Last October, we put forth the notion that we should elect the country’s new set of leaders based on how they value the role of mobility in our daily lives. We called on you to vote for a president who will not only solve our transportation problems, but also plan for a more progressive future.
Today, let us be more specific as to our expectations.
As we celebrate the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s 36th anniversary, we would like to put forth 36 concrete solutions the country’s next president should implement in order to not only fix our current mobility woes, but also to make the country a more sustainable and livable place to live and grow old in.
- Create a new urban masterplan for the NCR+ and other urbanized areas
There are plans and there are plans that are actually implemented. The next president should finalize an all-encompassing development plan for the capital region and developing urban areas. The plan may take decades to fulfill, so the Chief Executive has to make sure that it is a viable and actionable one that should be continued by succeeding administrations.
- Decongest the NCR by creating new self-contained communities outside the capital
Part of any development plan should be the movement of people and services out of the capital region. The pressure brought upon by unfettered population growth on public services needs to be addressed. Relocating large swaths of communities from high-risk areas and providing them a full complement of housing, utilities, services, transportation, and social amenities such as schools, churches, and markets will relieve the capital of many of its problems.
- Abolish the LTO and LTFRB
Government agencies riddled with corruption charges need a major overhaul. With the systemic failures and shortcomings of these agencies, perhaps it is best to create a new one from their ashes. Manned with new, younger people who are more progressive and modern in thinking and who will work for the future of the country instead of just lining their pockets. A new Land Transportation Authority can transform the way we appreciate and make use of our mobility options.
- Enact a new Land Transportation Code
Let’s face it, Republic Act 4136 or the Land Transportation and Traffic Code, is so outdated and out of touch with the current realities of mobility and transportation in the country that it fails to address the pains we are experiencing now. The next president and his or her minions in congress should pass a newer, more future-proof law to cover the current and future transportation needs of the people.
- Create a centralized authority to oversee Metro Manila as a special socio-economic zone
Seventeen different mayors and seventeen clashing opinions currently govern the National Capital Region. So you can imagine how chaotic it is to instil uniform policies on anything from face shields and curfew hours, let alone coordinated traffic management policies. The next president should put the NCR under a centralized governing and policy-setting body that will actually oversee and direct the region’s development under a common purpose.
- Revive and beautify Metro Manila and impose restrictions on building designs
If you have ever been to Singapore, you will most likely appreciate how efficient, clean and well-designed the city and its architecture is. It just so happened though, that some of the great minds behind the majesty of the island-state are Filipino Urban and Environmental Planners and Landscape Architects. Every city in Metro Manila, as well as the new central NCR authority should employ these professionals who will plan and build a more livable and sustainable city.
- Promote stricter air quality standards which industries will have to comply with
It is the government’s duty to ensure the people’s health. That is why it should implement laws and standards that will reduce the amount of pollution not only from automobiles, but also from factories and industries. The country should not be beholden to corporations and private interests. It should champion the interests and health of its people.
- Preserve and refurbish heritage sites
The soul of every place lies in its past. Cities that preserve their heritage and history will always have a story to tell. It lets people look back and connect with their roots. A president who will make it a policy to enshrine history through structures and maybe even services, will nurture a people who will preserve it for future generations.
- Establish a nationwide inter-island ferry network service
As an archipelago, the Philippines faces a challenge to be connected not only as a people but as a nation. An efficient, reliable and comfortable network for sea transportation presents a huge potential not only for businesses but also for people to travel and connect with the other islands in the country.
- Establish a true nationwide rail network
A strong railway is the backbone of a major developed country. As one of the main contributors to mass transportation, a nationwide rail network can offer easier and faster transportation of people and goods. It can also spur development along its lines and make people stay in the provinces instead of migrating to cities.
- Build more inter-island bridges
The next Build, Build, Build should see through the planned bridges between major islands so that our people will become more connected. With more bridges, we can all find reasons to unite and appreciate each other. Physical interconnection will create better, lasting bonds as well as kickstart trade between regions.
