A mayor of Bogota, the capital city of Colombia, was once quoted as saying, “A developed country isn’t where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transportation.”
And that, in a nutshell, is how democracy ought to work on the streets: Power to the people, power to mass transport systems and to alternative means of transport. The most developed and progressive societies don’t flood their surroundings with cars and expressways. Mobility is always balanced with efficient mass transport systems, road networks that are people-centric (conducive to bicycles, walking, and other forms of personal transport), and environmental considerations such as the preservation of green spaces even in the busiest urban settings.
Our next set of elected leaders must be aware of the harsh realities of our transport systems, the deep-rooted culture perpetuating them, and then be ready with realistic, doable action plans to improve the situation. That’s possible only if these leaders have had actual experience of being public commuters themselves, and have suffered through our maddening traffic jams, inhaled noxious fumes from smoke-belching buses and jeeps, or have been edged or bullied into the side of the road by behemoth SUVs with sirens, blinkers, and police escorts.
Our next leaders would have absorbed all these experiences and integrated them into their plans of action for the country for the next six years. They must also take full advantage of the recently enacted Evida law which seeks to develop the electrification of transport and its allied industries. And these leaders must gain enough trust from the public so that their plans would be realized sooner with the wholehearted cooperation of citizens. That trust only comes when these leaders have proven track records, untainted with corruption, and transparent beyond reproach.
I asked some of my sources in the beat, and here’s their own take on the qualities of a good leader for the transport industry.
Department of Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato dela Pena said: “A leader must be a champion of local technology capability. A leader must work towards more self-reliance in meeting basic needs. A leader must be willing to invest more government funds to build local industry capability, particularly in technology based industries. He or she must find a way of giving preference to local products in government purchases provided the products meet the required standards. A leader must always be proud of Filipino expertise and ingenuity, and must always consider inclusivity, productivity and sustainability in undertaking programs and projects. A leader must have a dream to create wealth for our country.”
Dr. Enrico Paringit, Executive Director of DOST’s Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development, asserted: “As we bounce back from the economic slump we experienced in the pandemic, the importance of mass transport once again takes center stage as traffic and urban mobility return to high gear. Moving into a post-pandemic scenario, we need leaders who will help us maximize the opportunities that we will be seeing in the coming years. We need leaders who are data-driven and science-oriented, to listen to our researchers and scientists and consider the data on-hand in coming up with policies and projects. We need leaders who have empathy, who listen to the plight of our daily commuters and consider their needs in putting out solutions. We need transparency, to earn the trust of our people for us to implement efficient and effective programs in the transport sector.”
Edmund Araga, president of the Electric Vehicle Association of the Philippines, said: “I hope that the next leader would be a champion for manufacturing supporting local industry players in pushing for job creation and one who really is an advocate and not merely focusing on his vested interest.”
“Simple lang. Be sensible,” was the cryptic answer of Alberto Suansing, former chief of the Land Transportation Office and current senior consultant of the Department of Transportation.
Base your choices tomorrow on the candidates’ track record, not their campaign promises. You’ll know a skillful, safe, and responsible driver not by how he or she works his mouth while driving, but by how the rest of his or her body behaves.