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Rough Cuts | Sensible recommendations

Last Saturday we saw on television the interview of Mr. Eduardo Yap, President of the Financial Executives Association of the Philippines (FinEx) by PTV anchor Communications Undersecretary Racquel “Rocky” Ignacio.

The subject was of course the impact of the CoViD 19 in our country’s economy, including measures that can be taken by the government to recover from the huge perdition.

It was quite a long interview. However, Mr. Yap made some recommendations that to us have a lot of sense and with strong will and determination are clearly doable. The FinEx executive’s recommendations though, would entail some sacrifices on the part of some sectors of the Philippine population especially those living in the Metro Manila area and in Cebu City, Davao, and perhaps Cagayan de Oro, Iloilo and even General Santos cities.

One of his recommendations was to make the gradual return to work of employees of different business establishments without going back to the traffic situation of the prior CoViD months in the country.

Mr. Yap was suggesting to the government, through the Department of Transportation (DOTr), the rationalization of the routes allowed for public transport vehicles, especially buses and jeeps that ply in the Greater Manila area. The FinEx man also intimated that the measures can be replicated in other highly urbanized cities in the Philippines where vehicular traffic is getting worse by the day.

By rationalizing public transportation routes Mr. Yap said that the ingress and egress to Metro Manila from its neighboring cities and provinces should not just be EDSA; that there can be other existing roads that can be designated as gateways or exit points to and from the metropolis. Or, the government can build new highways to ensure that EDSA is decongested.

And once new gateways are designated and/or established new bus terminals have to be constructed. Thus the franchise of buses from the provinces or cities outside the Metro has to be reconfigured that its authority to enter the Greater Manila area shall only be up to the terminal designated for them. And the new terminals shall be located where these can be reached by the provincial public transports without using EDSA.

Of course, according to the FinEx man, the routes of public utility jeeps shall also be revised in order for them to serve as feeders of passengers to the terminals from the urban centers where most people work and shop or transact businesses both in private or public offices, and from the terminals to the Metro’s main business centers. The jeeps and other public feeder vehicles may use certain stretches of EDSA but eventually they will have to move out from the said avenue to proceed to their destinations based on their reconfigured routes.

Meanwhile, Mr. Yap assured that using this scheme of addressing the Metro Manila traffic problem, would mean the majority of public utility buses, or possibly even all, will be out of EDSA. Or, if there are still buses that would have to use EDSA whether from the north or south portions, these will only be travelling in particular stretches and not the entire length of the avenue.

And what else would result but a considerable decongestion of Metro Manila’s busiest route!

Another of Mr. Yap’s very sensible recommendation which he said has already been submitted by his group to DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade, is the adoption of two policies implemented by Singapore.

Mr. Yap recommended that the Philippines’ megacities adopt the state nation’s Decongestion Fee law. This measure imposes a huge fine to private vehicle drivers travelling the city with only two persons on board. Meaning, according to the FinEx executive, every private vehicle should carry with it two passengers other than the driver when these two others have the same destination as the car owner or that their destinations are along the driver’s route. Any one driver caught by Singapore traffic police authorities driving alone will have to pay a fine that, according to Mr. Yap, would hurt his or her pocket.

One other recommendation of the FinEx guy is for the government to rationalize the work hours of businesses or establishments so that people will not be rushing to their workplaces at the same time. Mr. Yap correctly observes that under the present set-up where work starts at 8 in the morning and ends at 5 in the afternoon, all will be getting out of their homes to catch up with public transportation, or start their travel on time to avoid getting late.

So, according to Mr. Yap, the government can work it out with business owners and managements to restructure their work hours so that workers will not be competing with each other and with students for rides. Private vehicle owners will not also be converging at EDSA at the same rush hour thereby initiating the traffic bedlam.

We agree with Mr. Yap on this scheme since by doing so drivers of public utility vehicles can also adjust their schedule of going out to the streets. Or the government can craft legislations to rationalize the hours with which the reconfigured routes can be used based on the restructured work hours as well.

As we said we believe in the sensibility of Mr. Yap’s recommendation. We also agree that these are doable in the Philippines. But we doubt that the imposition of a Decongestion Fee and the ride sharing arrangement can be done easily in the country as it is in Singapore.

First, anything that makes drivers or vehicle owners cough out money could be revolting to their stomach. Second, on ride sharing, our wanting in trustworthiness is known to have created every one potential suspect of possible crimes. So the likelihood is that car owners/drivers would not allow persons they do not know from Adam to share a ride with them.

Yes, it is not remote that in the Philippines, even suggesting such a scheme could be taken as foreboding of disaster.

There is however, no doubt that the government can stop the P5-billion daily bleeding of the country’s economy as a result of the mega traffic problem in Metro Manila if it accepts and implements the FinEx executive’s recommendations. Therefore, with Metro Manila traffic substantially eased, adding more productive hours to the workers could mean recovering from the loss of the economy from the CoViD 19 pandemic is made much faster and certain.

Meanwhile, the first and last recommendations of Mr. Yap can be good subjects of study for Davao City planners now that humongous vehicular traffic is already in the city’s midst. That is, if our local officials are really serious in addressing the problem this early.

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