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Vaccine passports anyone?

As the Philippines, relaxes protocols to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, it is interesting to note that other countries have not let down their guard. And the latter includes nations that have been quite successful in dealing with the pandemic. Many countries have also received the vaccines and have started inoculating their populations. These received the doses ahead of the Philippines and have now vaccinated a significant % of their population according to their respective prioritization schemes.

But even as countries have started vaccinations, the question remains whether a vaccinated individual can now move around or travel as if it were pre-pandemic conditions (the old normal). Here’s a nice article to read as the topic of unrestricted (or restricted, depending on your take) comes up in discussions including those leading to certain policies to be formulated by governments:

Fisher, M. (March 2, 2021) “Vaccine passports, Covid’s next political flashpoint,” The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/02/world/europe/passports-covid-vaccine.html [Last accessed: 3/4/2021]

On the road again

A couple of weekends ago, I found myself doing my first long drive in months. I wasn’t a passenger but the driver when the wife and I went on an excursion with neighbors-friends, one of whom arranged for our lunch at Ugu Bigyan’s Potter’s Garden in Tiaong, Quezon. We had two options to get there – one via the scenic route through Rizal’s backdoor that takes one to Teresa, Tanay, Baras and Pililla in Rizal, Pakil, Pangil, Paete, Lumban, Pagsanjan, Sta. Cruz and San Pablo in Laguna, the other via C-6, SLEX and STAR Tollways taking us through southern Metro Manila, Laguna, and Batangas. We took the latter route as it was faster (shorter travel time by an hour) and it allowed us to test our newly installed Autosweep RFID’s for the two tollways we used along the way.

The photo below was taken by the wife upon my prodding. I had not seen an arch as we traversed Sto. Tomas (Batangas), and Alaminos and San Pablo (Laguna). These were all along Asian Highway 26 (AH 26) or the Pan Philippine Highway system. The arch marks entry/exit to/from (boundary) the Province of Quezon from the Province of Laguna. Laguna doesn’t have its own arch.

Arches like the one in the photo used to be the landmarks between towns and provinces. I wrote about these many years ago:

https://d0ctrine.com/2013/02/18/arches-in-la-union-and-ilocos-sur/

https://d0ctrine.com/2019/04/25/arko-along-the-highways/

I have other photos somewhere but have not scanned/digitized them. Others I think that I left at my parents’ home perished with the floods of Ondoy.

With DPWH’s road widening program, many of these arches around the country may have been demolished. Those that remain tend to constrict traffic as they have space for two lanes and perhaps narrow shoulders at either side like what is shown in the photo. Perhaps others will be reconstructed and even enhanced to reflect a town’s or province’s attractions or attributes?

On travel restraint and transport options in the time of COVID-19

Previous to the lockdowns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, there were typically a lot of trips being made that many can regard as unnecessary. These are not the typical “to work” or “to school” trips that are being made on a regular basis (e.g., every week day). With the easing of the quarantine everywhere around the country, it seems a lot of people who felt they’ve been cooped indoors or have been limited in their activities have gone out. Many seem to have thrown caution to the wind, too, as evidenced from the many photos being shared showing people doing mass (bike or motorcycle) rides, shopping in crowded streets, etc. It becomes even more worrying now that Christmas is fast approaching when more people are going out to shop or visit relatives and friends. The following are quite basic while we are still experiencing the pandemic:

a. Required/imposed travel restraint – reimposition of the number coding scheme implemented by the MMDA with variations in certain LGUs such as Makati City (no mid-day coding windows) and those in the periphery (longer coding windows during mid-day), and limited implementation of the truck ban for certain roads (these of course will have certain exemptions for vital goods);

b. Increased number of public utility vehicles – the DOTr and LTFRB have been proceeding so slowly (but surely?) in re-establishing or resuming public transport services as they realized there will be no other opportunities like this to implement their rationalization and modernization plans simultaneously. However, the pandemic necessitates physical distancing and other measures to reduce if not eliminate the risks of infection

c. Making all modes available and viable as an option for commuters – Needless to say but all options must be provided for safe travel (esp. commuting). By ‘all’ I mean both motorized and non-motorized modes must be given as options to commuters, whichever they choose must be a safe option for them. That means providing the necessary facilities for walking and cycling, and, as mentioned, adding or augmenting public transport supply where necessary. By ‘commuters’ I mean those who really require traveling. These include our front liners and essential workers. Despite the push for local tourism, I personally believe this should be limited and LGUs need to discourage excursions that have the potential for spreading the virus.

