Roaming Metro Manila

By Buddy Gomez

Posted at Apr 22 2015 10:30 PM | Updated as of Apr 23 2015 07:19 AM

The sane and logical reaction to uncomfortable and suffocating tightness is to loosen up. Space has limitations. Manila’s limited space is abused and calling out for succor and deliverance!

A metaphor we are all familiar with is the elevator. When its passenger load reaches its capacity, it is immobilized. The car will not budge, going up or going down, unless some passengers got off.

Another example is a movie house and its seating capacity. I remember that during the big flood in 1943 Manila, the “palco,” as the balcony section of a movie house was called, of the Cine Tivoli (in Plaza Santa Cruz, between the Escolta and Avenida Rizal) was overloaded with moviegoers that fateful day. Because the orchestra section was flooded waist high, all had to watch the movie in the second level--the ‘balcony’ section. The over capacitated cinema balcony collapsed by sheer people weight, resulting in a couple of fatalities and the rest injured. The movie was “The Perils of Nyoka," a jungle girl type of class B black-and-white movie.

Congestion in inadequate space is a safety concern. Metro Manila (or sections thereof) is poised for a collapse.

Municipal ordinances impose such capacity limits on restaurants, as well, for safety and sanitary reasons. But for the rest of the population’s living space, simply nil. Immobility, disorder, hazards and chaos, even rage, are natural consequences of over capacitating and congestion.

Motor vehicles have cargo and passenger capacities, as we all know only to well. Why should it not be the same with space within city boundaries? Are we not now experiencing this in Metro Manila? You bet! And we are approaching a catastrophic congestion. And nobody is getting off!

As early as a generation ago, the ‘tightness’ of Metro Manila as a major people concern and common complaint was already a known factor. Verified statistically. A much neglected public sentiment.

In a pulse-taking study in preparation for the 1992 elections, conducted by credentialed UP academics, the congestion of both people and motor vehicles and the social ills that these were breeding turned out to be a very prime, as yet unvoiced, concern. The results of that survey were actually meant to be utilized during the electoral campaign as worthy issues and fed into the public debate stream. It would have added a dimension of sanity in an otherwise gimmicky and boisterous political and partisan campaign much given to inanities.

Nothing of the sort ever happened. And as usual, campaigns have never risen to an issue-oriented level. Worse yet, the survey results were forgotten. One wonders if the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) is even cognizant of these findings. Or for that matter, does NEDA even care!

Are we all, after all, subliminally masochistic? How much more pain tolerance can Metro Manila stand?

TAXI-RIDING

I have done some taxi-riding these past days through the length of EDSA, from its northern extent in Quezon City towards Makati and through radial thoroughfares and side streets. It is a maddeningly frustrating experience. Ever worse than it was a year ago. And as the sun rises from the east, it will be worse next year and even more in the years ahead.

“Decongestion and an intelligent population dispersal” is the absolute only solution to this malaise of Metro Manila. It is a daily calvary hourly endured and accepted by all commuters. I have experienced what have been spoken of and written about interminably by many critics and commentators. I wish to add my own to that seemingly unheeded call.

Empty and half-empty buses hog much of street space all along the stretch. They are the most visible and almost solely the major cause of traffic jamming impeding vehicular flow.

The lack of discipline and the absence of road courtesy are patent. (That is the unconquerable blot on the Filipino psyche which automatically disappears when the Pinoy joins the diaspora. Is the better Filipino away from home? Does he become an improved homo erectus by leaving his nest?)

Solutions have been serially proferred without any alleviating action taken. Almost every year, announcements are made about the transfer and relocation of the provincial bus terminals that dot every so many meters the frontage of EDSA on both sides. Not one of these terminals have moved. The commute to and out of these terminals do add to the additional concentration of congestion along EDSA. Evidently, the regulatory agencies are inutile and simply full of hot air. Or, sadly corrupt!

Side streets and main streets are still veritable parking lots for the jeepneys, either cooling their engines or waiting for fare to load. Double-parking along two-lane streets has become a habit that is imbued with impunity!

On the contrary, the Ayala and the Makati Central Business District administered areas, despite the gargantuan volume of motor vehicles and pedestrians, are well ordered. The flows are more disciplined and consistent with accepted norms of road courtesy.