- Shift the country’s dependency from coal to renewable energy
The growing environmental movement is not without merit. Future generations should be able to breathe in clean air and not dwell in soot and carbon emissions. And if it means introducing policies designed to reduce the country’s reliance on coal-fired power plants, then it should happen sooner rather than later.
- Reestablish north and south food terminals outside Metro Manila
One of the notable projects of the Marcos-era was having a centralized food repository where farmers and producers from provinces can drop off and sell their goods. The food terminal would then be where retailers in the city can acquire their stocks. With north and south food terminals outside the metropolis, that means less trucks coming into the NCR. And that is aside from the food security and boost to the agricultural sector they will provide.
- Relocate informal settlers to nearby provinces
The proliferation of informal settlers is a huge problem that no administration seems to want to tackle. But part of reducing the population of and decongesting the NCR is providing these people a dignified housing and living experience. They also need easy transportation and working opportunities in their new locales to dissuade them from coming back to the city. The next president should finally face this problem head on for all our sakes.
- Relocate factories outside the NCR
Factories have always settled in various parts of the capital since the turn of the century. But with today’s congestion, the government has to find a way to transfer them out of the metropolis where they can be better accommodated. People from the provinces can also find work in factories found outside the city. So that fixes two problems with one go.
- Engage private sector in government-identified PPP projects
The government should take the lead in development projects. Having said that, it should convince the private sector to buy-in and contribute to the realization of these projects. The government has the people’s interests and not the funding companies’ to promote. Corporate income should not be at the expense of environmental and social sacrifice.
- Implement congestion charging
One proven, although quite unpopular, way to reduce the volume of cars on the road is to implement a toll on vehicles entering select areas in the city that have been traditionally gridlocked in traffic. The extra charge for the use of these roads can then add to their maintenance budget while at the same time turning off people from taking these roads in their cars. Again, less cars means less traffic.
- Establish car-restricted roads
Roads without cars? This social experiment has apparently been successful in driving up pedestrian traffic in these areas. Taking cars out of roads makes people feel safer to walk and patronize shops. And more people means more business, right?
- Create a pedestrian walkway network
Urban planners have been clamoring to develop an elevated, even air conditioned, walkway over EDSA. They see this as an opportunity for more people to turn to walking to get to their destinations. Make them comfortable, safe and convenient, and this can actually work.
- Introduce segregated bicycle lane networks
The pandemic has made us search for alternative modes of transportation. Cycling is one such mode that has empowered people. With the establishment of bicycle lanes, there are now riders who are seeing the health and financial benefits of riding a bike to work. For the Philippines, however, there’s a need to provide extra protection through physical segregation as motorists can be quite abusive on the road against cyclists.
- Build new MRT and subway lines
A progressive country is one where its leaders can take mass transit to the office. This popular saying only means that a country’s mass transportation system is that efficient and comfortable. Creating a network of light rail and subway lines that crisscross the city will make people opt for the train rather than drive to get to their destination. We repeat, less cars on the road, less traffic.
- Establish Intermodal transport hubs
Convenience is key for people to switch to mass transport. Heading down from the train platform, one must find that there are jeepneys or taxis that can take over the next part of their journey. Making this a regular part of the commuting landscape should be on the agenda of the next government.
- Improve communication with people
More often than not, the failure to communicate leads to misunderstanding and disagreement between the leader and the governed. Government should improve its communication with the people. We need to be updated in a timely fashion as to where we are heading to so that we can throw support for its plans or call out mistakes if warranted.
- Mandate high quality service from transport franchisees
Aren’t we tired yet of substandard human conditions in our buses, jeepneys and trains? The next administration should introduce higher standards when it comes to comfort, convenience, reliability and safety. And this doesn’t have to be just with public utility providers, but also in the way the government delivers its services.
- Mandate active mobility among companies and government agencies
One deterrent to the adoption of cycling as a viable means of transport, is the fact that one doesn’t exactly arrive at work in a fresh state. If the government can mandate offices or buildings to provide shower facilities for its employees, then it would be closer to an ideal state where more cyclists will be on the road.
