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Before we realize the implications of the realization that 2022 is also read as “2020 too”, let us look back at how we all managed to withstand another round of COVID-19-induced hardships and challenges in 2021 to come out stronger and wiser than ever before.

This year has been fraught of ups and downs. Frankly, it is like any year except that we have the specter of COVID-19 still bearing down on us, ready to drive us back into isolation the moment we let our guard down. While mass vaccination has indeed allowed us to attain 200+ new cases a day in the last few weeks, experiences from other countries show that our progress can all be for naught if we disregard the virus’ potential to wreak havoc again.

Be that as it may, motoring and mobility has seen several highlights that have the potential to impact our daily lives in the year to come. So let’s turn back the clock and remind ourselves how far we have come in 2021.

The PMVIC row

After a botched introduction that resembled a large bitter pill back in January, the Private Motor Vehicle Inspection Center project of the Department of Transportation and the Land Transportation Office was relegated to near non-relevance after public clamor called for its scrapping.

Truth be told, modernization of vehicle inspection has been long overdue. The DOTr with all its foresight and progressive thinking was on the right track to get this project rolling. Except that it failed to factor procedural lapses in engaging the private sector to invest in the concept. The lesson here? It is one thing to feed good food to people for their good health, it is quite another to shove it down their throats.

Opening of Skyway Stage 3

Hallelujah! The long awaited savior of hundreds of thousands of motorists from crippling daily Edsa traffic is open! Now we can all drive from Alabang to NLEx in 15 minutes! Wait, it costs how much now? Oh, okay… maybe we’ll just take it once a week then. Or maybe every other week? Once a month? We’ll just take Edsa.

No doubt Skyway Stage 3 indeed cuts down travel time and makes north to south journeys in Metro Manila more convenient. But, as expected, it comes at a price. At P264 end-to-end, it is not exactly cheap. It can easily take away P10,000 from your monthly pay if you take it both ways every day to go to work, for example.

The 50,000 cars a day it was supposed to remove from Edsa has not translated into less traffic in the capital region’s main thoroughfare. Here is a thought, perhaps we are looking at wrong solutions to our traffic problems?

PAREx debacle

Riding on the goodwill that Skyway Stage 3 has delivered, its proponents, San Miguel Corp., managed to break ground this year with its Pasig River Expressway proposal. However, the plan to create an elevated tollway along the banks of the Pasig River did not sit well with environmentalists, urban planners and heritage conservationists.

This is what happens when we let one sector choose the path for the majority instead of creating a framework of consultation with various stakeholders. Maybe the next administration will impose a more open and transparent system of providing solutions. Instead of relying on low hanging fruits or the take it or leave it approach.

The subway dream

The DOTr is relentless when it comes to introducing infrastructure projects it thinks will help provide safe, convenient and reliable transportation. The Metro Manila Subway will soon see the light of day as boring machines have already arrived to start creating the underground routes. Though we will see its full operation in 2027 still, we welcome the implementation of the project after almost 50 years of government procrastination. Better late than never.

More bicycle lanes

COVID-19 surely turned our worlds upside down. With public transportation still unable to provide the capacity and health security people need to keep from being infected by the virus, many people have turned to bicycles for their daily transportation needs. Bicycle lanes along major thoroughfares now provide cyclists some space to move across cities. Granted not all are made to ideal specifications, bicycle lanes seem to be here to stay. Now if only we can change the mindset of LGUs and the people to opt for the healthier mobility option.

10-year Driver’s License

With the crazy habits of Filipino motorists displayed everyday, one would argue if anyone would actually qualify for a 10-year driver’s license validity. Well, apparently many do. While there are new requirements imposed to improve the education of our drivers, it is still a welcome development for many motorists not to queue at LTO branches every three years.

Will it solve the lack of discipline on the streets? Probably not. But hope is not all lost. Instituting change has never been easy especially when the culture of corruption has taken root.

No man is an island

The world does not revolve around the Philippines, or even Metro Manila for that matter. As we have experienced this past year, skyrocketing fuel prices around the world can have an impact on our daily lives. Gasoline pump prices at P70 per liter have been unheard of until now. But as we have seen, anything is possible.

The chip shortage being experienced by car manufacturers has halted assembly lines and kept new cars from reaching new customers. Even the meteoric rise of Tesla as the world’s most valuable car company bodes well for Electric Vehicle manufacturers. And as American and Japanese brands continue to resist the transition to electrification, there is no denying that a new wave of mobility will soon transform our idea of transportation.

What both 2020 and 2021 have shown us is that we are no longer living on our own little island. What happens around the world can have an impact on our daily lives. That our energies are better spent on preparing for a more resilient and forward-looking future instead of complaining about the PMVICs, PARExes and traffic jams of our daily existence.

May 2022 bring about a renewed hope for better times for all of us. That choice of course, is in our hands.

This column appeared in the December 26, 2021 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

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