IRRELEVANT OCCUPANCIES

Space in our metropolis is now molested by irrelevant occupancies. These are entities and their corresponding activities that no longer require a Manila-based presence. Do play some mind games and identify them. There are many of them and you may use your toes, too, in counting which these are. Mostly, instrumentalities of national and regional government that can deliver its services from non-Manila venues.

Most doable, however, in terms of ease and timing of implementation, are the provincial bus terminals, for starters. Bus terminals have no sane reason to be competing for space in the middle of a congested populace when they ought to be positioned at the outer boundaries of population centers for an efficiently facile ingress and egress from and to non–Metro Manila destinations. All that the relevant government agencies have undertaken is to deliver tons of lip service.

Commerce will relocate to where profits can be gained. Private enterprise is necessarily a camp-follower, which brings me to what the national government can do to jumpstart that much desired decongestion and intelligent population dispersal, to de-imperialize Manila. So that the benefits of economic progress as well as social ills are more equitably spread out--better enhanced and more efficiently solved, respectively. “Progress shared is progress doubled. Problems shared are problems halved!” is a very practical mantra.

SECURITY CAMPS

Why must encampments and communities of our Armed Forces continue to impose their irrelevant presence in the midst of a suffocatingly teeming civilian population? The thought is absolutely not intended to diminish much less denigrate the essential, existential need for an Armed Force in the life of the Nation.

But they can, beyond question, render an inarguable, incontestable benefit to the country--summum bonum or for the greatest good for the greater many--by finding a more relevant location and create their own self-contained economic communities. In fact, the relocation of camps and families will redound to a better quality of life, as a measure of gift, to country’s defenders. An Army town, here and there in Central Luzon and in Mindanao.

With advances in information technology, the Department of National Defense need not be in ensconced in Cubao. Camp Crame need not be across the street.

The Philippine Army GHQ need not be in Taguig, either. Villamor Airbase and its par 72 golf course need not share the very tight and congested space with the country’s gateway to the world.

The Philippine Air Force is headquartered in the Paranaque/Pasay vicinity sharing space, runways and taxiways with the International Airport. The facility ought to relocate to some corner of Clark or even Iba, Zambales! A kingdom and realm, exclusively all its own!

Having the Philippine Navy headquartered along Roxas Boulevard is, I hate to say, a locational anomaly. Why not create a Navy Town--lock, stock and barrel--somewhere in the northwest shores of Panay Island, creating our own version of a San Diego or a Norfolk out of metropolitan Iloilo City.

With the support communities of camp-following families, people, payroll, services--can commerce be far behind?

LIVING HELL

A criminal neglect--a ‘sponsored’ “living hell” in QC! Between Quezon Avenue and Timog, that stretch along EDSA, just a block or two off east of the Philippines’ most famous thoroughfare, are the principal streets of NIA and BIR. (National Irrigation Administration and the Bureau of Internal Revenue both of whose edifices front EDSA.) The vicinity is a walk away from the Quezon Memorial rotunda.

This most unfortunate spot on planet earth is occupied by fellow human beings who are allowed by the authorities of Quezon City to thrive along the very sidewalks and even the center islands. They are Philippines society’s poorest of the poor, most probably the world’s, as well.

I have never witnessed a more wretchedly destitute, grimy and emaciated, totally unkempt, pitiable human beings clad in tattered rags. They are sheltered, if that is best description available, by ground-level makeshift hovels, tie-down lean-tos, sheds made of discarded cardboard boxes and plastic sheets. They just lie there and most probably will die there!

This is where they exist and manage to breathe, to eke a life as eeeeeckingly as sufferingly tolerated by what a human body can. It is unsightly ugly. Unsanitary ugly. Unsafe ugly. It is cringingly ugly hell! This is man’s inhumanity to man! This is from where they beg, steal, rob and collect from the detritus in a Quezon City authorized garbage dump just beyond the walls, literally a stone’s throw from EDSA! And yonder by a few meters distance is a squatter colony, a trap as well as an enclosure of every imaginable social ill and evil of the world.

It is hell on earth and it is in Quezon City!

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.