TRAFFIC IN METRO-MANILA – PART 1

 

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[Shown on this photo is a sample of  the monstrous traffic on EDSA,  the metropolis’ main thoroughfare which cuts across major cities in Metro-Manila. Jeepneys have customarily been  pinpointed as the root cause of the traffic problem due to the common perception that most if not all of the jeepney drivers are ignorant of the basic traffic rules. But the sheer volume of vehicles in the metropolis nowadays plying EDSA, sparked perhaps by the aggressive marketing strategies of car dealerships coupled by the affordable down payments,  and the lack of a reliable mass transport system have made the traffic problem a hard nut to crack for the Duterte administration. ] 

One problem in Metro-Manila which has seemed to have become a hard nut to crack for the Duterte administration is the perennial traffic jam, which has continued to worsen from day to day.

Most people consider the problem as rooted simply unto the sparse network of roads and highways that certainly cannot logically cope with the volume of the vehicles that have been plying the roads, the streets and the highways of metropolitan Manila.

But what could be done to alleviate this seemingly unsolvable problem that has brought stress to many motorists, heightened tensions and brought a lot of traffic related disputes that led to brawls and even killings.

In some discussion, it has been said that the lack of road courtesy and the sheer seeming ignorance of most Filipino drivers to basic traffic rules and regulations could be the root of the problem.

Based on 2013 data, there are about 7.7 million vehicles in the whole country and 2.1 million of those vehicles are in Metro-Manila.

Of the total number in the country, about 870,000 of these are cars, 1.8 million are utility vehicles, about 347,000 are SUVs, 360,000 are trucks, 32,000 are buses, 4.2 million are motorcycles or tricycles and 40,000 trailers.

There has been an emerging campaign to scrap the jeepneys from the streets especially in Metro-Manila. However,   such surely would result in very dire consequences especially because jeepney-driving is the livelihood for a number of household heads of the country’s hoi polloi. But those jeepney drivers undoubtedly, are considered as most reckless and most of them are said to be blindly ignorant to the basic traffic rules and regulations.

And how did these UNIQUE jeepneys  emerge in the Philippine scenario? When American troops began to leave the Philippines at the end of World War II, hundreds of surplus military jeeps were sold or given gratis to Filipinos. A famed American soldier, Harry Stonehill, was involved in the disposal of military surplus. Eventually, Stonehill created a black market for the military surplus including jeeps. Thus, the military jeeps were stripped down and altered locally: metal roofs were added for shade; and the vehicles decorated in vibrant colors with chrome-plated ornaments on the sides and hood. The back saloon was reconfigured with two long parallel benches with passengers facing each other to accommodate more passengers. The size, length and passenger capacity has increased as it evolved through the years. These were classified as passenger-type jeeps. The non-extended, original-seat configuration jeeps were labeled owners, short for owner-type jeeps, and are used non-commercially.

Those originally manufactured military-issued jeepneys were refurbished military jeeps by Willys and Ford.

The jeepney rapidly emerged as a popular and creative way to re-establish inexpensive public transportation, much of which had been destroyed during World War II. Recognizing the widespread use of these vehicles, the Philippine government began to regulate their use. Drivers now must have specialized driver’s licenses. Routes are regulated and prices are fixed fares. Illegal (un-franchised) operators are officially referred to as “colorum” operations, from the color of the vehicle plate, which denotes a private rather than public registration.

Indeed, jeepney driving has then become a very attractive source of livelihood. And these jeepney drivers would alternate at times as taxi drivers or bus drivers. However, as it is very easy to get a driver’s license in the Philippines, a  lot of drivers who eventually drove jeepneys as well as taxicabs and buses, plying routes within the metropolis became reckless drivers as they tend to be ignorant of the basic traffic rules and regulations (this is because more often than not, the licenses issued to them, churned out via sleaze money; would just pass through a truncated process bereft of the usual orientation on traffic rules). And an ordinary motorist who would always experience and see how jeepney/taxi/bus drivers would cut and swerve with gusto and zest; would eventually drive like those jeepney and taxi drivers.

In other countries, it is very hard to get a driver’s license. Take the case for example of driver’s license issuance in Sydney, NSW. The following regimen must first be complied with to culminate in one’s having a full-fledged driver’s license. 

  • Pass the Driver Knowledge Test (“DKT”) – this gets the applicant a learner’s license;
  • Hold the learner’s license at least 12 months for drivers under the age of 25. Complete 120 hours minimum driving practice (log book records the driving experience);
  • Pass the Driving Test – progress to a Provisional License – Stage 1 (“P1 License”);
  • Hold your P1 License for a minimum of 12 months;
  • Pass the Hazard Perception Test – progress to Provisional License – Stage 2 (P2 License);
  • Hold one’s P2 License for a minimum of 24 months;
  • Pass the Driver Qualification Test (“DQT)”Progress to a full-fledged License.

Perhaps, the sheer easy route to get a Philippine driver’s license is one reason why we have a bunch of reckless drivers who are ignorant of basic traffic rules. In fact, one time, in a driver’s license issuance scandal which got sensationalized in national TV was about a totally BLIND person who was able to get a driver’s license in a jiffy.

In this regard, as there are thousands of drivers who may have not been actually briefed/oriented on basic traffic rules, perhaps it would do well for us all, for the government TV network (which perhaps should be replicated in other TV networks) to telecast via video clips basic traffic rules and regulations. Among those traffic rules often violated is the prohibition against getting caught inside the orange box in road intersections as well as the BAN against COUNTERFLOW. In fact, I am even swayed to have stickers made out (and I would affix them on my front and rear car bumpers) which would scream in BOLD and GLEAMING letters: “HUWAG NA PONG MAG-COUNTERFLOW; SI DUTERTE NA PO ANG PANGULO.”

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[Indeed, proper implementation of traffic rules is one aspect that needs to be focused on to put a solution to the monstrous traffic problem in Metro-Manila. More often than not, the ORANGE BOX in most intersections are filled with vehicles as motorists are all craving to beat the red light creating gridlocks therefore in those intersections. Also, the ill-bred Filipino’s proclivity to do a COUNTERFLOW entices many motorists to follow suit, as most of the time, the streets are without traffic enforcers that could visibly thwart such violations.Along EDSA, motorists are fond of swerving from one lane to the other, right and left, influenced perhaps by jeepney/taxicab/bus drivers who have been regarded as “kings of the road” during the halcyon years of a traffic-free EDSA and who need to hurtle through the highways with speed to insure that they get a decent day’s wage (as their wages/take-home pay are customarily based on the number of trips).]

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