Congested thinking

CTALK By Cito Beltran

I would give MMDA officials an A+ for effort simply for pitching and trying to sell various ways of reducing the traffic volume in Metro Manila and EDSA in particular. After the ridiculously failed idea of Segmented color-coding on EDSA, the MMDA bosses now want to try adopting the Singapore system of charging toll fee for vehicles coming into the city center during rush hour and adding to the “Congestion.”

Again A for effort in searching for solutions but MMDA Chairman Tim Orbos should really surround himself with situational analysts and not copy cats who can’t seem to be bothered to knowing the beginning and the end of things like “Congestion Charges.” The system works in Singapore not because of the toll but because they started by strictly reducing the number of vehicles operating in Singapore. Priority has been on Mass Transit and much needed commercial transport and not private cars. It was not a goal; it was the way of life and government. Slapping on high taxes, special permits; expensive parking and congestion charges are all just a part of making sure the rich moneymaking Singaporeans don’t splurge on cars just because they can afford it. Singapore makes it nearly impossible if not financially insane to buy a car and drive it around the city.

The idea of charging vehicle owners a “Congestion Charge” would be equal to making money from the people’s misery. The government has no new solution, no new product or service, just a new method of collecting more money from drivers crawling through EDSA. Did it ever occur to the MMDA leadership that all vehicle owners pay a road users tax and if they impose a congestion charge it would be tantamount to double taxation if not graft charges?  Perhaps it is about time that the MMDA review their priorities and come to terms with the fact that there is very little that the MMDA can do to solve traffic congestion based on their very limited powers and responsibilities.

Instead of focusing on traffic management and solutions to reduce congestion why not step outside the box labeled “Traffic” and work inside the box labeled “Urban decongestion.” Even my grade ten daughter keeps saying that government simply has to move people, jobs, schools etc., outside Metro Manila. Many kids know this simple solution will be the best approach but no one in politics and government wants to begin the inevitable process of an Exodus. Property developers have gained a serious foothold in Sta Rosa Laguna while people in my circle have started to split time between the Metro and Batangas. One major obstacle that prevents people from joining the Exodus is the absence of known schools and colleges in the Calabar Zone.

I’m fine with reducing congestion in Metro Manila roads but the government especially the DOTr has to show real work and real progress in building trains and trams in and out of the Metro. Every administration always dangles the dream of trains and trams but NONE has managed to lay down one piece of rail as proof of their serious intent. Perhaps what people in the Duterte administration need is to get a mental and political decongestant so they show true political will, not wish lists.

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Our Congresswoman in Lipa; Vilma Santos-Recto has filed a bill that would push for a national program for Mari-culture that would promote establishment of aquamarine farms along shorelines. I congratulate Congresswoman Vi because I personally have written about Mari culture as the answer to alleviating fisher folks from poverty and saving lives at sea. Once barangays are able to consolidate fisher folks into working cooperatives, they can be the priority and primary beneficiary for funding and concessions. Instead of having to borrow money everyday to buy fuel and supplies and sail long distances to fishing grounds that are hotly contested by a superior and armed foreign force, Filipino fisher folks can stay near the shore operating fish farms with floating cages.

As expected there is vocal resistance to the proposed bill. Unfortunately those who protest can’t contribute to the law, can’t protect their interests, and can’t push forward their concerns. They only object and obstruct. But I know from actual experience that if you want to get things done you need to participate. When the Cocolisap infestation destroyed thousands upon thousands of coconut trees, I was invited to a Senate hearing on the matter. Although I only had 60 coconut trees to speak for, I made sure that I could get to speak and Senators Cynthia Villar and Ralph Recto graciously gave me first shot. The long and short of what I said was the need to declare a State of Calamity, why certain government agencies were against it to protect their sector’s interest and how failure to act would make would lead to a collective disaster for the coconut industry. The good Senators brought their findings to then President Noynoy Aquino who immediately acted and declared a State of Calamity in the affected areas. That gave everybody the green light to experiment or try anything and everything. Of course God stepped in and helped by sending Typhoon Glenda, which decimated the Cocolisap colonies. Today we enjoy Buko juice on demand and have planted shorter trees with higher yields.

With regards to the Mari-culture proposal, opposing groups such as the Pamamalakaya should first do their best to consult, exchange views and inputs and lobby for their member’s interests. They can also bring the matter to public forums and enlist the help of media and experts on how to promote their message and concerns instead of outright rejection of Congresswoman Vilma Santos-Recto’s bill. Educate yourself, participate, relate and benefit.

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

 

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