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The scourge of EDSA




Dr. Jun Ynares

Dr. Jun Ynares

Some friends forwarded to me a funny post on Facebook recently. The post read:

“Gumigising ka ng 3 a.m. kung in-love ka, may problema ka, or Taga-Rizal ka na ayaw ma-traffic sa EDSA.”

My initial reaction was to press the LOL key on the menu of reaction buttons. Then, I realized that the post spoke of a painful truth. It is a fact that many Rizaleños living as far as Montalban and Cardona have to wake up before the cock crows at dawn to beat the traffic in EDSA.

I have heard the stories of people who go through this kind of daily ordeal several times. Some of them wake up as early as 3 in the morning to prepare to leave and get to their places of work south of Metro Manila on time. They have to leave by 4 a.m. if they are to avoid tardiness.

Their strategy is to get to EDSA a little before 6 a.m. Their experience shows that traffic begins to build up at that famous thoroughfare just a little after 6 a.m. On a bad day, the build-up could begin much earlier than that. There have been times when they left their residences at dawn and made it to their places of work past 8 a.m. because something happened at EDSA which choked vehicle flow before the usual 6 a.m. build-up.

What makes the stories of these Rizaleños heartbreaking is the fact that the trip back to their residences east of Metro Manila is just as harrowing. Many of them get home by 9 p.m. That would give them just enough time to eat dinner, prepare for bed, and catch a glimpse of their children, before they would have to wake up and get ready for work the following day.

In 1992, the Rizal provincial government and the national government initiated the continuing widening of Ortigas Avenue – the road which connected the eastern Rizal towns with EDSA through Pasig City. The government hoped that the addition of one lane to each direction would help speed up the weekday travel along that road.

The effort paid off. There are observations, however, that the widening of Ortigas Avenue may have simply helped motorists and commuters get to the choke point faster. Circumferential Road 5 has been a big help. EDSA, however, remains the scourge.

We appreciate the efforts of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to continually look for ways to ease traffic along EDSA. We understand that some of the measures they have attempted to put in place have been controversial and may have failed to generate the needed support from the riding and motoring publics.

We also understand that, given its present mandate and extent of authority, the MMDA may not be in a position to put in place the long-term solutions which would ease the flow of traffic along EDSA. At best, the measures that the MMDA have been experimenting with are palliative in nature. We are, however, inspired by the fact that the MMDA has not given up on the problem and continues to look for ways to deal with it.

There are things we can do in the meantime while we hope and pray for long-term solutions.

First is to accept the fact that traffic at EDSA is a scourge we may have to bear for a much longer time. Accepting this fact does two things: reduce our level of disappointment and help us think more clearly about our alternatives.

Second is to be creative and innovative in our approach to our daily commute or drive through this thoroughfare. We believe that corporations and industries have accepted the fact and are adjusting work schedules and modes accordingly.

During the latest hearing at the Senate regarding the EDSA traffic woes, one senator (was it Senate President Tito Sotto?) said that the real solution is the “dispersal of economic opportunities.” The solon clearly pointed out that the traffic problem at EDSA may be due to the overconcentration of economic activities and opportunities in just a couple of major business centers, particularly Makati and Taguig cities.

So, people rush to those centers every working day of every week. In the mad dash to have a piece of these opportunities, they clog up EDSA. Weary from the day’s battle for those opportunities, they make a similar mad dash back to their residences in the evening and going through the same harrowing experience.

We believe the senator is right. The key is to disperse opportunities to other places and farther away from Metro Manila.

There are three vital elements to the bid to disperse economic opportunities.

First is infrastructure.

Second is private sector collaboration.

Third is impetus or the incentive for businesses and people to follow these economic opportunities which are created in areas away from traditional economic hubs.

The national government’s “Build, Build, Build” program is doing a lot to provide the infrastructure needed for the dispersal of economic opportunities. The private sector has been tapping these infrastructure to create new hubs.

It is interesting that a senator pointed out in a Senate hearing the need to disperse economic opportunities farther away from Metro Manila.

It is also interesting that the Philippine Senate was at one time in the perfect position to be part of the dispersal of such opportunities. It will be recalled that the Senate was scouting for a permanent site for its building. Three sites were considered in the final list — the Bonifacio Global City, the Clark Special Economic Zone, and Antipolo City.

The Senate faced a wonderful array of options. To build its permanent home in Clark would have helped disperse economic opportunities towards Central, Western and Northern Luzon. To build it in Antipolo City would have created new economic opportunities east and south of Metro Manila.

The Senate is now building its permanent home at the Fort Bonifacio Global City.

*For feedback, please email it to or send it to #4 Horse Shoe Drive, Beverly Hills Subdivision, Bgy. Beverly Hills, Antipolo City, Rizal.




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