It’s no exaggeration to say that the state of Metro Manila traffic is a major factor in the conduct of a resident’s daily life. As the startling estimate of the Japan International Cooperation Agency put it, the traffic situation in the metropolis costs the Philippine economy at least P2.4 billion ($57 million) a day in potential income, not counting the loss of manpower hours. Not counting as well the increase in greenhouse gases released by so many vehicles idling on the road for hours: Such gases present a health risk among motorists and pedestrians alike, and also contributes to the ferocity and frequency of the weather disturbances that afflict the country.
To compound matters, the state of public transport is no better, with MRT and LRT lines breaking down every so often, leading to frustratingly few train cars and apocalyptic queues of harried commuters. The only other option — public buses and jeepneys — could mean even more hours wasted and wages lost in unforgiving traffic snarls. These crisis situations occurring almost daily on the roads or on the elevated rails, particularly in this season of thunderstorms, are adding to the menu of suffering that Filipinos are forced to endure, and for which we are lauded for resilience and the infinite capacity for adjustment.
But trust big business to turn every challenge, such as Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade’s major headache, into opportunity. Already, a master developer of Bonifacio Global City has set its sights on a project that would offer traffic-weary employees some respite from the daily maddening hurdle.
Stylishly called “The Flats BGC at 5th Avenue,” the planned project of Fort Bonifacio Development Corp. will offer over 1,500 beds to office workers, among them employees of the thriving business process outsourcing industry, to save them the hours of commuting imposed by the traffic situation. An official of the company noted the strong demand for living spaces inside BGC, especially from employees. From the current 120,000, the estimate is that 100,000 more workers would come in until 2019, when the dorms become ready.
The joint venture among several business conglomerates will have 375 units distributed in its 16 stories, offering a total of over 1,500 beds. Each unit will be fully furnished, and a property management team employed to manage the building’s administration, safety and security. The company has opened the project to corporate accounts through lease arrangements for employees. It could also be part of the employees’ compensation package, the company said.
The idea of investing in dormitories that cater to young professionals is a timely response to the growing pool of office workers who need halfway shelters but can’t afford to purchase their own homes yet.
In fact, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority, the results of the April 2017 Labor Force Survey indicate that wage and salary workers make up 61.3 percent of the total employed. Those working in private establishments continue to account for the largest share—at 48.8 percent of the total employed in April 2017.
Meanwhile, the BPO sector is expected to generate $40 billion in revenues, 7.6 million direct and indirect jobs, and 500,000 jobs outside of the National Capital Region.
Given such ballooning prospects, the need for temporary space and sleeping quarters accessible to one’s workplace becomes paramount. Lacking this, the possibility of central business districts being surrounded by cheap bed-space communities, boarding houses and unregulated dorms becomes real — think in terms of Manila’s University Belt — with their attendant overcrowding, fire hazard risks and criminality.
Dorms in posh BGC? Well, why not? With “carmageddon” proving to be the mother of innovative shelter ideas, it may yet result in moves to ensure employee welfare, including their safety, security and physical wellbeing. Which, as good business leaders will attest, can only mean better productivity and more profit for them.
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