Caught up in trAPEC
It’s a corny title to this post and perhaps is practically what people would call ‘click bait’. But then it is a very appropriate one considering it describes what happened last Monday and is still happening today and for the rest of the week affected by the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum hosted by the Philippines and held in Metro Manila. Yes, Metro Manila. And many people have been asking loudly or in their mind why the capital city when the government was supposed to be promoting and bragging about growth in other cities (inclusive growth anyone?). I would have thought and preferred to have APEC in either Subic or Clark, which have been touted as rapidly growing areas and as international gateways. In fact, Clark is being pitched as the location of a potential new city in the Clark Green City project as well as the aerotropolis currently being developed (slowly) near the airport and the SCTEX Clark South interchange.
Instead, we have the APEC forum and all its attendant activities in Metro Manila. And it seems that the forum has maximized its detrimental impacts on the economy as it practically shut (some people even say shat) down the capital because of severe traffic congestion and a lack of public transport infrastructure and services to carry commuters safely and efficiently between their homes and work places. The Manila Bulletin posted the following photo last Monday:
Commuters were forced to walk along Roxas Boulevard just to get to work.
Here are a few more photos courtesy of an old friend from high school:
A lone cyclist pedaling along a practically empty section of EDSA (photo credit: Bong Isaac)
Walkers? – commuters took to walking along EDSA, one of the country’s busiest and most congested thoroughfares. I was amused of the memes about the ‘Walking Deadsa’ referring to people seemingly walking like zombies after a hard day’s work just to get home. (photo credit: Bong Isaac)
Commuters walking along a vehicle-less EDSA. The MRT 3 line at the left in the photo also seems to be ‘lifeless’ at the time (evening I was told) the photo was taken. (photo credit: Bong Isaac)
People walking along the service road along the SLEX – most affected of the road closures were people from the southern parts of Metro Manila including those from Laguna and Cavite. (photo credit: Bong Isaac)
I remember being asked once during an interview if it was possible to determine the cost of congestion due to a single event such as a road crash or perhaps a rally. I replied that it is possible given the available tools and expertise in making such assessments. What could be the cost of such a week-long event? Would the holidays for Metro Manila have lessened the economic impacts on traffic of the APEC? Or was it assumed that agreements and the media mileage we got from APEC more than enough to cover economic losses?
Could this disastrous traffic mess have been averted or at least mitigated despite APEC in Manila? Yes, perhaps, if the transport infrastructure particularly the LRT Line 1 Extension to Cavite, the upgrading of the MRT Line 3 and an airport access transit system were completed prior to APEC. These along with other major projects for Metro Manila were promised years ago and yet have not been realized. Add to this the apparent lack of contingencies (BRT-like express buses? bicycles?) that could have eased the pain of hundreds of thousands of commuters affected by APEC traffic schemes. Government has no right to tell people “I told you so” when government efforts for the benefit of its own commuting citizens have been deficient these past years.