“It’s the economy, stupid!” was coined by James Carville, the campaign strategist of Bill Clinton’s successful run against the sitting Pres. Bush (the daddy, not the son) in 1992. This slogan was a huge success that it did a re-run during an integrity crisis in the two-term Clinton administration. The boy from Arkansas was not kicked out of the oval office despite the highly publicized and TV series-worthy Monica Lewinsky sex scandal.
Back home, we’re now on our second week of the year and after we’ve done our new year’s resolutions/business plans, high in optimism ready to take on 2016 to be our #BestYearEver we realize, “Uh oh, we’re back to same old same old!” Particularly, same old TRAFFIC! We wonder, why is it still very much like the last Friday before Christmas? Isn’t it supposed to improve even just a little?
I see a lot of rants on social media about our epic Metro Manila traffic, one of which was written by a friend who came home after a business trip and she just poured it out narrating her horrible experience from her touch down at the airport all the way to her doorstep. She was so pissed and I understand her not only because our traffic situation has really gone from bad to worse but also because of her job. Her business trip was all about selling the Philippines to foreign investors. The alarming thing here is that she ended up by saying, “…and you want me to vote for your candidate?” Then she went on to lambast the president for his ineptitude, excuses for not solving the traffic problem, etc.
This post must be one of her most “liked” posts with a lot of comments empathizing and agreeing with her. We’re in trouble when the people who try to sell the Philippines are not longer sold on the product. To this I say, “It’s the traffic, stupid!” This is not to call anyone in particular stupid but I’m just using that effective Clinton campaign slogan. We ought to do something about traffic. Fast!
When we see faces like this on tv, the newspaper and social media, after having gone through a terrible commute due to traffic, chances are our blood pressure will shoot up and we think of the coming elections in May and say, “No way!”
It’s very easy for us to forget all the good things brought about by the current administration – the high trust rating it gained internationally when it started in 2010; the investment grade ratings we got from S&P, Fitch and Moody’s, the very first time it ever happened in Philippine history; the high GDP growth rates, even becoming the second fastest growing next to economic giant China; the booming Philippine Stock Exchange also recording robust growth of recent.
All of these we tend to forget because we are subjected to the everyday grind of traffic, the helplessness, the waste of time, energy and resources that were estimated at P3 billion a day, according to a study of Japan International Cooperation Agency in 2012.
What to do
I am not going to discuss the things that the government should do like improve the mass transit system, decongest Metro Manila, etc. Those have been written about several times. I am not taking the government off the hook in this mess but instead of just lambasting them, why don’t we also look at ourselves and see what our role has been in this worsening traffic problem. Our traffic problem is beyond chaotic not just because of government ineptitude but because we (yes that includes me who’s writing this piece, you who’s reading it, and all the people around us) allow it to happen! Sorry to say but we cannot just pass on the blame to PNoy and Abaya and the rest of the bubble gang. It’s time to examine ourselves honestly and see how we have been contributing to the problem.
- How many cars does my family own? Okay let’s be honest, chances are for some families who are comfortable, they probably own more cars than the number of members they have in the family. And the excuse is the number coding system. There has to be an extra coding car so that there won’t be a shortage on each day of the week. So now we know that this solution did not only not solve the problem but it actually worsened the situation because we can now have more cars on the road whenever coding is lifted on certain days.
- Do I have garage space for all the cars I own? We buy cars even if we don’t have the garage space for them and end up occupying precious road space as private garage. In Singapore they require a Certificate of Entitlement before one can buy a car. Maybe we can start by requiring a car buyer to prove that he has garage for the car before we allow the purchase.
- Do I consider carpooling for myself and my kids? Because we want to have autonomy of our time and sometimes value our privacy, we don’t take heed of this call to carpool. Go to any school on weekdays especially drop off and fetching time and it’s really terrible. And we subject our kids to this every single school day.
- Do I try to avoid the busy streets during peak hours or do I just go as I please? Well sometimes the penalty of being stuck in traffic is itself the motivation to avoid these streets, but maybe on a regular basis we should schedule our trips on off-peak hours so as not to add to the congestion. Maybe all companies should advocate work from home days. It could prove to be even more productive.
- Do I try to bribe the officer who issues me a ticket for traffic violation? Or do I accept my punishment and hopefully learn to obey rules more and help ease traffic? We usually reason out that we’re too busy so a few hundred pesos grease money is the practical and socially acceptable thing to do. Let’s remember that this is a corrupt act (petty as you may think), something we always accuse our government of.