d. Voluntary travel restraint – this is for everyone to consider rather than set aside. I guess given the easing of quarantine restrictions, many people have already had their fare share of going out including children and senior citizens who can now go out for some fresh air. Those opportunities should have already contributed to easing mental health issues, too. However, with the impending (if not yet here) increase in the infections once again, perhaps we should exercise self restraint during these holidays. This self-restraint can also be considered as sacrifices not just for one’s sake but for others especially loved ones we don’t want to get sick with COVID-19.

We still do not know who among us are or can be carriers and who can pick-up the virus and become very ill. As such, we should still be very careful, and adopt and practice measures to reduce infection risks. This goes very well with the spirit of the season. Let’s make the necessary sacrifices to beat this pandemic. Do not ‘gift’ your loved ones with Covid-19!

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 urban planning resources or references for the pandemic

I am posting for reference this article compiling helpful references for urban planning in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the references listed are based on the US experience and I am sure there is already a wealth of information coming from other countries as well including those that have been successful in mitigating the effects of the pandemic.

Brasuell, J. (2020) “Urban Planning Resources for COVID-19”, Planetizen, https://www.planetizen.com/node/109238?utm_source=newswire&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news-05142020&mc_cid=2e155996b6&mc_eid=9ccfe464b1 [Last accessed: 5/16/2020]

 

Public Transport Recommendations of the UP COVID-19 Pandemic Response Team

Here are the recommendations of UP COVID-19 Pandemic Response Team: “Effective Reactivation of Public Transport Operations for the New Normal through an Information Exchange Platform for Collaborative Governance”

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!

Eating at the Mactan Cebu International Airport

While NAIA Terminal 3 has several floors of shops and restaurants, it can get very crowded at the terminal. MCIA has renovated its domestic terminal to include a much improved food court inside (after checking in and passing security) the terminal and restaurants and shops outside. Its food avenue for passengers show us what a modern airport should have. MCIAA definitely did very well here and the design should be a good example for other airports, even domestic, to emulate.

Food court at MCIA domestic wing

 

There’s food for people of various preferences. You can have pizza, pasta, Filipino dishes, ramen, and of course, lechon

 

I prefer to have some ramen if I have the time for a leisurely meal. Otherwise, I get my food from La Bella, which has pizza, pasta and paninis. They usually have freshly baked breads and pastries and I usually buy brownies from them. I take these home as my daughter and I love these fudgy treats.

Limited – Inflight meals on Cebu Pacific

My friends and I were just talking about inflight meals prior to boarding our Cebu Pacific flights last week. En route to Zamboanga, we didn’t have to get some refreshments for the typically 1.5-hour flight. There were many choices to eat from at NAIA Terminal 3. However, heading back to Manila on a lunchtime flight, we joked about what could be available on the plane. We all had our experiences of ordering items on their menu for flights scheduled at different times of the day (e.g., red eye, last flight) and it always seems as if the airline didn’t have many if not most of what appears on their menu.

 

Lucky Me cup noodles and pretzels for lunch

To be fair, the airline offers pre-ordered meals that they do deliver inflight. We got pre-ordered meals for our flights to and from Singapore last year. But not everyone would usually avail of this option and there is real demand for inflight meals even if there were just pastries or quickly prepared (i.e., instant) meals. I don’t remember the last time we were able to avail a meal more decent than the cup noodles shown in the photo. In fact, we were curious about the new items they had in the menu that included champorado (chocolate porridge). That was supposed to be available last December 2019 but so far we haven’t had the chance to have it inflight.

A Blessed Christmas to all!

I just wanted to greet everyone a Merry Christmas!

[Photo is of Christmas tree at Plaza Pershing, Zamboanga City]