Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. It’s impossible to please everyone, especially here in my side of the world. When Philippine Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo took up the challenge to take public transportation after he pooh-poohed the daily commuting struggles of Metro Manila citizens, we already know it’s going to be bedlam out there. Some said the stunt was a circus which basically tantamounts to nothing. A few commented that the government official was a sport about it all to the point of acknowledging certain truths about the day-to-day commute in the metropolis that we poor citizens know and participate in on a daily basis. But if there’s one thing that Panelo’s little Friday morning adventure proved, is that most people at the upper echelons of government are totally clueless about the ordinary Filipinos’ daily transport woes.
There are some ongoing mass transport projects that will hopefully alleviate the traffic mess that we’re in once completed. And there are more slated to begin construction within the next three years. Too little, too late? We all could have started these projects some decades back, right? The Light Rail Transit 1 (which started operating December 1984) was a huge step in the right direction. But ugly political turmoils started rearing its ugly heads in Imperial Manila. By 1986, the coup that brought down Ferdinand Marcos gave Filipinos a sanctimonious set of government leaders that seem to be allergic to the word “infrastructure”.
Branding all projects in the Marcos pipeline as “evil” — which included more metro railways and subways (and even a nuclear power plant) — they unwittingly promoted stagnation of the metropolis’ transport system. To make matters worse, they privatized and deregulated city bus operations that spawned the “kabit” system that led to the corrupt and decrepit transportation network we have today. The Filipino masses deserved better but hypocritical political and business oligarchs think otherwise — they’re all content being chauffeured around the metro in their fancy high-end cars, unmindful of the public’s needs. A couple of leaders tried to play catch-up in the public transportation infrastructure game, which gave Metro Manila two (2) new light rail lines, inaugurated 1999 and 2003 respectively. But it’s not enough, as the delays were too telling. Not surprising they’re all running overcapacity for years already.
Now, everyone’s resorting to pointing fingers at everyone else but themselves.