I’ve recently started promoting a site called change.org. Specifically, there’s a campaign on that site petitioning government officials to commute to work. Or in the case of President Benigno Aquino III, to ride the public transport at least once a month. He lives and works in the Presidential Palace and there’s no need for him to leave the place to go to work. He can work from home if he wants to.
As I was saying, change.org has about a hundred petitions asking different local and national government officials to take the bus, jeep or train to work. On the surface, this looks like a quixotic quest as there is no reason these public servants should accede to the petitions. They have access to government vehicles with allotted fuel budgets which they can use for whatever purpose they want. They do not have to justify their use of these vehicles.
The problem with mass transit in the Philippines is inadequacy and lack of focus. In Metro Manila there are an estimated ten million people living or working within its boundaries. This number includes those who live outside of the metropolis but work or study in the city. About 80% of the population do not have their own vehicles and have to commute.
There is a mass transit system built around three light rail lines. There are at least two light rail commuter lines set to start construction soon. There is a new elevated rail line connecting Clark and Manila. There is also the continuation of the Skyway project connecting the South Luzon Expressway with the North Luzon Expressway.
What these new projects will do would be to make it convenient to for commuters to get to the city. What THAT would result in would be a lot more people commuting to Metro Manila. Meantime, travel within the city will continue to depend on the existing light rail, buses, jeeps, and UV shuttle vans.
There is no space for road widening, and no space for new roads. The traffic is expected to worsen and then worsen some more. After it gets worse, it will get a lot worse.
Government officials have not been seen doing anything about the ordinary citizen’s daily plight. Commuting is a hardship for a lot of people. For office workers it could take up to two hours to get to the office. Some spend a total of as much as six hours daily getting to and from work.
The petitions aim to get public officials to experience firsthand the daily stress of the commute. There may be small chance of that but it is a way for citizens to express their disgruntlement before things get ugly.