Mayor Estrada and Vice Mayor Moreno defend expanded truck ban
Last Monday, the first day of the expanded truck ban in Manila and the strike by protesting truckers, Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada came ready: He was dressed in a camouflage uniform. On the first day of the bus ban, he also came in combat fatigues. Asked by journalists at the Kapihan sa Manila at the Diamond Hotel why he was in combat uniform, Erap answered, “I have been challenged by the truckers.”
Asked whether he was packing a gun, he replied “In the car.”
Mayor Estrada was accompanied at the forum by Vice Mayor Isko Moreno and Councilors Manuel Zarcal and Jocelyn Quintos who were the authors of the city ordinance expanding the truck ban.
The city officials defended the truck ban, saying that Manila (in fact, the whole of Metro Manila) has been suffering from traffic congestion for decades and it was time something was done. “Previous city officials did nothing,” Erap said, “now we are finally doing something.”
How would he deal with the striking truckers?
“Sa umpisa lang ’yan,” (That’s only in the beginning), he replied. “People in general do not want to adjust, but once they see the benefits of the change, they follow.”
Erap pointed to the bus ban. “At first, the bus drivers and operators also protested. Now the bus ban is going on smoothly. The drivers and operators are happy. Traffic flows faster and smoother, they save on fuel and the wear and tear on the buses and they earn faster.”
When the expanded truck ban also gets going, the truckers will also be happy, the mayor said. At night, and during the windows in the day when the ban would be lifted, one lane of Roxas Boulevard would be reserved for the trucks. They can deliver their loads faster without disturbing traffic so much.
The truck ban was expanded to provide relief to the thousands of office workers and students who have to leave for their offices and schools at 5 a.m. in order to arrive there at 8 a.m., Erap said. At that time, the trucks are still out in the streets, contributing to the traffic congestion. We are removing the trucks only during the time that students and workers are on the way to their schools or work. When they are already in school and at work later in the day, there is a window for the trucks. During going-home time, the trucks would be banned again.
For the whole night when traffic is light, the truckers can do their deliveries again. Is that not a good arrangement?
But the warehouses are closed at night, the truckers wail.
“They, too, will have to adjust,” Erap said.
On the claim that the economy would suffer because of late deliveries, Vice Mayor Isko countered that “the economy loses P4.1 billion a day because of the traffic jams, according to a study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica). Multiply that by 365 days and the losses to the economy amount to trillions of pesos. The losses due to late deliveries are peanuts compared to that.”
The new schedule gives the truckers an additional five hours to operate for six months. The truckers are now allowed 15 hours to ply Manila’s streets instead of the original planned eight hours.
During these six months, the Philippine Ports Authority will transfer much of the operations of the South Harbor and North Harbor to the Batangas and Subic ports which are underutilized. Cargo bound for south Luzon will be unloaded in Batangas while those bound for north Luzon will be unloaded in Subic.
And that would be in the nick of time. Erap revealed that the Department of Public Works and Highways found cracks in the Del Pan and Sta. Cruz bridges due, no doubt, to the continued stress from passing heavy trucks.
Asked about the claim of the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) that container vans would accumulate in the South Harbor if the truckers declared a strike, Erap replied, “That’s their problem.”
“Why should the people of Manila suffer for their shortcomings? Why do we have to solve their problems?” the mayor added.
Erap and Isko said that the trucks not only contribute to traffic jams but have made Bonifacio Drive, from the Anda Circle to the North Harbor, their private parking lot. The street is always full of trucks double- and triple-parked.
Yet there is plenty of space inside the Port Area. “Why don’t they use that?” Erap asked. “Why are they using our city roads for their parking.”
Isko said the PPA is very strict in allowing vehicles to enter its compound. He revealed that he and Mayor Estrada were prevented from entering when they came for a look-see.
“The mayor and vice mayor of Manila are prevented from entering a place within their jurisdiction?” the reporters asked incredulously.
“Yes, we were.”
Somebody asked why they did not call the police like Mayor Junjun Binay of Makati did when he was prevented from exiting Dasmariñas Village through a closed gate.
We are not like that, they said.
Vice Mayor Isko said “kotong” (extortion) by Manila policemen has been reduced drastically. Proof: City collections from traffic fines has risen from less than P8 million to P11 million a day. The lines of drivers paying their fines at City Hall last the whole day.
“That can only mean that the policemen are arresting more erring drivers and accepting less bribes,” Isko said. “They are afraid of the ‘One Strike Policy’ of President-Mayor Estrada. One strike and you’re out.”
Erap was asked to explain his “tampuhan” with Vice President Jejomar Binay, his political ally, over the Central Market.
Erap explained that SM has offered to rebuild Central Market for free. Manila has a usufruct on the land which belongs to an agency of the national government of which Binay is the vice chair.
“Here is our chance,” Erap said. “Manila is bankrupt. It cannot afford to rehabilitate the Central Market on its own. SM is heaven-sent. Why not accept its offer?”