It’s election season once again. And by May next year, we will be faced with that all-important civic duty of electing our country’s next leaders anew.
With the multitude of problems our country is facing, choosing the right leaders, all the way up to the president, is crucial. The new administration will set the policies, mark the direction and even implement solutions to the everyday problems we experience. Well, at least that is the hope.
Now, this may seem self-serving, but choosing a presidential candidate based on his or her ability to solve the country’s mobility issues might just be one of the main criteria you would want to consider in the coming election. Why? The ongoing pandemic has exposed the weaknesses of our transport system. The lack of safe and functional infrastructure for everything from mass transportation to the efficient transfer of goods, the use of personal automobiles, even infrastructure for safe cycling and walking, have all hampered the country’s progress for more than half a century.
Successive administrations in the past have lacked the foresight to plan, prepare and execute for the future. And this is no more evident than in urban centers where the problem of congestion, decay, crumbling infrastructure, and lack of mass transit has festered all these years.
Choosing a president based on his or her track record in addressing the mobility needs of the people, or at least, their policy pronouncements on how to solve this crisis, can spell the difference between our country finally taking off or continuing to languish in the doldrums in the coming generation.
Once the Commission of Elections filters down the list of presidential candidates, we will be faced with names and personalities to choose from. One person will get our vote in May, but before we finally anoint our chosen one, see and discern if any of them fits the following criteria for a leader committed to resolving the country’s mobility crisis.
One who abhors corruption and does everything to address it
Our issues with transportation and mobility are mere symptoms of the deeper socio-economic problems our country is facing. Find a candidate who acknowledges this and you will have a leader who will appreciate the urgency of addressing mobility issues hand in hand with resolving the true ills of the nation.
Corruption has been so deeply entrenched in every level of government that it is hard to find any one candidate without a hint of corruption in his system. Remember, when you are electing a candidate, you are also empowering the people behind him or her. And if those people have been proven corrupt before, then you are merely perpetuating the problem.
Without corruption, much can be done. A president who addresses this beyond lip service can make many things happen.
One who can craft a master land use and transport plan for urban centers that will be adopted by his or her administration and future administrations
There have been many studies and drafts of plans addressing transportation and mobility issues since the 1970s. Some have seen fruition, others are still gathering dust in the economic managers’ cabinets. What we need is a president who will sit down with, and listen to, urban and environmental planners, business leaders, local government heads, even civic leaders and create a viable and realistic master plan on how to manage the growth of various urban and economic centers in the country. A candidate who will plan for the future and create an action plan that next administrations will follow to completion should be someone worthy of your vote.
One who will put the comfort, convenience and safety of the pedestrian as a priority
While car culture has become a predominant fixture in our mobility landscape, the fact is car owners only represent 12 to 15% of the total number of commuters in Metro Manila. And this is reflected in the rest of the country’s urban centers as well where mass transit is necessary to transport the workforce.
Infrastructure that improves the safety, ease and comfort of the majority should be prioritized by the next president of the country. An efficient, reliable, convenient and interconnected mass transit network within, as well as leading in and out of, Metro Manila should be established and promoted as the first choice of people when commuting. And even the simple acts of cycling and walking should be institutionalized to help alleviate congestion and improve our health. A presidential candidate who can vouch for all these should be high on your list.
One who will establish a network of farm-to-market road and railways across the country
If there is anything the government should build, it is more farm-to-market roads and train services across the country. A president who acknowledges the crucial role of agricultural development in the countryside and focuses on making it easy for people and goods to move across the country is needed to ensure the country’s food security. More jobs in the provinces also mean less congestion in urban centers thus the need to develop outside the metropolis.
One who will demand projects with an onus on quality service instead of mediocrity
As taxpayers, we deserve the best in government service. Many transportation and mobility projects now exist with the bare minimum of standards. Safety and convenience seem to be afterthoughts in the various programs executed so far. We need a president who will put a stop to this ingrained “pwede na yan” mentality not only in government offices but also in government instituted services. We deserve better than what we have so far given the significant portion of our hard-earned money that goes to national coffers.
One who can balance infrastructure solutions with environmental, socio-economic sustainability
There are many unsolicited solutions being offered to address the mobility challenges we are facing. But most are palliative shortcuts that were conceived to serve the proponents’ business interests. A candidate who believes that the real solution lies in institutionalizing modernization without sacrificing the environment, our heritage, and more importantly the health of the people, is someone we need on top.
One who can think of out-of-the-box solutions and get people to agree with them
A creative thinker. This is the kind of president we need. A strong leader who can challenge his or her cabinet secretaries and agencies to come up with fresh solutions while having an open mind to listen to experts in the urban planning field. Vote for a candidate with a global perspective. One who has learned from the experiences of other countries and knows what and how to apply these to the local setting. Not just someone who wants to copy and paste obsolete solutions. Put your support on the candidate who abhors outdated thinking and embraces new technologies, practices and ways of solving the problem to make our commuting lives easier.
One who can instill discipline
We always hear that Filipinos lack discipline on the road. That is why in 2016, many voted for a candidate who promised to bring his brand of discipline to Metro Manila. Well, that didn’t quite work out as expected.
Perhaps a president who incentivizes instead of penalizes is someone we can consider this time around? In the end, he or she has to be someone who can inspire people to obey laws. Someone who can talk the people’s language so that they will listen and heed the call. A candidate who can unite people towards helping solve the country’s problems, not create more along the way.
So, have you found the presidential candidate who fits the above criteria? With the campaign period starting in February, you can spend these next few months getting to know where these presidentiables stand on addressing transportation and mobility issues. Come the campaign, see how they balance these out with the other problems of the country that need equal attention.
You already know the problems with mobility in the country. You experience them everyday. Now, it is time to know what the candidates are planning to do about them. We are now at a crossroads for the future of our country. Weigh your options well.