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Transport crisis or traffic problem?

“Yes, travel has become a problem in the NCR, but at least President Duterte is doing something about it.

Victor Avecilla

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Malacañang spokesman Salvador Panelo’s famous commute to office last week has demonstrated many points.

First, left-leaning administration critics will never have anything good to say about the government and its officials. Second, the transport and traffic problem will be around because of anti-government elements.

Earlier, Panelo disagreed with administration critics that there is a transportation crisis in the national capital region. Panelo said that while there is a traffic problem in the metropolis, there is no transportation crisis because even the latest jeepney strike failed to disrupt transportation in the National Capital Region (NCR).

Renato Reyes Jr., head of the radical group Bayan, challenged Panelo to commute to work and experience the difficulty of travelling experienced daily by commuters. Panelo accepted the challenge.

Taking four jeepney rides and hitchhiking on a private motorcycle, Panelo spent almost four hours travelling from Quezon City to Malacañang. He took the long route by first going to Marikina before heading west for Manila, to avoid anti-government hecklers waiting for him in Cubao. Reporters accosting him at each interval of his commute added to Panelo’s delay.

The challenge was met, but petty remarks about Panelo still appeared in social media.

Netizens scored Panelo for wearing an impractical attire for commuting. Some said his commute was a publicity stunt. A few snapped that it was illegal for him to ride a motorcycle that is not authorized to ferry passengers. Even the Kilusang Mayo Uno, a pro-Beijing labor union, had nothing positive to say about Panelo. At the end of the day, the consensus among anti-administration groups was Panelo’s odyssey proves that there is a transportation crisis in the metropolis.

As expected, Vice President Leni Robredo grabbed the opportunity for free publicity and demanded in a television interview, albeit in sloppy English, that President Rodrigo Duterte should admit that a transportation crisis exists in the National Capital Region.

Actually, whether or not there is a transportation crisis or a traffic problem plaguing the metropolis is beside the point. The ever-increasing population in the NCR compounded by the constant increase in annual vehicle sales make travel in the NCR very difficult to do — period.

Commercial buildings and shopping malls are constructed in the NCR faster than public infrastructure can be erected. New vehicles are sold every year. Space in the metropolis is getting scarcer than ever.

Yes, travel has become a problem in the NCR, but at least President Duterte is doing something about it.

Major roadways have been cleared of obstacles. There is an ongoing modernization plan to replace slow, dilapidated jeepneys with electric ones. San Miguel Corporation is constructing a new airport in Bulacan to decongest the existing one in Pasay. It was also issued a concession to extend the elevated Skyway along the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) to as far as Batangas.

Ironically, the same groups lambasting President Duterte are the ones creating obstacles to the planned solutions.

For example, left-leaning groups label the president as “anti-poor” for ordering the clearing of roadways and sidewalks that force pedestrians to occupy road space which ought to be used by vehicles. He is also branded “anti-poor” for pursuing the jeepney modernization program.

Even the Skyway extension project at the SLEX has been denounced by a noisy minority for causing traffic jams in Alabang and Laguna. The critics don’t realize that in infrastructure development designed for a better tomorrow, certain inconveniences are inevitable.

On top of the population problem, Roman Catholic Church officials remain opposed to population control legislation like the Reproductive Health Care Act, and spend charitable donations to finance the communist movement in the Philippines.

As for Robredo, she should first justify why her office will spend P673 million of taxpayers’ money for 2020 when she has done nothing of substantial benefit to the public during each year she has been in office.

Maybe if Robredo stopped her unnecessary limousine rides in the metropolis and allowed her budget (which includes maintenance of her official mansion in New Manila) to be used instead for the construction of more roads in the NCR, then maybe she will also stop giving her unsolicited views on the travel woes of Filipinos living in Metropolitan Manila.

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