The problem of Manila’s traffic, garbage, flooding always seem to come to mind whenever Rain starts falling. It is of course, particularly, grueling when it does. You have people cranky and tired from work being stuck in traffic for hours on end. It all makes for a lethal combination.
The same complaint really has been going along for years. The biggest solution has been to limit the number of cars on the road. It worked particularly well, for awhile. But “The Color Coding” scheme (it really is an Odd-Even number scheme) was never really meant to last this long. And yet the same framework conditions existed when it was first introduced. The same problems persist.
The “Problem”, if any isn’t really a “traffic” or “garbage” or “flooding” problem. It is a problem rich with the lack of systems, political will and driven by one simple thing: self-interest.
The sheer number of unlicensed buses for example is at its heart, self-interest. The commuters insisting on being picked up or dropped off at odd places is self-interest. The reports of police and traffic enforces getting kick-backs from groups for protection is self-interest. And we get to the real heart of the problem: the fiefdoms of the various city-states of Metro Manila is at its heart, self-interest. Flooding in Quezon City affects traffic in other parts of the Metropolis. Traffic in Makati or Ortigas along EDSA sprawls a jam as far away as Quezon City. And of course garbaged dumped in one creates havoc in another. And so on. With so many egos to feed, was there any doubt as to why the city is in such a state as it is?
During the 2010 election, I asked Manny Villar about this. Why can’t Metro Manila be governed by a single entity? At its heart of course is the difficulty in getting all those officials to simply not have jobs. Not to mention the scores of local officials in various city halls who would have to find a job. So the problem of unification is one of self-interest. How do you reconcile the greater good against one’s ability to put food on the table?
Even the whole question of why MRT needs to be subsidized could simply be solved by having a unified city. The MRT is currently being subsidized by the entire nation. Which is grossly unfair, don’t you think to people living in Cebu and Davao or in the poorer parts of Mindanao who have to pay for it? Why couldn’t Metro Manila pay for its own infrastructure. It accounts for how much of the country’s GDP? Doesn’t Quezon City and Makati alone account for scores of billions of pesos that surely could be spent on improving city infrastructure? Or if one really must— surely, adding a business tax specifically to go to subsidizing and funding public transport (not just the MRT) would go a long way in rationalizing an otherwise chaotic street?
In order to solve the many problems of Metro Manila it has to be thought from a holistic perspective. How does one part fit in the cog of things? How much data is available? How much is enforceable? In short, how are we to design Metro Manila?
In many ways, the MMDA has done a remarkable job with what little it really is allowed to do, legally. There is without a doubt that Metro Manila suffers from years of operating as a kludge. Like many things Filipinos are forced to do, due to circumstance.
With so much self-interest, with the lack of thought for design and holistic approach (something I’ve learned most people are adverse to while working on Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom), how can we solve our Capital city’s problems, much less the entire nation? We need less ego, and more reframed minds.