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Suwapang

February 2011
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The Filipino or Tagalog translation of the words greedy or selfish seems much more appropriate to use as a term to describe what is arguably the most basic reason why our country is in a rut. It can also be used to describe why our transport systems and traffic is what it is at present. The term suwapang easily and comprehensively defines the way we drive vehicles, ride motorcycles, commute, operate transport services, and enforce or manage traffic. It is also applicable to the way we plan and build infrastructure.

Public utility vehicle drivers are suwapang when they cheat on fares for students and senior citizens, refusing to give the discounts mandated by law. The are suwapang when they race to overtake fellow drivers in order to get to passengers waiting along the roadside. They never mind the safety of their passengers or those in other vehicles around them. To them, the most important thing is to get ahead of everyone else even if in the end those waiting along the roadside or the stop weren’t even heading their way. PUV drivers are suwapang, too, when they cut trips, making it difficult for passengers to get a ride home, to school or to their workplace. Suwapang is also the word appropriate for those refusing passengers for one reason or another. Public transport is, after all and definitely above its business aspect, a service.

Motorcycle riders are suwapang when they disregard traffic rules and regulations and weave in traffic, placing themselves and others at risk of getting involved in a road crash. They are suwapang when they carry more than one other rider (angkas) as what we commonly observe along many roads and with children sandwiched between their parents who seem to not understand the risk they are exposing their children and themselves to.

Tricycle drivers are suwapang when they travel along national roads or highways, fully aware that they are prohibited from doing so. They are suwapang when they charge exorbitant fare for “special” rides. The word also applies when they clog streets due to their numbers, many probably even illegal or colorum units. There are actually too many of them in many areas but they are still steadily increasing as newer tricycles are accommodated or tolerated by the ones supposed to be regulating them.

Transport operators are suwapang when they cheat on vehicle maintenance and place passengers at risk of being involved in a road crash. Poorly maintained vehicles also lead to higher fuel consumption and would definitely have a significant impact on operational costs that is part of the basis for setting fare rates. Suwapang is the word for those who operate gas guzzlers while claiming that it is wholly the rising fuel prices that are to blame for their rising fuel costs. These operators unfairly lobby for increasing fare rates while not doing their part on maintaining their vehicles, effectively imposing the fuel inefficiencies of the vehicles on the riding public.

Commuters are suwapang when they pressure drivers to stop where public transport are restricted from loading and unloading passengers. They do not care about the driver being apprehended and probably paying up for the violation. Commuters are also suwapang when cheating the driver for fares like when they choose or insist to hang on to jeepneys and not pay fares or pretend that they have paid when they have not. They are also suwapang for waiting on the road rather than the road side. They cause congestion because they occupy space intended for vehicles and in effect reduce the capacity of these roads.

Private vehicle drivers are suwapang when they overspeed and weave aggressively in traffic. They do not care about the safety of others nor about rules and regulations that are in place for everyone’s well-being. They are suwapang for demanding more road space when the collective volume of private vehicles are the real cause of congestion, especially when one realizes most vehicles carry only 1 or 2 passengers including the driver. It is inefficient use of road space at best aside from being a waste of fuel and unfriendly to the environment due to the emissions they produce. They are also suwapang when they do not have off-street parking where they reside and leave their vehicles to occupy precious road space, reducing capacity and contributing to traffic congestion in the process. One is also suwapang if they still have sirens (wang-wang) installed on their vehicles for their convenient use, despite the no wang-wang policy being implemented.

Traffic enforcers are suwapang when they extort money from drivers instead of issuing them the traffic ticket for legitimate violations of traffic rules. They are more suwapang when they unscrupulously apprehend motorists for what the former claim were violations by the latter but are actually not, in order to eventually extort money from them. These are quite awkward situations since either or both parties may not even be knowledgeable of the rule or rules that were violated in the first place, if any. Enforcers are also suwapang for extorting money or tong from drivers of goods or freight vehicles. Their activities only lead to an increase in the prices of commodities such as rice and vegetables.

Our government leaders, planners and engineers are suwapang for poorly planned, designed and prioritized infrastructure. Perhaps some are more concerned with their cuts in the budget for transport infrastructure than the quality of a project and its overall benefit to the public. They are suwapang because they choose to benefit themselves (sarili) over the good of their country (bayan), securing their pockets and their own futures when they should be securing the future of the nation as is required of those in public service. They are suwapang because they hinder the nation’s development and deprive people of an efficient transport system for both mobility and accessibility.

Some in the private sector are considered suwapang for collaborating with politicians, planners and engineers described previously. They can also be considered suwapang for pushing for projects that should not be prioritized but are assessed to be so due to their connections with people in power. They, too, hinder this country’s development and deprive people of the efficient system they deserve.

So the inevitable question is – Are you swapang?


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