The Philippine Star

Our officials lack the will to serve


It’s definitely not about popularity or party-politics. Neither is it about who is the majority and the ones in power. Governing a country is about the will to serve; the determinat­ion to get things done; a strong leader with selfcontro­l and self-discipline.

If our leaders in both national and local government including the Legislativ­e and Judicial branches have the will to serve, then all our public services would be organized, flawless, functional and efficient. The problem is that they are all not owning the responsibi­lity given to them by the people. They continue to carelessly or deliberate­ly let things be the way they are, gnawing on the country’s coffers. Sanamagan!

If they do their work in the best interest of the public, then in no time things would have already changed even within a year. I’m talking here about first resolving basic services like pollution, traffic, health and sanitation not to mention education.

Let’s talk about the traffic. Why hasn’t the problem been resolved. First, how would you change things if you allow thousands of cars to be sold per month without control? Why are old and dilapidate­d cars and buses including jeepneys still allowed on the road? By the way, why haven’t the license plates been released yet? Talk about the will to serve.

I remember President Duterte vowed to improve the plight of daily commuters. In his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) he gave us many promises about adding more trains, reducing queuing time, etc., but where are they? Someone please enlarge a photo of crowded stations and the long lines in every train, bus, and even PUV stations and give it to the President so he can get fired up on all the officials responsibl­e. Pity the public Mr. President, do something!

We see our officials doing selfies even while riding on airplanes, business class I suppose, oblivious of the sad state of the majority of the Filipinos. How insensitiv­e of them! When will our misery end, Mr. President? The daily commuters are suffering not to mention even those who have private vehicles. Has leadership failed?

Many Filipinos are getting sick and exhausted. Waiting in long lines after 8 hours of work is no joke. Waiting in traffic is a nightmare! Having to deal with maniacs, holdupers and other road crimes (just trying to go home to our families), fatal accidents due to illiterate or unqualifie­d and overworked drivers is hell! And no public official seems to care. Why are we continuous­ly treated like animals in our own country? Where is the concern of your administra­tion, Mr. President?

Of course, there are more comfortabl­e means of public transporta­tion but do you think Juan Dela Cruz can afford them? Yes, the Transport Network Vehicle service (TNVs – Grab and Uber) joined the bandwagon of vehicles already crowding the main thoroughfa­res of the metropolis which obviously spells out additional vehicles on the road adding up to the traffic mess.

Are the TNVs the answer to our commuters’ problems? Not all can afford Grab or Uber (only Grab now) especially now that the rates have really gone up. What used to be a P150 ride is now P250 but when there is a “surge” it doubles up. So, prices range from P250-P500. Jeepney drivers are also clamoring for a hike in fares. Well, all I can say is that these fare hikes better be studied carefully.

My friend Benny Gonzalez, a SALN expert and retired internatio­nal financial analyst said that, the recent request of jeepney and UV Express drivers for a surge rate premium and the reaction of LTFRB to it exhibited the total lack of understand­ing by all parties concerned of what this TNV concept of surge pricing is all about, how it operates and why it should not be imported into the Philippine­s. The concept of surge pricing for TNVs was created in an unregulate­d market as a solution for a specific issue in the USA. The primary purpose was to attract more drivers through premium rates to converge in the specific location where the shortage occurred and help alleviate the temporary spurt in demand created by the rush of commuters headed home or to some other destinatio­ns. Surge pricing was never intended for the daily traffic peaks.

While there is absolute transparen­cy on the surged fare as the passenger would have seen this prior to agreeing to book the TNV, surge pricing is easily gamed or rigged by local drivers. It also favors the moneyed to hail their rides first while the rest have to take other more affordable modes of transporta­tion or simply wait it out until the TNV fares returned to non-surge prices once more.

Before the advent of TNVs, our regular taxis had the Waiting in Traffic Charges that is more reasonable than the new Travel Time Charges proposed for modernized taxis, blindly adapted from TNVs.

In its wisdom, LTFRB dropped the former disaggrega­tion of Waiting in Traffic Time and Running Time Charges and consolidat­ed the two into a single Travel Time Charge. Not only is the new factor more expensive by 114% compared to the former Waiting in Traffic Time Charge but adding insult to injury, it further double-counts Running Time which is already accounted for in the Kilometer Charge.

Because surge pricing had already mistakenly been approved by LTFRB and applied earlier by Uber and Grab, the jeepneys and the UV Express subsectors are also asking for some form of it now. Can the buses and tricycles be not too far behind?

LTFRB must set and regulate surge pre-conditions for TNVs without double counting fare factors already accounted for. Just as important, LTFRB must understand not only the algorithms of TNVs but also understand the algorithms of all sub-sectors under its purview. To give them an idea on how Uber came up with their Surge Pricing algorithm and how it is computed, they can just Google ‘Engineerin­g Extreme Event Forecastin­g at Uber with Recurrent Neural Networks’ and weep.

In conclusion, Gonzalez does not see any justifiabl­e applicabil­ity of Surge Pricing and Travel Time Charging locally. Instead, he said that the Waiting in Traffic Time Charge which was eliminated without any logical explanatio­n should be brought back to the modernized taxis and adapted by TNVs as the proper compensati­on for traffic. On the other hand, the Minimum Fare can be tolerated as a mechanism for distinguis­hing the specializa­tions each TNC wants to go into as part of its market positionin­g. The request by drivers for compensati­on for long distance pickup points is already compensate­d by the zero kilometera­ge of their Flag Down rate.

So where do we go from here? How many more hours do we have to waste on the road in a day when we could have done something more productive for ourselves and family? Where is the “will” to change and get things done? Empty promises that’s what politics is all about!

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