Much of the discussions regarding imported second hand vehicles focus on issues of taxation (customs) or registration and allegations of smuggling. The entry of used vehicles and their significantly lower-priced sales have been issues particularly to the established automobile manufacturers and dealers in the country. Importers and dealers of vehicles coming from these special economic zones/free ports claim that they are serving people who want to own a vehicle but couldn’t afford brand new or even second hand vehicles. While this may be true for some cases where regular cars, vans or even SUVs are concerned, the perception is that these importers and dealers are mainly serving a demand for luxury vehicles like sports cars, limousines and high end SUVs from prominent brands such as Audi, BMW, Lexus, Mercedes Benz, Porsche, and Hummer, and even Ferrari and Lamborghini.
On the surface, the claimed benefits to people seem an acceptable and even noble intention. However, this is further from the truth and there is the strong opinion that all this is really just for money, plain and simple. It is also not enough justification for the negative impacts of these used vehicles, which do not go through a process of being tested for compliance with emission standards as well as for safety. The latter concern is for vehicles that undergo “conversion” from their original right hand drive set-up to become left hand drive vehicles, which are the norm in the Philippines. There is also the issue of fuel efficiency for these used vehicles and the maintenance required for these to stay in A-1 condition. All these concerns stack up and clearly show the folly of the importation of used vehicles through the economic zones.
I saw these two vehicles along Katipunan as we were coming from a meeting one afternoon. Both models were not sold by Toyota Motor Philippines and conspicuously have license plates bearing the letter “B” as a first letter, indicative that they were registered in Region 2. Region 2 is where Port Irene, Cagayan is located and which is being alleged as the source of a lot of used vehicles linked to anomalies in taxes and registration. More serious are concerns pertaining to emissions, safety and fuel efficiency.
The Department of Budget and Management recently released the National Budget Memo No. 118 with the subject: Adoption of the Budget Priorities Framework in the Preparation of the FY 2014 Agency Budget Proposals. The Memo emphasizes “the need to prioritize the programs critical to the attainment of the desired outcomes for the 2014-2016 period.” In addition to the bottom-up budgeting (BUB) approach, the memo identified priority geographical areas for program convergence for the 2014 budget. It is important to note the focus of the government on inclusive growth and the convergence programs for infrastructure to support industry, agriculture and tourism, as well as significant mention of climate and disaster resilience for programs to be implemented by the government. Following is a link to the DBM site where a PDF copy of the memo can be downloaded:
The National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) of the Philippines recently released poverty statistics as of the first semester of 2012. The report is based on the outcomes of the Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES) conducted by the National Statistics Office (NSO) in July 2012. Both agencies are under the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA). The stats on poverty incidence are shown in the following link:
I am curious to see how much of family expenditures go to transport. Clearly, the state of the country’s transportation system is a significant factor in development and the government’s initiatives towards inclusive growth will not prosper if we continue to have inefficient transport across all modes for both people and goods.
While traveling home one late afternoon, I couldn’t help but take a quick photo of a jeepney in front of me that was belching smoke while also carrying several people as sabit (hangers). Though a bit blurry, the photo still shows clearly the cloud of smoke coming out of jeepney’s tailpipe and the three people hanging behind the vehicle. Not obvious from the photo are the speed and lateral motion of the jeepney as it traversed this section of Marcos Highway.
This is a scene we see everyday in our streets despite initiatives or efforts to address problems pertaining to vehicle emissions and safety. The Clean Air Act while enacted more than a decade ago has not been effectively implemented for vehicles. A lot of vehicles are able to register or renew their registrations without really going through a proper emissions test (or smog test for those in the US). “Non-appearance,” the term used for people going through the motions of a test but skipping the measurement itself while getting print-outs stating the vehicle “passed” the test is prevalent throughout the country.
