A report came out last Saturday on a major daily about a JICA study estimating losses of as much as 2.4 Billion pesos per day due to traffic jams experienced in Metro Manila. Not mentioned was the 1.0 Billion pesos per day estimated losses for the Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna and Cavite areas that are at present considered part of what has been loosely defined as Mega Manila or the Greater Capital Region (GCR). That’s 3.4 Billion pesos per day of lost productivity and potential income that if reduced, could generate resources that could be distributed to the rest of the country. The JICA estimate, as reported by NEDA, is the product of a study that is in its concluding phase that looked into transport for an area comprised of Metro Manila, Region 3 (Central Luzon) and Region 4A (Southern Tagalog or Calabarzon). The main objective of the study was to come up with a Transport Infrastructure Framework and Roadmap for the GCR that would guide planners and engineers, and most importantly decision-makers (i.e., our leaders) in identifying and prioritizing transport infra projects that would ultimately improve the way we travel in the GCR.
While I am not at liberty at present to divulge the details of this study as the entirety has not been made public yet, I can say that the study was comprehensive and the conclusion an urgent reminder to what needs to be done for transport in the GCR. The latter is necessary because we have failed to deliver on the transport infrastructure required by Metro Manila and its surrounding areas since the late 1970s adn early 1980s when some decisions were made that were detrimental to public transport development and, to my view, inhibited and limited us from implementing a much more efficient transport system than what we have now. In my own conversations with the person who led the study, I can understand his own frustrations as he was himself a witness to the deterioration of transport in this country. Much of this deterioration have been attributed to a lack of political will to make the hard decisions in relation to transport. These decisions include those pertaining to the rationalization of transport services like phasing out jeepneys and tricycles where they are no longer suitable and committing to the implementation of mass transit projects that have been delayed for decades now.
Perhaps we are at a crossroads in terms of transport in this country. Perhaps our leaders should listen to the clamor of their constituents for better transport systems in our cities, for more efficient ways to move about. Perhaps, too, we could finally see what’s really at the end of the tunnel rather than the proverbial light that we have always seen, frustratingly, for the past few decades. Perhaps the current administration will prove itself the catalyst for transforming transport in this country towards what it has preached as a “straight path.” Will we have a champion or champions who would push for the realization of a dream plan for transport? Whoever should step forward would definitely get my vote in 2016!