- Do I get on and off a ride only at designated stops? We allow people to occupy one or two lanes to compete in getting a ride. We allow passengers to get down anywhere they want, even in the middle of the road. We should totally enforce rules on bus/jeepney/cab stops. We should apprehend both the driver and the passenger.
- Do I cross the streets only on pedestrian lanes? I think there was a time in the Marcos era when they tried to discipline jaywalkers by detaining them in makeshift jails open to public viewing. It may not be very humane to do this again but there should be some form of humiliation in the penalty when an ordinance is being introduced for it to be effective.
- Do I have too many drivers? Decades ago family drivers were employed only by the very rich and they served the head of the family and the very young members who couldn’t drive yet. There was an excitement among teens, especially boys, to get their own diver’s license prior to legal age that they falsified public documents lying about their age. Most of the time, the eager teenaged son was given a corresponding task to drive for his younger siblings as a way to earn his use of the family car. So siblings would go to school together using one car, wait for each other and go home together. But now we see a lot of drivers employed by middle class families, sometimes more than one in a family. Come on, does your grade schooler really need his own driver? What about the school bus? Some have his/hers/kids’ drivers in a single family. The problem with multiple drivers is that we tend to be lax in scheduling our trips causing more cars on the roads at any given time.
- Do we make our children get their driver’s license the legal way or do we pay off someone or pull strings in order to get one without having to go through all the trouble? Making our children get their driver’s license the legal way makes them experience bureaucracy and hopefully, the little pain felt will make them value it more and take this privilege of driving more seriously; consequently, making them more decent drivers.
- Do I cut or swerve and drive like a maniac bus driver on the road because everyone else is doing it? I remember when the boys were growing up and they would ask why the bus drivers drove that way? In one of my pissed off moments, I answered, “Because they are bus drivers, “bus” is short for “bastos!” For a time they believed that answer to be true and I had to correct it later on. But seriously, this is a question we have to answer honestly, “Am I also a “bas driver?”
- Do we occupy sidewalks? Pedestrians are discouraged from walking because we don’t have sidewalks. We see sari-sari stores and other structures extending up to the sidewalks.
- Do we use the roads as our basketball court or palengke or extension of our living room when there’s a wake? Some barangays allow their residents to use their precious roadways as basketball courts, palengkes and funeral parlors where tables and chairs are set up. Waze gets confused with these roads. Sometimes she directs you to detour to avoid congested main roads and you end up being delayed more because you didn’t anticipate all these “occupy barangay road” practices.
There are many more that you can add to this list. Again, our traffic problem is so because we allow it to happen! Admittedly, I am guilty of some of the above items. I hope that these 12 points plus the ones you will add will make you look deeper into your own contribution to the chaotic and, contrary to what Abaya said, really fatal situation. Once we all do, we will be kinder in lambasting the government officials and be more proactive in doing our own little share in solving the Metro Manila traffic mess.
As I end this article, I somehow feel more hopeful. Why? Because come to think of it, there are at least a dozen things we can do to ease traffic which are behavioral in nature and which we can readily do before those mass transport systems are put in place. Instead of just making new traffic ordinances here and there in an experimental basis, I think PNoy should call on the entire nation. He should deliver a speech declaring that we are in a state of emergency, apologize for their shortcomings and ask everyone to come together and sacrifice as a nation for the common good. Hmm… I actually imagine writing PNoy’s speech (in parody so I don’t bore my readers) once he declares Metro Manila in a fatal state of emergency! Watch out for that speech.
Catch my guesting today at Sakto Teleradyo with Amy Perez & Marc Logan 10am-11am to talk about retirement.
I will speak at the First Quarter Macroeconomic Briefing to share my insights on the presidentiables, to be held on February 4 at the Ateneo Rockwell Campus from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. For reservations, please contact 4265661 or e-mail email@example.com.
Rose Fres Fausto is the author of bestselling books Raising Pinoy Boys and The Retelling of The Richest Man in Babylon (English and Filipino versions). Click this link to read samples – Books of FQ Mom Rose Fres Fausto. She is the grand prize winner of the first Sinag Financial Literacy Digital Journalism Awards. Follow her on Facebook and You Tube as FQ Mom, and Twitter & Instagram as theFQMom.
Images used from philstar.com, state.gov, makingitfuninthephilippines.blogspot.com, investphilippines.org, googglet.com, en.wikipedia.org put together to help deliver the message of the article.
This article is also published in PhilStar.com and RaisingPinoyBoys.com.