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I read the statement of a government official about vehicle sales, and the subsequent responses it got. He cited math and seemingly joked about not being good at it while trying to make sense of the numbers. It is not as easy as he supposes. And I think that is partly why we fail to address the transport problems. For one, we think it is just about road capacities. For another, it may be about public transport supply. These are not mutually exclusive but rather intertwined along with so many other factors.
Housing, for one, (i.e., its availability, affordability and location) is among the most important factors that affect or influence how we commute. I have been asking the question about housing affordability in CBDs such as Makati, Ortigas and BGC. Lucky for those who already reside at or near those places but most people working there have to contend with expensive mortgages, leases or rents. How much is a condo unit in BGC, for example? If you have a family of 4, you certainly can’t and won’t opt for a studio unit just because its near your workplace. It’s obvious here that you also would have to consider where your children will be going to school as well as the workplace location of your partner if he or she is also working. No schools for now but imagine how it was and would be once our children go back to physical school. Such facts of life seem lost to many pundits commenting or offering opinions about transportation.
I think to be fair this should also be framed from various perspectives. For example, those vehicle purchases don’t necessarily mean additional vehicles on certain roads. like what one MMDA official claims. These will be distributed across the network of roads, and these will be operating during certain times of the day. Some of these vehicles were purchased by new car owners. Others as replacements to older or unserviceable units (e.g., upgrades). It would be nice to see, for example, the stats from 2008, 2009 & 2010. Thousands of vehicles were doomed by Ondoy in the greater Metro Manila in 2009 resulting in their replacements late that year until 2010. Then there was the boom in sales in the following years as people ventured into TNCs (Uber and Grab). The recent surge in private car use and what seems to be strong sales of these vehicles in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic is more out of necessity (why do you think people aren’t taking to cycling for their commutes as much as is desired?)
The question why people still prefer to purchase and use their own vehicles has not been answered in the most honest way because different people with their own agenda tend to paint different pictures of the car owner. In some cases, car owners are being portrayed as ‘evil’ while those taking the more environment-friendly modes as ‘good’. Again, it should be obvious that this is not a ‘good’ vs. ‘evil’ discussion nor is it something that is black and white. We should pay (a lot of) attention to the grays, which can have so many different shades when it comes to transportation. No one really wins a “holier than thou” exercise where people on opposite sides tend to take hard line stances and close their minds to constructive ideas from either side.
I took the following photos inside a mall that’s close to my residence. One had to go inside to get to the drugstore located at the second level of the mall so you can see what it looks like during the lockdown. Not surprisingly, it is deserted but it looks clean and orderly. It seems that mall’s doing maintenance work and I did see a couple of janitors inside. They are probably the skeletal staff of the mall in-charge of making sure the building does not deteriorate during the lockdown period.
This used to the a very busy area leading to the supermarket and the appliance shop. The area also usually was at the events venue and often set-up here are the weekend stalls selling local items including our favorite cashew butter and sylvanas.
A look back at what was usually a crowded area at the center of the mall as I moved up the working escalator
The second level was also practically deserted with only a few customers going to the drugstore and the occasional janitor or security personnel going around
Across from where I was walking was another crowded area as this is the food court with the cinemas just beside it.
View of the ground floor as I descended on the non-functioning escalator on the other side of the second level.
I saw the photos posted on social media and the news yesterday as people crowded at mall entrances on the first day after the lifting of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in many cities. Of course, they are still under the General Community Quarantine (GCQ) but more people are allowed to go outside their homes with businesses like the malls starting to resume operations. I sure hope this ‘excitement’ and the resulting crowds will not lead to a worse second wave of Covid-19 infections. That will surely lead to the reimposition of ECQ in those areas. There are lessons to be learned from the reopening of businesses like shops and restaurants once quarantines have been relaxed. Those are lessons that are mostly from the experiences of other countries that we should carefully and meticulously consider in order to avoid the mistakes that have led to a second wave of infections. Let us not lead ourselves towards recklessness or irresponsible behavior that can spell disaster to many. Let us not think that things will go back to the ‘normal’ we used to live.