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If you became the DOTr Secretary, what will be the first things you do?
I saw this article posted on Planetizen about what the new US DOT Secretary would be and should be doing upon his appointment:
Fischer, R. (February 8, 2021) “You’re in Charge of the US DOT; Where Do You Start?” Planetizen, https://www.planetizen.com/node/112170?utm_source=newswire&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news-02152021&mc_cid=f4502363c4&mc_eid=9ccfe464b1
While, the US needs to implement a lot of projects for their needs and perhaps some catching-up here and there across the country, the term “catching-up” cannot really describe the backlog of programs and projects we need to implement in the Philippines. And so I posted the same article on social media to solicit some reactions. There were some good responses but many I though were on the cliche side. Some even posted about personalities in various transport agencies rather than the reforms needed or the infrastructure required to address transport problems.
How about you? If you were appointed Secretary of the Department of Transportation; where do you start?
What if Rizal today was the same province it was back in the day?
I write this as a super typhoon is bearing down on us this 1st of November. I found this map on the internet without attribution to the original source. It shows a still-born Metro Manila with only four local government units: Manila, Quezon City, Pasay City and San Juan.
What if instead of the Metro Manila we have now, Rizal retained the towns (that eventually became cities) that were transferred to what became the National Capital Region (NCR)? These are Navotas, Malabon, Caloocan, Marikina, Pasig, Pateros, Mandaluyong, Makati, Taguig, Paranaque, Las Pinas and Muntinlupa. Valenzuela was taken from Bulacan Province. Pasig was the capital of the province (Yes, that’s why there is Capitolyo and the Rizal Provincial Capitol used to be in Pasig where you now have Capitol Commons. Surely, the political landscape could have been different though one could argue that certain families would have still held sway in cities/towns where they have their routes. Imagine, the governorship of the province would have been a coveted post but not by the the current holders but likely by personalities from the more progressive and densely populated cities. Governance would have been different, too, as Rizal would have both highly urbanized and rural areas. Perhaps certain undesirable politicians could not have emerged due to the dynamics of a province with highly urbanized cities? What’s your take on this “what if”?
Of inequitable allocations and accessibility
In the news recently were figures released supposedly by Philhealth showing the top hospitals receiving reimbursements from the agency for claims relating to COVID-19. Southern Philippines Medical Center, a hospital in Davao City received 326M pesos while UP-PGH got 263.3M pesos. I was not surprised that my social media newsfeed included posts from both sides of the fence (The fence sitters among my friends on social media were not commenting about these anymore and seem content in just posting on food or whatever activity they were in.). Each were posting information divulged by the whistleblowers in the ongoing hearings on the issues pertaining to PhilHealth funds.
I will not go into the political aspect of this controversy but will just focus on the transportation aspects of the issue. I will just compare the top two hospitals in the list to simplify the assessment while mentioning others in general.
The claim that the hospital in Davao was the equivalent of PGH in Mindanao doesn’t hold water as the hospital does not treat even 10% of the cases that PGH is handling and for a much smaller geographical area. While UP-PGH is accessible to a larger population and for less travel times, SPMC is not as accessible to say people coming from other major cities like Cagayan De Oro or Zamboanga City. Yes, there are other major cities on the same island that have sizable populations with ‘catchment’ or influence areas comparable to Davao City. They, too, probably need funds to be able to treat COVID-19 patients. It is true that there are many other hospitals in the National Capital Region (NCR) that have the facilities to treat COVID-19 patients. However, many of these are private hospitals that tend to incur more costs for the patient and are not generally accessible (read: affordable) to most people who are of middle and low incomes. Thus, UP-PGH can be regarded as the frontliner among frontline hospitals.
What? There are other public or government hospitals in Metro Manila and surrounding provinces? True, but many of those have very limited capacities in terms of facilities and Human Resources. The same applies to Davao’s case as well because there are also medical centers and hospitals in surrounding provinces. And to round-out the resources available to these hospitals, local government units have also (over) extended their resources to hospitals. Perhaps the allocations and proportions can be explained in another way that is not the “apologist” but based on actual numbers pertaining to cases handled by the hospitals?