The Land Transportation Office (LTO) has experimented with a lot of schemes to address the problem. These includes the requirement of a photograph showing the actual performance of the emission test on the vehicle. More recent was an initiative where RFID units were supposed to be installed/attached to vehicles and these would be used to ensure that emission tests really were conducted prior to registration. However, with very few Motor Vehicle Inspection Stations (MVIS), the LTO has no choice but to delegate emission testing to private emission testing centers (PETCs). The long standing suspicion, however, is that most of these PETCs collude with vehicle owners and fixers within the LTO to maintain a status quo in “non-appearances” and non-compliance with emission regulations.
Local governments have pitched in with their mobile anti-smoke belching units (ASBUs). In Metro Manila, many cities including Quezon City, Pasig City and Makati City have multiple ASBUs allowing them to set-up several stations along roads in their jurisdictions. These are usually seen along busy roads with policemen assisting them in flagging down vehicles (mostly trucks) observed to be smokebelchers. These vehicles are tested and penalties are imposed on emission regulations violators. The equipment of these ASBUs, however, are only for diesel engines and so are operations of these mobile units are limited in scope from the start. There have also been allegations that some ASBUs have been taking advantage of erring drivers resulting in bribery so as not to be issued violation tickets and penalties.
The bottom line for most cases of emission violations is that most violators are not properly educated about emission regulations including the requirement for them to pass emission tests at any time and not during the registration process only. This is a fact that most drivers or vehicle owners do not understand or choose not to understand, usually because of maintenance cost implications. Nevertheless, we will continue to be in the losing end of the war against air pollution if we cannot properly enforce provisions of the Clean Air Act, particularly for mobile sources that contribute most of the air pollution we experience in this country.
Metro Manila is basically not a cycling-friendly metropolis. Road space is practically devoted to motor vehicles and sidewalks are not wide enough to accommodate a lane for cycling or space that can be shared by pedestrians and cyclists. The latter observation on space is actually arguable considering that in Japan, narrow sidewalks and carriageways are usable for cyclists and people are generally respectful of others’ right-of-way and perhaps right to travel. As such, conflicts are minimized among pedestrian, cyclists and motorists.Such situations can also be achieved in Metro Manila and other Philippine cities as well. Key is to have a consciousness among people of everyone’s right to space. Also, there is a need to actively, persistently promote a safe interaction among road users such as what has been done by cycling advocates like the Firefly Brigade and what the MMDA is now doing with their initiatives promoting NMT.
Searching for some quick wins aside from the example of Marikina (where there are formal bikeways already in place), I’m featuring a few photos taken around Metro Manila that can be regarded as examples where there have been initiatives toward quick wins in promoting cycling. These include a couple of photos in the Malate, Manila area and couple along Marcos Highway in Pasig City.
Bikeways in Malate
The Malate Church
Segregated bicycle lane along Marcos Highway
Cyclists along Katipunan Avenue (C-5)
Segregated bikeway and overpass ramp along Marcos Highway
Except for the case of Katipunan, all the photos show space designated for cyclists. But Katipunan should be seen as a corridor that has a high potential for walking and cycling given the nature of the land use between Ateneo and UP Diliman. There are opportunities here to promote suitable non-motorized modes of transport while also working for a reduction in car use associated with the schools in the area. While there are still issues of encroachments (e.g., vehicles parked on the sidewalk, and depriving pedestrians and cyclists of their space) in the case of Marcos Highway, these are enforcement issues that LGUs like Antipolo City should address. I cite Antipolo because Marikina and Pasig are generally for cycling and have often reminded establishments to clear the space for pedestrians and cyclists.
I got a copy of the recent study “Development of a Mega Manila Public Transportation Planning Support System” conducted by UP Diliman’s National Center for Transportation Studies (NCTS) for the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC). The main outcome of the study was a planning support system that includes an updated database of bus, jeepney and UV Express routes for Metro Manila and its surrounding areas (collectively called Mega Manila), and a calibrated travel demand model for the region that is supposed to be used by the DOTC and the LTFRB in transport planning including the rationalization of public transport in the region. Among the notable recommendations for addressing public transport issues is the following on the classification of routes according to passenger demand, which I quote from the study:
“…routes and modes may be classified and prioritized as follows:
Routes with Very High Passenger Demand [>160,000 passengers per day] – shall be served by high capacity modes such as rail-based transit or Bus Rapid Transit(BRT) with passing lanes.
