“It’s more Fun in the Philippines” may be our tourism slogan, but the more accurate description is “Life is slow in the Philippines.” Like a movie in slow motion, everything is slow here—the administration of justice; the issuance of passports, business permits, vehicle stickers and plates; and getting social security benefits and even payment for teachers on duty during elections. Congress is very slow in enacting laws, even the process of paying taxes and fees is slow, the government is very slow in ejecting squatters.
The trial of the 2009 Maguindanao massacre is exceedingly slow, as are the investigation of the Serendra blast last month (and also the inquiry into the 2007 Glorietta explosion), the repair of streets, the construction of needed schools, the creation of more jobs in spite of the alleged boom in the economy, finding a solution to the floods, the repair of the airport’s Terminal 3, and the improvement of the LRT/MRT. Indeed, the whole country moves like a snail.
The Metro Manila Development Authority likewise moves very slowly. It decided to impose a whole-day truck ban to help ease traffic—which is correct—but then got cold feet and postponed the ban’s implementation to January. The Japan International Cooperation Agency has estimated that the country loses more than P2 billion daily because of the traffic jams. Multiply that by the number of days between now and January 2014 and the losses would be in the zillions of pesos.
There was a plan to put up terminals for provincial buses in the north and south of Metro Manila to prevent these buses from adding to the traffic congestion in the metropolis. There was also a plan to have terminals where city buses will stay until they are called to ferry waiting passengers.
These were plans way back when Bayani Fernando was the MMDA chair, but until now these sensible plans are not being implemented. Why? Cold feet? Strong lobby against them? Laziness?
What the MMDA is good at is issuing press releases on its plans, period. The other day, it issued a press statement that in a planned extended color-coding scheme, more vehicles will be banned from the streets each day to lessen traffic congestion. I bet it will take the MMDA a very long time before deciding to implement or junk that plan. Meanwhile, the country will continue to lose billions of pesos every day.
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Speaking of traffic congestion, do Ayala Land and the Quezon City government, which are pushing for the construction of a business center in the North Triangle, realize that the project will lead to horrendous traffic jams in all the streets that lead to it? When the business center is completed and operating, Commonwealth Avenue, the Quezon Circle, Quezon, North, Timog, East, West, Visayas and Mindanao Avenues and all the side streets leading to them, will be engulfed in a traffic gridlock surpassing that of Edsa during rush hours.
With Trinoma (owned by Ayala) and SM North Edsa and The Block (owned by the Sys) there, traffic is already very heavy. Imagine what will happen when business buildings, condominiums, and more shopping malls are put up in the area. Most of the people who will work and live in these buildings and condominiums will use cars. Add to them the tens of thousands of vehicles bringing people to and from the business center, the thousands more bringing shoppers, and you will have hell on earth. Even people living away from the business center will be caught in the gridlock as the traffic jams will snake back to their villages.
While the buildings and shopping malls will have basement parking, the streets leading to them will still have thousands of vehicles going to and from them.
Ayala Land and the Quezon City government must make provisions to prevent this looming traffic nightmare. They may construct flyovers (at Ayala’s expense) leading to the business center.
And imagine the pressure on the water resources. Each business, residential and shopping unit will be using plenty of water. Where will they get that water? Some buildings will have pumps to suck water from the pipes, which will lead the faucets of residential subdivisions nearby to run dry. Others may drill wells to get at the water from the aquifers. That may make the land sink and make the area more susceptible to floods.
Isn’t Ayala being greedy? It already has Trinoma and Technohub on Commonwealth Avenue and is building another shopping mall on the site of the high school at the back of the University of the Philippines campus. It is ejecting squatters from Agham Road, constructing buildings on an adjoining lot, and it still wants more, more, more.
Ayala and City Hall want to include the nearby Manila Seedling Bank, the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center, the Veterans Memorial Medical Center, and the UP Arboretum in the business center. Can’t they be satisfied with what they already have?
These latter four areas act as the lungs of the city. They absorb the pollution of the thousands of vehicles and produce oxygen that living things need. Remove these lungs and put concrete jungles in their place and we will have a very unhealthy environment.
Instead of stealing these lungs, why don’t they start with the squatter colonies on the other side of Quezon Avenue? But City Hall and land developers are afraid of squatters, so they would rather grab open spaces like the parks, the golf course, and the Seedling Bank.