Transport strikes are an excellent opportunity to reduce the number of jeepneys, buses and tricycles on the streets. Our problem in the urban areas is that we have too many vehicles and too few streets. There is a saying that “you can’t put 10 pounds of sh-t in a 5-pound bag.” That is what is happening in our urban areas: We are trying to put hundreds of thousands of vehicles on streets that can hold only half of them.
The common-sense answer is to reduce the number of vehicles or build more roads. But the government cannot build more roads because it doesn’t have enough money and is afraid to reduce the number of vehicles. Although the original sin is in the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Body (LTFRB) issuing too many franchises, it cannot now unilaterally cancel them. It can if the franchise holder violates any provision of the franchise. One provision is for the vehicle to serve the riding public. If the driver refuses to serve the public, such as when he joins a strike, that is a violation that is a ground for canceling the franchise.
Jeepneys, buses or tricycles taking part in a transport strike are not serving the public; hence, they are violating the conditions of their franchise. That is a reason for the LTFRB to cancel their franchise and give it to others ready and willing to serve the public.
Although it is obvious that there are too many jeepneys, buses and tricycles on city streets—as witness the half-empty buses plying Edsa, the jeepneys parked in their terminals or vying for space in loading/unloading zones, or tricycles much more numerous than passengers—the LTFRB is hesitant to cancel some franchises without an excuse. Well, the jeepney strike is one such excuse.
If the buses plying Edsa also declare a strike, then perhaps that would be the excuse to weed out the unnecessary buses and make Edsa liveable again. By the way, there are many colorum vehicles plying Edsa, Can’t the government do something about them?
As for private vehicles, a way must be found to limit the sale of cars. Only the car manufacturers are benefiting from the brisk sales. The government spends more for traffic management and spends more dollars to import more fuel for them, while the public loses income from lost working hours, spends more to keep themselves protected from the air pollution caused by the vehicles, and spends more for imported fuel and maintenance (money that they could have used to buy food for their families).
In Japan, a car-manufacturing giant, the government has found a way to decongest Tokyo. Before you can buy a vehicle, you must present a title for a garage or a parking slot. No parking slot, no car.
In New York City, they have made it very expensive to own a car through very high parking fees. So, many New Yorkers have chosen to sell their cars and take the public transport.
In Singapore, only half of the vehicles can enter downtown at any one time.
Of course, limiting the entry of vehicles means more public transportation should be provided. The MRT and LRT are the ideal alternative, but we do not have enough of them, so commuters are packed like sardines in the elevated rails while many more are left behind in the stations to wait for the next train, and the next and the next—leading to so much lost working time.
It is common sense to buy more trains and coaches so the elevated rails can serve more of the public—which is the main purpose, di ba?—but management would rather show more revenue earned rather than more commuters served. They don’t realize that with more passengers, the MRT-LRT earns more and the cost of transporting each passenger decreases as the number of passengers increases because of the economies of scale.
The Philippine National Railways can also help transport more people and goods by increasing the number of its trains and coaches so commuters will take these instead of the buses and jeepneys.
Then there are the waterways—the rivers and seas—of which we have many. In the old days, they were the main transport thoroughfares. The entry of the motorized vehicle put them out of business, although in neighboring Bangkok, which is as modern as Metro Manila, boats are still a principal means of transportation.
Why can’t we have more ferries to serve the people? We are an archipelago; we should have more water transport.
With land, air and water transport combined, there is no reason why we can’t restore sanity in our cities.
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In previous columns, we wrote about the simmering conflict in Baguio’s Camp John Hay—now the main resort in the summer capital—between the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) and its leaseholder, Camp John Hay Development Corp. (CJHDevco).
The leaseholder has long been in arrears. The BCDA says approximately P3 billion in obligation is due and demandable now.
CJHDevco, on the other hand, claims that the BCDA has not complied with its part in the original agreement, thus preventing it from pursuing its timetable.
The conflict had escalated, creating alarm among businessmen and residents of Baguio due to rumors that the BCDA was preparing to forcibly take over John Hay with the use of some 400 armed men.
The crisis was averted in January when the Baguio Regional Trial Court issued a temporary restraining order. It issued a third TRO end of February, a move that calmed the tension in the summer capital.
The third TRO is indefinite, giving both the BCDA and CJHDevco much time and room to search deep into their bag of options to find a peaceful solution to their problem.