Manila Bulletin

Evac­u­at­ing Metro Manila

- By ERIK ESPINA PER­SONAL: Be­lated Happy 58th Wed­ding An­niver­sary to Sen­a­tor Juan Ponce En­rile and Cristina Ponce En­rile. Metro Manila · Manila · Mass Rapid Transit · Pasig City · Laguna province · Beijing · Philippines · Tokyo · Kuala Lumpur · Seoul · Taipei · Comoros · Benigno Aquino, Jr. · Japan International Cooperation Agency

IF peo­ple re­main hope­ful traf­fic con­di­tions in Metro Manila (MM) will im­prove af­ter cur­rent road in­fra­struc­tures are built, they have a big let-down com­ing their way. Com­muters of public con­veyances, e.g., jeeps, taxis, buses, FX, MRT, LRT, etc., will have to wres­tle with count­ing the ways they will have to be cre­ative with their time as the queues and hours con­tinue in­creas­ing, day in and out. And it will not be a case of the prob­lem get­ting worse be­fore it gets bet­ter.

The facts need telling. The con­di­tions will de­te­ri­o­rate ex­po­nen­tially as the years move for­ward. Cur­rent ini­tia­tives are pal­lia­tive so­lu­tions to ease traf­fic flow but not to de­ter the im­pend­ing yearly flood of ve­hi­cles into a de­fined road space. The daily eco­nomic loss due to traf­fic is at 2.4 bil­lion ac­cord­ing to a sen­a­tor. Re­mem­ber that traf­fic and heavy vol­ume of ve­hi­cles is just the man­i­fes­ta­tion of sev­eral causes.

The gov­ern­ment is to be blamed for lack of for­ward-look­ing projects many decades back, e.g., sev­eral “EDSAs” criss­cross­ing the me­trop­o­lis, more bridges span­ning the Pasig, pro­hi­bi­tion of set­tle­ments along the banks, a cir­cum­fer­en­tial ex­press­way around La­guna de Bay, etc. The prox­i­mate cause of a “no so­lu­tion” to traf­fic in MM is un­mit­i­gated pop­u­la­tion mi­gra­tion from the prov­inces into the cities. And this is due to a highly fa­vored ap­pli­ca­tion of projects and in­vest­ments fo­cused in MM and Luzon.

China with a pop­u­la­tion close to 1.6 bil­lion peo­ple is clamp­ing down on its cap­i­tal. They have de­cided to limit the pop­u­la­tion in Bei­jing to 23 mil­lion. In the Philip­pines, with 100-mil­lion pop­u­la­tion, the Ja­panese In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion Agency (JICA) is pre­dict­ing that by year 2020, MM will welcome 30M peo­ple. This is not in­clud­ing 21% (6.3M peo­ple) ex­pected “in­for­mal set­tlers” re­sid­ing in prime ur­ban set­tings. Bru­tally speak­ing, they are con­sid­ered squat­ters in Bei­jing, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Taipei, etc., and will not be tol­er­ated, em­pow­ered, or cod­dled to vote for lack of ac­tual res­i­dence. Un­der such prospects, public hos­pi­tals and schools will be in­un­dated and char­ity ser­vices swamped. We will wit­ness wors­en­ing garbage, pol­lu­tion, crime, cough and cold, al­lergy, asthma, and flood­ing sit­u­a­tions in MM.

It is bad enough with 2.5M cars and about 350,000 ve­hi­cles us­ing EDSA to­day. There are 23 malls in a 32-km stretch, ex­clud­ing ad­di­tional sky-scrap­ing con­dos be­ing built. Make the pro­jec­tions and it is a night­mare. And this run-away ur­ban de­vel­op­ment is repli­cated in many parts of the me­trop­o­lis, dis­re­gard­ing zon­ing, land use, ease­ments, and set-backs. Ex­ec­u­tive and city coun­cil per­mits and land clas­si­fi­ca­tions are for sale to ev­ery busi­ness ven­ture that can af­ford po­lit­i­cal clout. Even Ni­noy Aquino Air­port is a vic­tim of per­ma­nent res­i­dence by “in­for­mal set­tlers” in its pe­riph­ery. This is ex­plains partly why we can­not ex­pand and build another run-way in the area. The re­sult is also traf­fic con­ges­tion in the land­ing and take-off!

Time to evac­u­ate the con­crete jun­gle and grime of MM and trans­fer to the prov­inces. Busi­ness should re­lo­cate as well, to ini­ti­ate a long process of de­con­gest­ing MM.

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