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Rough Cuts | Want change? Fight status quo

Here is one observation that we are certain only a few will disagree with us. It is the reality that the most difficult battle to win is the fight against the status quo.

Yes, it has been the usual open desire of citizens to have change in the attitude of people as well as in the character of governance in the country. That is why many neophyte politicians won in the last May 13, 2019 midterm elections because of their commitment to bring in change. And this commitment is prodded by the persistent demand of the people for a new order.

One such change demanded especially in Metro Manila is for the extremely chaotic and heavy traffic situation in the capital region to become smooth and commuter-friendly. In fact solving the metro traffic problem was President Rodrigo Duterte’s leading promise during his campaign in 2016.

So concerned was the President then (right after his assumption in July of 2016) that he sought for emergency power from Congress if only to solve with dispatch the national capital region’s humongous traffic.

Sadly the President did not get what he wanted. And many attributed the Congress inaction on the Presidential request, to the lawmakers’ suspicion that a good portion of the funds for projects implemented to solve the Metro’s traffic problem will only go to the pockets of certain administration officials. And somehow there were insinuations coming from certain senators that the President could be a potential top money maker from roads and other related projects implemented under an emergency regime.

So, three years into the President’s term the administration still has to resort to palliative solutions to the Metro’s traffic mess. Yes, there are infrastructure projects intended for long-term solutions of the traffic problem but these are hard in coming and often its completion could likely stretch way beyond time tables.

And it is no secret that every time projects are adopted for implementation its supposed beneficiaries – the commuting public and the business sector — are the first to raise strong howls of protest. One example of such project now about to be implemented in the capital region by the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) is the banning of provincial buses in the metro’s major thoroughfares like EDSA.

The MMDA wants the provincial buses to just be up to the modern Paranaque terminal for those plying north, and up to a terminal in Sta. Rosa, Laguna for southbound buses. The agency sees this policy as a major step in easing vehicular traffic going to Makati, Manila, Pasay and Quezon City where most business and government centers are mostly located.

To test the acceptability of the policy the media conducted on-the-spot surveys of operators, drivers and commuters on their take of the plan. Almost one hundred percent of the polled commuters claimed the plan does not work for them and that it would result to passengers getting late in reaching their schools and work places, or back home. And add to it, they claim, is their need for more money for transportation expenses saying they will have to take another ride from the northern or southern terminals to their final destinations, and vice versa.

The result of the survey of operators and drivers also yielded position similar to that of commuters. Easily for operators, their take on the matter is understandable. They are also the owners of the terminals of their buses located along EDSA. So, for them to abandon their own terminals is letting go of sizeable investments and income.

We can only imagine how the thousands of provincial buses out of EDSA could ease vehicular traffic in that primary entry and exit avenue to and from the Metro Manila area. And we are certain as well that it will be for the longest time if eventually adopted and followed by the concerned bus operators and commuters to the letter.

Yes, there will be routines that will be altered; transportation fare budget to be adjusted a little upwards; and even delays in arriving schools and work places. We believe though that all these will only happen during the initial stages of the policy implementation.

But again, when we desire for a change there have to be some sacrifices, small or big; do away with what we are used to. Certain conveniences have to be given up. That may be, is the price people have to pay. But how much is it compared to the long-term result – a much improved travel services for everyone.
And what has this policy in Metro Manila got to do with a still urbanizing Davao City?

Well, is Davao City not experiencing traffic gridlock nowadays? Are our people not bothered with the monstrous traffic in both MacArthur Highway in the city’s south and the J.P. Laurel Highway in the north most hours in the morning and late in the afternoon and early evening?

Yes, we are, and public utility buses coming from the southern and northern provinces of the Davao Region are major contributors of the convergence of the huge number of motor vehicles in the city’s primary entry and exit highways now on a daily basis.

Already there are ideas floated by some members of the Sangguniang Panlungsod, traffic experts, and observant ordinary citizens that the time is already rife for the local government to shut down the only public bus terminal at Ecoland and put up one for north-bound buses somewhere out north of the city, and another one somewhere south for buses plying the southern and southwestern provinces in Mindanao.

So, we feel that this early – or perhaps this late (?) – Davaoenos should already set their minds for that inevitability. And they have to be ready to do some sacrifices in terms of parting with personal convenience and coughing out little more money in exchange for permanent travel ease.

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