion tax, stricter street parking rules, and perhaps even curbing car ownership.

It may also be necessary, IBON said, to conduct an audit of road and rail safety including the accountability of corporations and agencies involved.

As with other public services, privatization and the user-fees policy should be stopped in mass transport, said the group.

In its transport policy study titled “Mass Transport System in Metro Manila and the Quest for Sustainability”, IBON said that government’s direction should be to craft a sustainable mass transport system: It should be efficient – meaning shortest travel time, shortest possible distance, and least changes in transport mode. It should be reliable, where expected travel time is actual travel time, and unnecessary waiting is minimized. It should be accessible – meaning infrastructure is easy to access, and affordable as well as considerate of the specific needs of various sectors. It should be safe to prevent harm and ensure pedestrian-friendly conditions. It must also be environmentally sound using clean and energy-efficient fuels and promoting non-motorized transport such as cycling and walking. #