Sunday, October 12, 2014

From bad to worse

This is my column today, October 12, 2014.


We Filipinos have very high tolerance for all sorts of inconvenience and difficulties caused by natural or manmade factors. 
We’ve learned to make allowances for traffic, potholes, discourteous or incompetent civil servants, non-availability of services, brownouts, etc.  We don’t make as much fuss anymore when prices of basic commodities or of utilities go up or down at the slightest notice, or even when something as important as rice or garlic momentarily disappear from supermarket shelves.  We even make jokes even when lives are already endangered such as when our public transport systems go berserk.  We’ve learned to look the other way or choose not to notice the grime, the smell, and the lack of air conditioning at our main airport terminal.  We’ve become immune and have learned to accept the ignominious reputation of being host to the worst Airport in the world for the nth consecutive time. 
We make do with what is there. 
We are a resilient, patient, forgiving people.
On a really good day (such as when Manny Pacquiao has a fight), the ride from my house to my place of work can be a swift ten minute-drive.  On an ordinary day, it can take up to an hour.  With the many construction works that are ongoing around the Gil Puyat Avenue area, the ride had become longer.  And in the last two weeks, the ride had become increasingly and horribly longer.  In three occasions in the last two weeks, it took us four hours to get home from work – the same amount of time it would have taken me to go up to Baguio, which is probably a two hundred times farther.  I was luckier.  Many of my friends got stuck for five, six, seven hours on the road. 
Am not sure we should continue to sit still and bear the mounting inconvenience.  First, because it is really unnecessary.  The flooding, the construction works, the extra volume of vehicles – all these can be mitigated.  Second, because it is undeserved.  We deserve better as this administration promised during the campaign.  We should stop playing victims.  
The really sad thing is that no one is taking responsibility for the worsening traffic situation.
Oh I know that the Metro Manila Development Authority has been experimenting with all kinds of solutions – but let’s call a spade a dirty shovel -  so far, nothing has worked.   And things will remain unchanged unless MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino is given full authority and all the necessary resources to make his plans work.  I will admit that certain successes were had in some key areas but they were temporary and the measures of success were hardly worth crowing about.  I took C5 and then Katipunan to get to UP Diliman where I gave a lecture last Saturday and the travel experience resembled a funeral march, I didn’t get to shift the car to higher gear at all.  Some people told me I was luckier because at least the traffic was moving – which, I am told, was already a measure of success.  The things we are forced to be grateful for, indeed.
In fact, it did seem as if this country didn’t have a government or leaders at the national level in the last few weeks.  The President of the country broke surface only once in the last two weeks, and that was on account of the arrival of the biggest airplane at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.  No one seemed to be in charge of the larger issues. 
Conditions have gone from bad to worse in the Metro, but the only thing that we keep hearing from the Palace are denials about having a hand in the continuing public persecution of Vice President Jejomar Binay.  It’s as if the worsening problems of commuters and citizens do not exist at all.
The problems in Metro Manila cannot be solved by the mayors of the respective local executives working independently of each other.  The MMDA, alone, cannot solve these problems.  What is needed is direct and clear intervention from the top.
But is anyone home?

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