It took presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo three and a half hours to get from his home in New Manila in Quezon City to his office in Malacanang in Manila last Friday. He left the house at 5:15 a.m., took three jeepney rides – New Manila to Cubao, to Marikina, and to Gilmore — then hitchhiked on a private motorcycle to the New Executive Building in Malacanang, arriving at 8:46 a.m.
Panelo said he usually took his car to get to the office in about 40 minutes, 90 minutes during rush hours. He said he took the jeepney rides to accept a challenge by some groups so he would experience what ordinary office workers and students have to go through every morning and every evening.
He has been saying there is no transport crisis, which he said means a total breakdown with nothing to ride, the entire traffic paralyzed. . What we have , he said, is just traffic crisis which he blamed on too many cars, many traffic violations, inefficient traffic management, and not enough roads.
“We’re 20 years behind” on our roads,” he said, which is why the government is now building skyways and bridges, widening streets, and opening new routes under “Build, Build, Build.” He has suggested that commuters can try to arrive at their destinations on time by starting earlier.
But this must not be accepted as the “new normal,” he said. “Hindi dapat ganoon. It cannot be permanent. We have to change it.” Transport officials know the problem and they are doing something about it, he said.
The commuters of Metro Manila have been able to live with the traffic situation. Long before spokesman Panelo advised them to just wake up earlier, they have been doing just that. They stand in line for rides, go about their daily schedules, then go through the same routine of waiting for rides and then spending hours on the road before they can get home.
They appreciate what the government is now trying to do – especially the construction of elevated highways — but wish it could be done a lot faster. They appreciate various efforts to lower the number of vehicles using city streets, but wish the planners can come up with the right formula.
Spokesman Panelo must be commended for leaving his car and taking public transportation to his office last Friday. At least, he has experienced in one day what thousands have to go through every day. Perhaps he can now be a spokesman for the people who have been patiently living this daily problem of three-hour traffic in the morning and another three hours in the evening.
The people accept that the government is trying to solve the problem. They just hope the government can do better.
Tags: Roni Santiago