Routes with High Passenger Demand [100,000 to 160,000 passengers per day] – shall be served by high capacity vehicles such as Bus Rapid Transit System (BRT) without passing lanes;
Routes with Medium Passenger Demand [10,000 to 100,000 passengers per day] – shall be served by PUVs with 60 or less passengers/seats but not less than 22 passengers (excluding driver) such as buses, CLRVs with more than 22 passengers/seats (including driver), or with 90 passengers/seats in the case of double decker or articulated buses;
Routes with Low Passenger Demand [not exceeding 10,000 passengers per day] – shall be served by PUVs with less than 22 passengers/seats (including driver) such as jeepneys and other paratransit modes.
Under this principle, high capacity modes would have priority in terms of CPC allocation and transit right of way in a particular route over lower capacity modes with the exception of taxis. The latter, after all, operate as private cars rather than PUVs with fixed routes.
Applications to operate bus and/or minibus service in jeepney routes can be considered, but not the other way around. Similarly, bus service applications can be considered in minibus routes but not otherwise.
Based on the analysis of routes, the establishment of public transportation routes and the corresponding modes of services may be based on the following criteria:
• Passenger demand patterns and characteristics • Road network configuration • Corresponding road functions (road hierarchy) • Traffic capacities and • Reasonable profits for operation of at most 13% ROI.”
[Source: DOTC (2012) Development of a Mega Manila Public Transportation Planning Support System, Final Report.]
An interesting figure in the report is an illustration of how services can be simplified using buses and rail transport as an example. The following figure shows two maps: one showing the plotted EDSA bus routes (left) and another showing a more consolidated (and rational) route network for buses complementing existing and proposed rail mass transit systems.
Simplifying bus transport services (source: DOTC, 2012)
What are not included in the figure above are the prospects for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems for Metro Manila. Since the Final Report was submitted in mid 2012, there have been many discussions for BRT in the metropolis and current efforts are now focused on the assessment of a BRT line along Ortigas Avenue. The World Bank is supporting the evaluation of a route between Tikling Junction near the boundary of Antipolo and Taytay (Rizal Province) and Aurora Boulevard. There are also informal talks of a BRT line along Commonwealth Avenue but that would have implications on the proposed MRT-7 along the same corridor. Nevertheless, such mass transit systems have long been required for Metro Manila and their construction have been overdue. A more efficient public transport system will definitely have tremendous impacts on how we commute between our homes, workplaces, schools and other destinations. Long distances can easily be addressed by better transport options and could actually help solve issues pertaining to informal settlements, relocations and housing. That topic, of course, deserves an article devoted to this relationship between transport and housing. Abangan!
An article came out of Rappler last weekend referring to addressing one of the most persistent problems in Metro Manila – traffic. It is a problem that is the result of years of neglect, poor planning, inconsistencies and a lack of foresight for future transport needs.
“Perhaps there are more than one beast to talk about considering that there is not one cause of the transport and traffic problems we experience everyday in Metro Manila (and elsewhere). We love ranting about how traffic is bad and how other people should leave their cars at home and yet we do little ourselves to pitch in to improve the situation. And so we are beasts ourselves in this manner. The discussions on public transport and road infrastructure have been going on since perhaps the author decided to practice transportation engineering. What has changed? Have things improved or have they worsened? It is really difficult to effect change when decision-makers and policy-makers are short of memory or have no memory or understanding at all of what’s going on. It seems that we are always starting on a clean slate every time someone new is at DOTC, DPWH or whichever agencies are supposed to handle transport and traffic in MM (and the country). Perhaps some criteria should be applied to whoever will be in-charge of transport and traffic, and one should be that the person or persons should be someone taking public transport to the workplace. At the least, we can be assured that he/she has first-hand experience of the painful way we travel each day and lead the person to really work towards improving transport in this country.”
