Caught (up) in traffic
February 2020
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Scenic highways? On the irony of “Daang Kalikasan”

There’s a lot of buzz about new roads nearing completion in the provinces of Pangasinan and Zambales. What is touted as scenic highways became an instant hit and attracted a lot of visitors who apparently wasted little time in trashing the area. The recent news now state that the road has been closed due to the garbage and some road crashes attributed to the influx of tourists in the area:

Mountain roads linking Pangasinan, Zambales closed over accidents, trash

There were a lot of posts that appeared on my social media newsfeed about these roads and the scenery around them. While I have seen a lot of roads with splendid or even magnificent sceneries whenever I go on road trips, the first thing that came to my mind was a question whether the landscape was like that before. I suspected that there used to be forests on these mountains and that the trees were irresponsibly cut down (some people will use the word ‘harvested’ as if they grew and cared for the trees) and never replaced. Some friends from Zambales say there used to be trees there and another recalled old dirt roads in the areas used for logging. So it’s ironic that the road is named “Daang Kailkasan” when nature was practically raped by people who ravaged the land many years ago. Indigenous people who we often refer to as “katutubo” also would likely have never consumed more than what they needed. Scenic? Maybe ‘depressing’ is a more suitable term for these roads.

 

Eating at the Mactan Cebu International Airport

While NAIA Terminal 3 has several floors of shops and restaurants, it can get very crowded at the terminal. MCIA has renovated its domestic terminal to include a much improved food court inside (after checking in and passing security) the terminal and restaurants and shops outside. Its food avenue for passengers show us what a modern airport should have. MCIAA definitely did very well here and the design should be a good example for other airports, even domestic, to emulate.

Food court at MCIA domestic wing

 

There’s food for people of various preferences. You can have pizza, pasta, Filipino dishes, ramen, and of course, lechon

 

I prefer to have some ramen if I have the time for a leisurely meal. Otherwise, I get my food from La Bella, which has pizza, pasta and paninis. They usually have freshly baked breads and pastries and I usually buy brownies from them. I take these home as my daughter and I love these fudgy treats.

Whatever happened or is happening to the Metro Manila Subway?

There is an article that came out today stating issues and concerns about the Metro Manila Subway Project. I will not summarize the article here but leave it to the reader to click on the link and read the article himself/herself. The writer has been attacked for his sharp criticisms of this administration and has had his share of being branded a liar. What is lost in the attacks vs him (many if not most by organized trolls) is that he is usually on target and factual despite the denials by those who are the subject of his exposes and criticisms. Also, note that he has been a consistent and persistent critique of any administration. This is important as he is being objective rather than protective of vested interests. He represents the interests of a lot of people who are considered the silent majority.

Bondoc, J. (2020) Subway works at standstill since realigned to fault line, The Philippine Star, https://www.philstar.com/opinion/2020/02/14/1992947/subway-works-standstill-realigned-fault-line?fbclid=IwAR2yN_qpwTJ9AHfJaws_3VXztVu6etZsxOBkSj-Zw2KS7v7Tv9hcnJc1K-s&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook&utm_term=Autofeed [Last accessed: 2/14/2020]

While I am still hopeful about this project, I already feel some disappointment for something that I have supported from Day 1. The delays and escalation of costs are serious matters. It can only get worse during construction.

On the safety of e-scooters

There’s recent news about the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) launching a smart scooter system in Cauayan City, Isabela. This should be considered a positive thing in light of the scooter’s sudden popularity as a mode of transport. There are, however, much to be determined in terms of this vehicle being a safe mode of transport. Singapore, for example, has released guidelines for its use in its streets while there have been mixed reactions among American cities on how these vehicles should share spaces with other modes including walking and cycling. Here is a nice article about scooter safety that should point the way towards how we should go about in assessing safety:

Chang, A.Y.J. (2020) Demistifying e-scooter safety one step at a time, https://medium.com/@annieyjchang/demystifying-e-scooter-safety-one-step-at-a-time-956afcf12d75 [Last accessed: February 3, 2020]

As a parting shot in other cases, I have always asked: Would this have been an issue or a popular mode if we had good public transportation as well as decent pedestrian and cycling infrastructure? The answer could be a simple ‘no’ for our case in the Philippines where much is to be desired in terms of PT, pedestrian and cycling infra. But e-scooters seem to have attractive quite a few in developed cities including those with good PT, pedestrian and cycling infra. The jury is still out there if this was just a fad or perhaps, as some claim, part of the evolution for improved mobility.

Limited – Inflight meals on Cebu Pacific

My friends and I were just talking about inflight meals prior to boarding our Cebu Pacific flights last week. En route to Zamboanga, we didn’t have to get some refreshments for the typically 1.5-hour flight. There were many choices to eat from at NAIA Terminal 3. However, heading back to Manila on a lunchtime flight, we joked about what could be available on the plane. We all had our experiences of ordering items on their menu for flights scheduled at different times of the day (e.g., red eye, last flight) and it always seems as if the airline didn’t have many if not most of what appears on their menu.

 

Lucky Me cup noodles and pretzels for lunch

To be fair, the airline offers pre-ordered meals that they do deliver inflight. We got pre-ordered meals for our flights to and from Singapore last year. But not everyone would usually avail of this option and there is real demand for inflight meals even if there were just pastries or quickly prepared (i.e., instant) meals. I don’t remember the last time we were able to avail a meal more decent than the cup noodles shown in the photo. In fact, we were curious about the new items they had in the menu that included champorado (chocolate porridge). That was supposed to be available last December 2019 but so far we haven’t had the chance to have it inflight.

Aerial photo: Zamboanga City’s fish canning and bottling factories

As we approached Zamboanga City’s airport last week, my colleague and I surveyed the landscape trying to identify landmarks. He was quite good at this being a geographer/transport planner. We took a few photos from the plane and one is this shot of the fish port and factories in Barangay Recodo along the national highway.

Canning and bottling factories lined along the Zamboanga City coast with are mostly fishing vessels anchored off-shore.

There is still an abundance of aquatic resources in the Sulu Sea where these vessels go for fishing. These should be more than enough for domestic as well as typical international demand. Unfortunately, there are alleged foreign trawlers or vessels poaching our resources. These should be seriously looked into by our coast guard and navy.

Motorcycle taxis in Cebu

The recent controversies, and issues raised vs. motorcycle taxis (habal-habal) have captured the attention of a lot of people including those who don’t use this mode of transport. I will be writing about this and more of my opinion on motorcycle taxis in another article. For now, I am sharing these photos of habal-habal in Cebu.

Off-street motorcycle taxi terminal at SM City Consolacion

The terminal is located on the sidewalk at the corner of the SM lot. I assume it is tolerated by SM though it blocks the pedestrian way to the mall.

Another herbal-habal terminal near SM Consolacion but serving a different set of barangays from the previous terminal of habal-habal I mentioned.

   Fair matrix? Habal-habal minimum fares to specific destinations 

Motorcycle taxis are a popular mode of transport in many Philippine cities and are generally tolerated by local government units. I guess the treatment they get from LGUs show the role they play as a mode of public transport. It is unfortunate and disappointing that the TWG that’s supposedly evaluating motorcycle taxis in Metro Manila cannot give a favorable assessment when it is clear that these habal-habal provide people with another choice for their commutes.