(GRRRRR!) HELLISH!

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GIVEN the severe punishment being endured daily by millions of motorists and commuters due to hellish traffic situation in Metro Manila, there is an extreme urgency for the incoming Duterte administration to look for and introduce quick yet effective solutions.

EXTRAORDINARY COMMITMENT

However, there is no need to give incoming President Rodrigo Duterte emergency powers as proposed by some quarters.

Rather what is needed is an extraordinary commitment and dedication especially by the people he assigned to address the transport woes.

These newly appointed officials led by Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade should not forget that they are there to serve the people and not the big and moneyed corporations.

CORPORATE GREED

Various groups with Road Users Protection Advocates (RUPA) foremost among them are one in saying that the horrendous traffic situation from which the people are suffering is the end product of corporate greed.

They claimed that it could have been avoided had the outgoing Aquino government did its job accordingly and properly.

RUPA even postulated that President Duterte may have picked the wrong person for the DOTC given his connections with some big corporations that are believed to be responsible with the present traffic mess we are experiencing.

RUPA is calling on Tugade to explain to the people how he intends to solve the traffic problem, as the worsening traffic is pushing passengers and motorists on the verge of hopelessness.

“We hope to see concrete steps in the solution to the nightmares in our roads,” RUPA said adding that congestion of our roads is a result of confluence of mistakes from the past administrations.

QUESTIONABLE

Earlier reports indicated that Tugade had picked an undersecretary for transportation with questionable ties having come from the Ayala group and the move surely does not inspire trust and hope among motorists.

RUPA said it does not sit well with public that the name of Noel Kintanar, an executive of Ayala Group is being floated to join Tugade at the transport department.

A left-leaning advocacy group, Riles Network, agrees with RUPA on their fears about an Ayala executive leading the transportation policies of the government.

RUPA said “Kintanar joining Tugade is suspect at best as transport advocates see his entry to the DOTC service as designed “ to serve not the interest of the riding public but his corporate bosses”.

ONEROUS CONTRACT

Kintanar is best remembered to have authored an onerous contract on LRT Line 1 between DOTC and Ayala-MVP consortium.

According to Riles Network, the government lost billions of pesos in this agreement while allowing the consortium to recover its investment in less than two years.

It was alleged that Kintanar helped in drafting the P65-billion “onerous and one-sided contract” signed last year between the consortium of Ayala Corp. and Metro Pacific Investments Corp. – the lone bidder - and DOTC, a contract that was disadvantageous to the government.

Using public funds sourced via legislation, the Light Rail Manila Corporation (LRMC) took over LRT-1, including the LRT-1 extension from Baclaran to Bacoor, whose construction still hangs.

The takeover was on the pretext that LRT-1 was not earning, and its “entire fleet of coaches, railway, stations and fares of no value” so it had to be managed by the private sector.

GHOSTS OF THE PAST

What could be worse to Filipinos than having a DOTC that has created so much hatred to government? To most, DOTC is not Department of Transportation and Communications.

Rather, it is now known by its derisive meaning as Department of Torture and Commissions.

Indeed, top officials of that agency stand responsible for the daily torture that every Filipino commuter goes through, from traffic that brings one to office after three hours on road from Quezon City to Makati.

Every Filipino is praying that the current top officials of DOTC should be jailed and, better still, shot in Luneta, for their criminal neglect that is causing horror in our roads.

Outrage is an understatement on how Filipinos describe their feelings to President Aquino and his favored boys at the graft –ridden DOTC.

JITTERS

The still unconfirmed appointment of Kintanar DOTC is causing a lot of jitters on various sectors especially the motorists and the commuters.

As stated above, Kintanar is currently a top executive of the Ayala Group, which has been favored to bag juicy contracts in the DOTC, led by Secretary Emilio Abaya. He used to head the Philippine National Construction Corp. during the Arroyo administration.