I don’t usually write replies or comments on material posted online. I believe it is a very public platform and nowadays, when there’s a lot of talk on items like plagiarism, transparency, freedom of information, etc., it seems so easy to solicit opinions and comments from anyone who would care or dare post one. And transport and traffic seems to be a topic where everyone has his/her own opinion so much so that some people tend to project themselves as experts on the topic. Nevertheless, I thought that an opinion was necessary in order to offer another perspective on the matter of the “beast.” I would like to believe that in our case, we probably have had one too many “thought leaders” in transport and traffic. It is time that we also have “action leaders” who would do rather than simply say or write. We need people who will practice what they preach and actively and willingly contribute when called upon for help in solving this traffic mess we are in.
I recently read two articles appearing in a major Philippine daily and a popular online site. The first one is an article that appeared in the Philippine Daily Inquirer – “PH economy losing $3.27B in human productivity due to traffic mess” – last September 25, 2012. The other article was posted on Rappler – “Traffic and infrastructure delays cost the Philippines” – last September 27, 2012. These were articles written after the authors’ attendance of what was an Energy and Infrastructure Forum last Sept. 25 where a transport official mentioned a recent study in his talk that estimates productivity losses of about 3.27B USD per year from Metro Manila traffic alone.
Traffic congestion along Commonwealth Avenue
Unusual traffic management scheme along Ortigas Avenue
The study from the National Center for Transportation Studies that was mentioned in both articles was actually first featured in a Yahoo! Philippines article – “Traffic congestion costs Metro Manila P137B per year” – that appeared a month earlier in Aug. 28, 2012. The study being referred to is actually a paper presented by Dr. Jose Regin F. Regidor in his Professorial Chair lecture at the University of the Philippines Diliman’s College of Engineering Colloquium in early August 2012. A copy of the paper may be found below:
The main reference for this paper is the study on congestion costs that was produced by the National Center for Transportation Studies back in 2000. Credits go to the core team of Dr. Ricardo Sigua (Institute of Civil Engineering of UP Diliman), Dr. Noriel Tiglao (now with the National College of Public Administration and Governance) and Dr. Val Teodoro (now in the US) for the study. The
A much needed update may be possible in the next two years once the traffic model for Metro Manila is updated and calibrated using new data from Household Informations Surveys (HIS) and other transport and traffic surveys under the current MUCEP study that is supported by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Hopefully, such a model can be updated and calibrated more often in order to assess losses due to congestion and our continuing inability to provide the necessary infrastructure to alleviate the situation. While the paper and the study mentioned above focus on productivity losses, it should be emphasized that there are other costs that should be highlighted including those related to health (respiratory diseases and road crash fatalities and injuries), energy (fuel consumption and inefficiencies), and emissions (carbon and other GHG).
I enjoy walking in Singapore and perhaps to compare with walking in Japan, the only difference at times would be that at certain times of the year, it’s much cooler (or colder) in Tokyo or Yokohama. Outdoors in Singapore it can be uncomfortable due to the humidity but its actually the same in the temperate countries during summer. Among the more enjoyable walks even during workdays would perhaps be along the Esplanade connecting the Marina Square and Suntec areas with the offices across the river as well as the newly famous Marina Sands development.
View of the drive from the Marina district towards Fullerton and the financial district across the bridge.
View of the walkway, which is alongside the carriageway but separated by a plant box. That’s the Merlion on the background with all the people crowding probably to take souvenir photos with the city state’s symbol.
The Esplanade bridge with the skyscrapers of Singapore’s financial district in the background and the famous Fullerton Hotel at the center.
The key really is to enhance the walking experience such that people would not at all notice the distance they were traversing. Walking should be for everyone and not just something for those regarded as transport poor. In cities in progressive countries, for example, you see professionals in their suits mixed with people in casuals and students wearing their uniforms walking their chosen paces along streets provided with facilities suitable for walking and the volume of walkers (Yes, there is such a thing also as a level of service for pedestrian facilities and flow).
I would have taken photos of the connections between stations and places of interest in Singapore but I usually only had my trusty cell phone rather than a professional camera. With all the cameras installed around the city, my taking of photos might be misinterpreted rather than dismissed as just another camera nut taking souvenir or “artistic” shots of places.