Caught (up) in traffic

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Monthly Archives: June 2010

Transitions in government and in transportation in the Philippines

“It’s the end of an era.” Perhaps that is one of the most quotable expressions every time change occurs, most especially when that change pertains to prevailing states or conditions and that includes governments. I have had the pleasure of working with many people under the current administration. And I can say that we in the academe have been fortunate that current officials of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) have been very receptive to collaborations. Such cooperative work is not at all new but something more like very good friends touching base once again and finding out that there’s so much more they could do together.

The reunion actually started sometime in 2003-2004 when the then DOTC Director of Planning Service and a bunch of faculty members affiliated with UP’s National Center for Transportation Studies (NCTS) got together in a meeting and over small talk extended each other’s ideas on how to improve transport in this country. More meetings, small talks and a few beers later saw the formalization of this collaboration when DOTC and NCTS held a Visioning seminar in 2006 to begin the charting of a road map for Philippine transport. There were no politics nor personal interests (other than the interest in improving transport) involved in this re-forging of old alliances.

Zoom to the present and I can only say now that the journey has been very productive; and if there is one thing I regret its that it is only now that we are reaping the fruits of our hard work put in the last 6 years. We can only hope that credit goes to those to worked so hard and dedicated their time, effort and resources to make things work. There were just too many challenges, obstacles to hurdle that today, one can look back and probably breathe a sigh of relief that we were able to accomplish much. Hopefully, the next administration will look at these achievements and see the good it has brought to the people. Hopefully, the next administration decides for continuity, even perhaps retaining people who worked so hard and honestly, who kept in their minds that the only things that are recalled as legacies are actually good things. And we can only hope that whoever we will be working with from July 1 would recognize the value of collaborative work between government and what was often referred to as an ivory tower.

Our warmest thanks to Acting Secretary and concurrent Undersecretary for Road Transport Anneli Lontoc – a true visionary and champion of Environmentally Sustainable Transport in the Philippines, Assistant Secretary Alberto Suansing – champion/advocate of road safety and reform both in his stints at the Land Transportation Office (LTO) and the Land Transport Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), Undersecretary Thompson Lantion – who in his capacity as LTFRB Chair engaged UP in providing training for public transport drivers, and of course, Executive Secretary Leandro Mendoza – who despite all the negatives pertaining to persistent criticisms from various parties in UP , committed the Department to collaborate with the University in worthwhile and unprecedented endeavors. One name is not mentioned here and that is the hardest working person of all – you know who you are and you know how much we appreciate your commitment and look forward to continuing our work together in the next administration and era.

Teaching transportation engineering

I’ve taught Transportation Engineering courses since I joined the faculty of the then Department of Civil Engineering at the University of the Philippines Diliman in 1995. This year marks my 15th year with UP counting my 3-year study leave in the late 90’s.

Since 1995, I have taught most of the transportation courses offered by the Department (now Institute) of Civil Engineering. These include the two undergraduate offerings ubiquitously titled Transportation Engineering I and II (CE 141 and CE 142) that are considered major courses, and part of a balanced curriculum leading to a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering degree. Being major courses, these are required subjects and all students must take these courses one after the other with TE I being the prerequisite of TE II.

Both subjects are not difficult ones to teach and it is easy to come up with examples that the students can visualize and understand. In fact, experiences from driving and commuting are common examples that allow me and my students to discuss actual manifestations of concepts we discuss in the classroom.

I don’t really have a favorite among the two undergrad courses though I must say that I like teaching CE 141 over CE 142. I like the content of CE 141 with topics on Traffic Flow Theory and Transport Planning, which allow me to use my imagination in conjuring new examples (and exams) each semester that I handle the course. I feel that CE 142 is more deliberate because it is partly a design course, and in the undergraduate level it is important to instill fundamentals in the minds of future Civil Engineers – future Transportation Engineers. Nevertheless, teaching CE 142 is not at all boring and lacking for challenge.

I always pray that I can share my knowledge and experience to my students. I assume that while I am not the best teacher in the subject, I do give it my best shot every time I give a lecture. I am hopeful that I am able to contribute in the molding of the next generation of Civil Engineers produced by UP – more so the next generation of Transportation Engineers who can continue the advocacy for better transportation systems and infra that this country of ours deserve.