He was reportedly responsible for the close to $1-billion Ayala Group investments in three PPP projects under the Aquino administration – ‎ P2.01-billion Daang Hari-South Luzon Expressway Link Project, P65-billion LRT Line 1 Cavite Extension and P1.72-billion Automatic Fare Collection System in partnership with Metro Pacific Investments.

The alarm over Kintanar’s alleged appointment has been brought to public attention by Sammy Malunes, an official of the left-leaning rail advocacy group Riles Network, and this first appeared in the June 16 column of Manila Standard editor-columnist Jojo Robles.

DUBIOUS

It is not clear if Tugade is aware of the allegations against Kintanar; if not, he should start asking his inner circle, or perhaps, meet with Malunes, so that early in the game, he could institute measures to prevent a repeat of controversies and allegations of graft against a discredited DOTC.

Tugade made good during his stint as chief executive officer of Clark Development Corp. and was instrumental in the transformation of the Clark economic zone into a viable, world-class enterprise.

It was welcome news when Tugade was first named to his post, especially by those who know his impressive credentials and achievements.

He should not squander his good name by surrounding himself with men and women of dubious character. He could help the President by not allowing the ghosts of past misdeeds and mismanagement.

MISTAKES

Certainly, the incoming government could benefit from the mistakes of the past government by not repeating what it did.

The first mistake is having an international airport right in the center of the metropolis. NAIA is a magnet to traffic of tens of thousands of cars every day.

The international airport should be brought out of the city. There is a study by a Japanese group to move the international airport to Cavite.

The second mistake is to allow the car companies and banks to flood our streets with new cars. “Every year hundreds of thousands of cars join the millions now clogging our roads,” RUPA said, adding that about 60 percent of the millions of cars in our country are in 15 percent of the country’s road network.

Third, correcting errors in the mass transit program and sending to jail those who made big money from these errors like the Ayala-MVP group.

RECOMMENDATIONS

RUPA is urging Duterte to heed the recommendation of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) to develop Sangley Point, Cavite, as the site of a modern $10-billion airport.

In a statement, RUPA challenged Duterte to make good on his campaign promise to solve the perennial problems besetting public transportation such as the worsening congestion at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

“We believe that President-elect Duterte has the vision and political will to find a long-term solution to the airport congestion in NAIA,” RUPA said.

It said building a new air gateway to Metro Manila would also help realize the incoming President’s economic agenda to entice more investments and create job opportunities.

“The public has been burdened by the airport congestion at Naia which the outgoing Aquino administration has miserably failed to address for the past six years,” RUPA continued.

BILLIONS IN LOSSES

“Even big businesses have been complaining about the billions of pesos in losses due to the late and cancelled flights in NAIA. The adverse effects of the airport problem would definitely be felt by the economy for years,” the group added.

Citing government records, RUPA said airline companies have been losing some P7 billion a year from additional fuel costs and engine maintenance due to the air congestion in Naia.

Philippine Airlines, the country’s flag carrier, had to spend about P84,000 in fuel and labor expenses for every 30-minute delay in its flight, the group said.

Built to accommodate 25 million passengers a year, RUPA said the country’s premier gateway is currently servicing 35 million passengers annually.

MORE FEASIBLE

RUPA said JICA’s plan to construct an airport with four runways in Sangley Point, a former US naval base, was more feasible and financially viable than developing Clark Airport in Pampanga as an alternative to NAIA.

“Since Cavite is nearer to Metro Manila than Pampanga, the land travel of passengers would be much easier. The government would no longer spend on building a train system going to Clark as the existing Cavitex (Manila-Cavite Expressway) would be able to accommodate vehicles going to Sangley Point,” it said.

The DOTC has previously expressed its support to JICA’s proposal, which has since been submitted to the National Economic and Development Authority for study.

In its proposal, Jica said Sangley International Airport, which could open as early as 2025, would be able to service some 55 million passengers annually and expand to accommodate 75 million more passengers in the next 25 years.

Outgoing Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said the ambitious infrastructure project would require 2,000 hectares of reclaimed land.