On the COVID-19 pandemic’s impacts on urban planning
Here is another timely article on the effects of COVID-19 on urban planning. Past pandemics have influenced the way cities are designed and COVID-19 is no different as we are now learning a lot of lessons on how towns and cities need to be laid out or structured to prevent future outbreaks from spreading so quickly while also allowing for a more effective actions in response to infections.
van den Berg, R. (2020) “How Will COVID-19 Affect Urban Planning?”, The City Fix, https://thecityfix.com/blog/will-covid-19-affect-urban-planning-rogier-van-den-berg/ [Last accessed: 5/15/2020]
On transport for essential workers
One of the major issues during this enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) or lockdowns that the government has imposed pertains to the transport needs of other essential workers. I say ‘other’ because unlike the frontliners, who include mainly medical personnel such as doctors, nurses and others directly involved in combatting this pandemic, there are varying takes on who belongs to the category of these ‘other’ essential workers. To simplify, I believe these should include those working in factories producing food items, medical equipment and supplies, and people working in supermarkets, drugstores, markets and banks. People involved in transportation such as truckers or logistics personnel are essential. So are public transport providers. How will food and other supplies travel from where they’re produced (i.e., farms, fish ports, factories, etc.) to the places where they are needed if our supply chains are compromised due to a lack of personnel?
Here is a recent article about the reduction of public transport services that has affected ‘essential’ workers in the Bay Area in the US:
Davies, A. and Marshall, A. (2020) “Public Transit Cuts Hurt ‘Essential’ Workers Who Need It Most”, wired.com, https://www.wired.com/story/transit-cuts-hurt-workers-who-need-most/?bxid=5bd6761b3f92a41245dde413&cndid=37243643&esrc=&source=EDT_WIR_NEWSLETTER_0_TRANSPORTATION_ZZ&utm_brand=wired&utm_campaign=aud-dev&utm_mailing=WIR_Transportation_TopClickers_040620&utm_medium=email&utm_source=nl&utm_term=WIR_TopClickers_EXCLUDE_Transportation [Last accessed 4/7/2020]
In our case, there seems to be a double standard in how the national government sees our LGUs are trying to provide transport services. The cases of Pasig and Davao concerning the use of tricycles as public transport comes to mind but I will leave that topic for another article (soon!).
On transportation after the Covid-19 pandemic
Our lives will never be the same after this pandemic. The term ‘after’ is actually quite vague because various estimates figure that the Covid 19 pandemic is expected to have multiple outbreaks over the next 1 to years. A big part of our lives and particularly our daily routines is travel. This refers mainly to our regular commutes between our homes, workplaces, schools, shops, and other typical places that transportation engineers and planners like to term as origins and destinations. Transport will definitely be impacted by the pandemic as we seek to have physical distance between people. Public transport will be hard hit as, for one, as the number of passengers will have to be limited per vehicle. What were crowded buses with 60+ passengers (including those standing) will likely have only 20 to 30 passengers depending on the layout. Jeepneys that used to seat 20-24 passengers (excluding sabit or hangers as these are prohibited in the first place) may only accommodate 8 to 10 passengers, again depending on the layout. Tricycles will have to carry only one passenger in the sidecar with no-one allowed to sit behind the driver. Here’s an article and much stats on how the pandemic is disrupting transit elsewhere but particularly in US cities:
- How coronavirus is disrupting public transit, https://transitapp.com/coronavirus [Last accessed: 3/30/2020]
Judging from what was practically the elimination of traffic congestion along Metro Manila and other cities’ roads, it is clear that we cannot go back to transportation where cars dominate road space. And so public transport will have to carry that additional burden of private car users being required to use public transport modes instead. While its possible to do the number crunching to determine bus, jeepney, van and train frequencies, it is uncertain if there are enough manpower to run these vehicles under a protocol to ensure that passengers (and drivers and conductors) will not be infected or spread Covid-19.
