Only real solution to the traffic hell: Regime Change

The real solution for metro Manila’ s traffic horror has been staring us in the face, as much as the on-and-off red brake lights had stared at you for four hours at EDSA the other night: Regime Change.

The solution is to remove President Aquino, who has been, as the country’s chief executive, totally responsible for this daily horror to millions of residents of metropolitan Manila. The solution is to prevent from ever assuming power over this nation his clone Manuel Roxas 2nd, or anybody remotely sharing this incompetent leader’s mentality.

The biggest factor for the traffic horrors in metropolitan Manila has been Aquino’s utter failure to improve the infrastructure that would have de-clogged EDSA, mainly the MRT-3 that runs along EDSA which had functioned quite well under the previous administrations and had carried millions of Filipinos swiftly and safely to work.

I was stunned that the business community’s favorite Cabinet member, Rene Almendras, would have this hare-brained idea that the 45-man Highway Patrol Group of mostly beer-bellied motorcycle riders would solve the problem. Did Almendras think this feared group — known for decades as having members with links to car napping syndicates and as a motorcycle-escort group you contract for tourist buses and for wedding and funeral convoys – would instill terror among traffic violators and thereby solve the traffic problem?

That is the kind of batty solutions we will expect under an Aquino or an Aquino 2.0 regime. If the HPG fails, would Aquino order the SAF to EDSA with their Armalites?

That we were approaching a traffic Armageddon had been clear since the late 1990s. This prodded the Ramos administrations to prioritize the building of the mass transit system along EDSA (MRT-3) and along the Aurora Boulevard (LRT-2). The Arroyo regime continued Ramos’ projects to complete LRT-2’s Santolan (Pasig) to Cubao section and from Cubao to Legarda section. Arroyo also ordered built massive pumping stations in Manila to quickly remove floodwaters that had been the source of horrendous traffic over the years.

Daang Matrapik: A netizen vents his anger using a viral photo of Wednesday’s ‘carmagggedon’.
Daang Matrapik: A netizen vents his anger using a viral photo of Wednesday’s ‘carmagggedon’.

Yet what did Aquino and his sidekick Roxas do as soon as they assumed office? For some inexplicable reason, Aquino stopped completing the new C-6 circumferential road Ramos started, so that even the C-5 which you were supposed to travel through to avoid the EDSA traffic is often as clogged.

Aquino junked unilaterally in 2010 a project to be undertaken by a top Belgian engineering firm, almost totally funded by the Belgian government’s cheap official development assistance loans, to dredge the Laguna Bay and the canals leading to it so that floodwaters in Metro Manila would flow swiftly to that basin.

Flood-control project stopped
Aquino alleged that it involved graft by this predecessor, and even defied a resolution in the House of Representatives asking him to continue the project. After five years, the Ombudsman hasn’t even bothered to assign a single lawyer to investigate Aquino’s allegations, although this administration succeeded in getting one of the champions of the project Laguna governor “ER” Ejercito removed form office.

We will soon lose the P7 billion case the Belgian firm filed against us for the project’s cancellation at the World Bank’s International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes.

The project would have been finished two years ago, and Aquino had not undertaken any initiative to replace that Belgian project. As a result, just half an hour of heavy rains flooded strategic areas of Manila the other night, the trigger for the five-hour paralysis of Manila.

Second, Aquino grossly mismanaged the MRT-3, so that it now is close to completely breaking down, and now carries just a tenth of the daily commuters during the previous administration. The kilometer-long queues to get on MRT-3, its slowness because its wheels had been worn out of shape, fewer train cars as most could no longer be repaired, bent car rails, all these reduced the commuters it could carry, so that more buses, “FX” vehicles, and private cars have clogged EDSA.

Canadian aircraft-maker Bombardier’s engineers who were initially hired to maintain the signaling system they built left in a huff in 2013 when they stopped receiving their fees. Now, instead of relying on high-tech sensors along the lines feeding into a computer that Bombardier had put in place, the trains’ drivers, would you believe, now resort to cheap walkie-talkies to warn the next station of their arrivals.

With the deterioration of the trains, middle class employees who had been using the MRT-3 had no choice but to purchase cheap Korean-made cars to commute to their offices, while their richer counterparts bought second cars to evade the color-coding scheme.

But Aquino stupidly said the increase in car sales is proof of economic growth. That remark revealed how low this government had prioritized the tariff problem – which Secretary Emilio Abaya’s more recent traffic-isn’t-fatal remark confirmed.

Roxas, as transport and communications secretary until October 2012, delayed for months the renewal of the maintenance contract for MRT-3 by the Japanese consortium Mitsubishi-Sumitomo, which built and had been running the system for a decade. Sumitomo in fact it had been boasting over its MRT-3’s performance for years as its sales pitch to sell similar systems to cities abroad.

Two days after Roxas left office, the P1.2 billion maintenance contract was given to a shadowy consortium of local companies. It was later unearthed that it had the relative of MRT manager Al Vitangcol and a known Liberal Party financial supporter as its incorporators. The Ombudsman filed charges of graft on this contract in July this year against Vitangol and the owners of the contractor for corruption, four years after the allegations were raised.

Instead of buying Czech train cars that had proven their worth after ten years, the DOTC is now hoping that the MRT-3 would still be operating officially on the cars it ordered from a company in Aquino’s favorite county, China. The firm though had never built the kind of train cars MRT-3 uses, and the proto-type would arrive only next month for testing. (I hope the Chinese don’t use a commercial contract to get back at Aquino, just as it did in 2013 when it held up our banana exports, on flimsy grounds that these needed extra inspection for some plant disease.)

Subsequent events and disclosures point to why the Czech company isn’t supplying the MRT-3’s trains. The Czech ambassador to Manila, Josef Rhyctar alleged that DOTC officials led by – again – DOTC official Vitangcol were demanding $30 million in grease-money if they wanted the business.

First time in diplomatic history
That is the first time in the two centuries of diplomatic history that an ambassador has accused the officials of the host country of corruption.

This will be the first President after Marcos (who built and finished LRT-1) who will not inaugurate a single new rail line, even as the detailed plans for these had been made years ago.

The Arroyo administration built in 18 months several kilometers of light railway for LRT-1 and MRT-3 to meet at North Avenue, so that travellers from the north could ride the Balintawak station and get off at Ayala or at Baclaran.

They don’t want to or they can’t since after five years, the Aquino administration hasn’t built the common station between the two lines at North Avenue, so that they use cars or even decrepit jeepneys to travel along EDSA. Why?

Aquino suddenly ordered the plans changed: instead of having the common station at the SM Mall, according to the plan approved by his predecessor, the common station would now be at the Ayala’s Trinoma. SM has sued, course. Now it would take years for the suit to be resolved, unless a powerful president with no love lost with the Ayalas, intervenes.

Roxas 2nd was DOTC secretary for two years during which he could have laid down a firm plan for the improvement of the mass-transit systems in metro Manila. After all, he is the right-hand man of, and even half the brain (the other half is Abad) of Aquino — who is ultimately responsible for the hell that is EDSA everyday for millions of Filipinos.

Yet he has the gall to ask Filipinos to elect him as president next year?

He with his boss Aquino should be put in jail for criminal negligence that has resulted in billions of pesos in economic activity lost, for the suffering of a million working Filipinos who commute to work along EDSA every day.

Yet he has the gall to claim that our country needs another six years of Daang Matuwid, when it has been proved beyond the shadow of a doubt to be Daang Matrapik!

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