- Make motoring education part of syllabus in elementary and high school
Learning how to be responsible motorists, pedestrians and road users at an early age is crucial in instilling discipline in society. If we want to change things for the better, it is essential to ingraine the next generation with the correct norms at their most formative years.
- Revive ROTC and make it a community-based service program
Nobody likes baking under the sun half a day on weekends, but the ROTC program in college is more than just making more military sheep. It is about instilling discipline and love for the country. Tweaking the program to have more hours for community work, like traffic management or urban cleanup duties, can make it more relevant to the times.
- GMRC and citizen training as part of curriculum
Teaching good manners and right conduct is essential to creating a society that abides by and respects the law. When we were young, we were taught how to behave right towards others and how to respect other people. Sadly, that is something that today’s youth is lacking now all in the name of adopting K-12 world views. It is high time the government implements Republic Act 11476, or the GMRC and Values Education Act, so that we can have future generations who will give importance to their own culture and society.
- Willpower to right the wrongs
Elections will always produce leaders who have debts to pay. Let us hope and pray that the leaders we do get to elect next year will have the resolve to fulfill their campaign promises and abide by their platforms. The country needs a leader with a strong, iron will who will pursue what is good for the people and not bow down to advisers, critics or naysayers. There are too many wrongs that need to be made right already.
- Promote travel and tourism by using holiday economics
When Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was president, she instituted the practice of moving non-working holidays to Fridays if they happen to fall on a weekend. The result? More people took long vacations and weekends off during these times. The people who spent money then propped up the local and national economy. Hope we get to see this again with the next administration.
- Revive vehicle manufacturing by establishing incentives and creating a safe manufacturing haven
Political strife, labor disputes, flip-flopping economic policies, high electricity rates, red tape and corruption are just some of hindrances global corporations need to deal with when they set up shop in the country. Special economic zones should shield locators from these issues so that they can establish their operations here and provide employment to the countryside. More employment in the countryside means less congestion in the cities.
- Create a market that welcomes alternative energy vehicles
Electric vehicles and alternative energy vehicles are the new wave of mobilization. Even car companies are changing their portfolios to show more EVs in the lineup in the coming decade. The next government should enact policies, laws and measures to make EV mass adoption a practical and commonsensical choice. Together with alternative sources of energy, this can work to the country’s benefit in the long run.
- Abolish Bureau of Customs and create new customs authority
Who doesn’t have a horror story when it comes to dealing with customs? Honestly? With all the news about how institutionalized corruption is in this agency, shouldn’t the next administration consider revamping the whole bureau with new blood and new policies?
- Public bus services in major cities to control deployment
Instead of having franchisees dictate the operations and efficiency of bus services, perhaps it is high time the government takes back the role of providing reliable, comfortable transportation to the populace. It can then impose higher standards on subcontracted operators instead of leaving them to deliver subpar service.
- Instill a mass-transit culture
This is where communication’s role becomes crucial. The president or his transportation czar should regularly come on television, print, radio or online to convince people to take mass transit. Of course, that comes after ensuring the public’s safety from Covid-19. Transforming from a car-centric mindset to one where mass transit is the first option for mobility is not going to be easy, especially when the services on offer are sub-par. But it has to start somehow if we want to address congestion in urban areas.
- Lead by example
Positive optics aside, seeing the head of government regularly take the MRT train or a bus speaks a lot about the quality, efficiency and safety of mass transportation. People are swayed by what those in the higher echelons of society say and do. So if the next president can regularly take the train or bus and show people what should be done, then it would be easier to adopt the changes we all badly need. Photo-ops don’t count, though.
We suggest you listen and read about the different candidates’ agendas in the coming weeks and months. No one candidate will answer all these issues. But the one who is closest to covering the most bases should help alleviate our problems. And perhaps even prevent us from experiencing them again in the future. Vote wisely.