Planning for the new normal – post Covid-19
There have been many discussions lately about urban planning and transport planning in relation to the pandemic currently gripping the world. There are opinions and assessments about topics such as population density, employment, public transportation, physical or social distance, as well as the prospects for reducing car dependence.
Here is a nice article that compiles some of the better articles on planning related to the current Covid-19 pandemic that’s affecting our planet:
Brasuell, J. (2020) Debating the Future of Cities, and Urban Densities, After the Pandemic, planetizen.com, https://www.planetizen.com/node/108814?utm_source=newswire&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news-03232020&mc_cid=a891454817&mc_eid=9ccfe464b1 [Last accessed 3/24/2020].
The world will never be the same after what everyone has gone through during this pandemic. Let us not wish we could go back to normal because, as the saying goes, that “normal” was what got us here in the first place.
Keep safe everyone!
Jeepneys? No, they’re buses
I spotted this vehicle along my commute earlier today and couldn’t help but state that this is not a jeep or jeepney as DOTr or LTFRB seem to be marketing it to be. By all indications, this is a departure from the jeepney design and should be called a bus or mini-bus. Perhaps it can still be considered a jitney but that is a stretch. It wouldn’t hurt efforts towards route rationalization and public utility vehicle modernization to call this a bus or mini-bus. In fact, that should be a conscious effort towards changing mindsets about what vehicles are most appropriate or suitable for certain routes.
Premium Jeep beside a conventional one somewhere in Bayan-bayanan, Marikina City
On Taal and Tagaytay
We were frequent visitors to Tagaytay the years prior to the rapid commercialization and (over)development of the city. While we still go there occasionally, We have not been able to enjoy the city and its environs as much as we did before. Nevertheless, we genuinely feel for the people (the real residents but not necessarily for the carpetbaggers) of Tagaytay and other cities and towns affected by the eruption of the volcano. They deserve better and yet they should also heed the advice of science over those of politicians who have taken advantage of them and now claim innocence over what is perceived as a lack of preparedness for such a calamity.
Dawn over Taal – I took this photo from the balcony of what was our favorite bed & breakfast hotel in Tagaytay. I thought this showed a rather peaceful scene complete with the background of roosters giving everyone a wake-up call.
I had wanted to post an aerial shot of Taal volcano. I have one or more somewhere in an old folder when the planes (not sure our origin) I were on flew over the volcano. Unfortunately, these are probably in my older computers or portable drives. I will for these and post them soon.
The problem with public transport in the Philippines…
There is a collage of two photos, one taken in 1975 and another in 2019, showing buses that managed to squeeze themselves into a jam. The 1975 photo was taken at the ramp of the overpass near Liwasang Bonifacio (Quiapo, Manila). There is a commentary describing the photo that attributes ‘monstrous daily traffic jams’ to the behavior of Filipino drivers. Special mention was made of public transport drivers and the photo showed proof of this. This was 1975 and motorization had not reached the levels we are at now so the arguably, traffic congestion was not as bad as the present we experience daily.
The problems pertaining to driver behavior persist today and probably even worsened along with the general conditions of traffic in Philippine roads. I say so since the volume of vehicular traffic has increased significantly from 1975 to the present and there are much more interactions among vehicles and people that have led to a deterioration of road safety as well. Traffic congestion and road crashes are asymptomatic of the root causes of most of our transport problems. And so far, it seems we have had little headway into the solutions. The photos speak for themselves in terms of how many people can easily put the blame on poor public transport services despite the fact that cars are hogging much of the road space. And what have authorities done in order to address the behavioral issues that lead to these incidents?
Someone joked that the guy in the 1975 photo who appeared to be posing in disbelief of what happened is a time traveler. The 2019 photo shows a similar guy with a similar pose though with more people around. Maybe he can tell us a thing or so about what’s wrong with transportation in the Philippines and provide insights to the solutions to the mess we have.