Transportation crisis in the Philippines: How much does convenience cost? | Inquirer Opinion

Transportation crisis in the Philippines: How much does convenience cost?

/ 05:01 AM December 27, 2022

Being into “convenience” after all is an inconvenience.

For most people, Christmas means merry holidays and joyous celebrations. However, for Filipino commuters, this is the most tiring time of the year.

In my high school years, I already identified myself as a commuter who ventures into the urban safari of vehicles, people, and pollution daily. Naïve as it may sound, I thought that the long queues, packed terminals, and a travel time of at least three hours were normal. It is public transportation after all—made for everyone from all walks of life to use, thus, they won’t adjust for you to be convenient. A systematic “kanya-kanya syndrome” as people would phrase it.


This “kanya-kanya” syndrome roots in the cultural practice of putting self before others. This results in being insensitive to the common good. Consideration and concern for fellow commuters are forgotten because most of them really want to get home earlier than others and would do all means necessary to get even the slightest edge.


Upon reading about this in Patricia Licuanan’s study, my conclusive mind immediately realized that this could be a possible root of the creation of ride-hailing apps, aside from it being a good business strategy. Grab, Angkas, and Joyride apps are regarded as the holy trinity of commuters to conveniently traverse chaotic Metro Manila. If caught up in a maze-like queue, you can book right from your smartphone and pay the fare after the ride. It saves travel time and accurately brings you to your destination depending on the landmark of your drop-off point.

But lately, this begs the question: “How much is the price for convenience?”

Before the onset of the Christmas holidays, the tweet of journalist Atom Araullo expressing his frustrations over the unavailability of public transportation options at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport after arriving from a work trip went viral. He mentioned that there were no metered taxis, Grab cars, or even bus terminals or train stations nearby. “Basically, kung wala kang sundo, you’re dead. It’s been an hour and counting. This is what a broken transpo system looks like,” he wrote. This tweet stirred the Philippine Twitterverse into a haywire of opposing views and opinions on the current state of the public transportation system.

Some were just like my then naïve thoughts as a “resilient” Filipino commuter: “Eh ’di sana umalis ka nang maaga” (You should have left early). The system won’t fix itself, you have to adjust to the system. This was “the rule.” You knew there would be a lot of people, that there would be long queues at the ticketing booth; you knew it would be hard to commute. But then again, all will be “solved” if you just take it or leave it—leave early or wait.

This is where the ride-hailing applications come to the rescue. But do they really? Lately, ride-hailing apps deliberately refuse bookings, especially during the peak of rush hour. Some won’t even accept the booking without any add-on tips. Instances when resorting to convenience becomes an inconvenience should prod everyone to take a look at the root of the problem: the inefficiency of the public transportation system. The transport crisis has also given rise to a classist ideology: If you’re rich, you can survive, but if you’re poor, magtiis ka.

But commuters should not have to pay hundreds of pesos more for a trip that costs a fraction if the system is not broken. If Metro Manila has safe and walkable sidewalks, manageable bike lanes, an effective train system, clear jeepney/bus routes, etc., Filipinos wouldn’t have to endure these hardships.


Filipinos need a public transportation system where “in convenience” would not mean inconvenience anymore.

Zarena C. Hermogeno

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TAGS: Metro Manila transportation crisisl

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