The passing scene
With just a few months left, one cannot avoid the feeling of the passing of an era. Credit the current Constitution that prohibits a President to seek re-election but serve a full term twice as long as local government executives. Now six years, depending on where you sit, may well be three years too long or too short.
APEC summit, Daang Matuwid's crown
Still, the klaxon call began when the APEC summit introduced to the public the last and the latest of the President's big guns — Sec. Almendras, his so-called trouble shooter and temporary de-facto traffic czar. To us, APEC's success is the hospitality and tourism options displayed to our global colleagues at International Press Center and the culminating dinner showcasing the finest in creative Filipino haute cuisine along with our green interpretation of sustainable interior design. Great party and if one is a fan of the Palace, one can even add the wonderful sunset by the Bay that POTUS (President of the United States) admired from his Sofitel balcony.
Hard habit to break
Much as this administration, always prone to patting itself on the back, claimed that the APEC summit traffic management was a success, our experience in the long 6 years that passed, is, like many things it has not failed to do, this government has a habit of making things worse.
Red, the light to beat
At least, we initially consoled ourselves with a surfeit of water-fillable orange bollards apres APEC — the better to control traffic on unruly EDSA, now that the PNP HPG is visually and operationally in charge. But as we said in our posts immediately following the traffic czar's changes on EDSA, the replacement of the U-turn system at EDSA-Congressional-Roosevelt with traffic lights was not only a return to the long traffic cycle waiting queue traffic days before Bayani Fernando's U-turn slots in 2004, but also to the dangerous habit of disregarding red lights from dusk till dawn. Result? Another bus-to-bus collision during the wee hours. The traffic authorities should learn a basic Filipino tendency during the wee hours when many regard a red light as the light to beat. You don't have that problem with the paired U-turns.
The answer: bollards, blowing in the wind
With APEC bollards coming out of the MMDA's ears, the authorities proceeded to cordon off whole sections of EDSA's yellow lane, resulting in unwarranted constriction of entry and exit merging of private vehicles. As if the majority of Filipino drivers know how to execute a proper merge, traffic on EDSA (usually a bit more bearable after New Year), was just as bad as the pre-Christmas rush. Along with the rush to deploy the APEC bonus kitty of all these bollards, some bollards were placed empty of water content, leading to comic scattering of said bollards, blown away whether by the monsoon wind or the wake generated by buses speeding merrily along on their yellow lanes.
Anti-20in” mag ridges
Some parts of EDSA were subjected to tire height concrete ridges in place of bollards. The curbs were too low to be spotted on close quarters and Lord knows how many a bent alloy wheel or worse, a launch-on-the-fly mishap these nearly invisible curbs have caused. Might the MMDA try copying what Rome and Paris applied to delineate their Bus lanes: longitudinal rubber wedges with embedded LED lights or reflectors that allow a gentle ramp up when grazed by an auto-sized alloy wheel. Perhaps the MMDA can regain its powers and common sense now that the President's trouble shooter in chief has been reassigned elsewhere, hopefully the MIAA.
“Daang Matuwid, Daang Manhid”
Even if many pundits call these last few months as the lame duck months, there's still a lot to do if the aim is to perpetuate the legacy of “Daang Matuwid” (straight path). True, the fears of the reversals of reform are imminent, judging by the habits of incoming administrations, but it doesn't mean the current sitting administration should not give it a try. Remember, a Supreme Court justice from the last admin was alleged to be a “midnight appointment”? But what about a “midnight disposal” of appointees who have either made more trouble or plainly failed to perform? The Public has been clamoring for their heads for a long time now but “Daang Manhid” (numb path) stands its ground. If these functionaries are allies or blood relatives, well, not bloody likely, so they enjoy it while it lasts while spending their time surfing the net for pro-administration blogs by out-of-touch Fil-ams and acting like deaf-mute presidential spokespersons.
Act, not blame
Of immediate import are the projects, PPP funded and regular government appropriations, that are on stream, and some say, rushed with too many technical faults or missing elements that remain unrectified. The biggest problem is the RROW or road/rail right-of-way acquisition. RROW delays bedevils not only the NAIA Skyway, but also the NLEx Harbor Link, the NLEx-C-5-Katipunan Segment link, the C-5-CAVITEx link, MMSS3 (Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3) and, out in the provinces, the TPLEx route to Rosario, La Union. Work should commence and this begins by ceasing to blame the nation's laws that protect basic property rights. RROW acquisition has hardly begun for the all-important and awarded CALAx project. More RROW delays face the Central Luzon Expressway and Plaridel bypass expressway. The Swiss Challenge to the Metro link NLEx connector has stalled, a victim of election attention paralysis and administrative wait-and-see.
Major design faults of MMSS3
MMSS3 has yet to address the technical design for the PUP section where the crucial common alignment link to the Metro-link NLEx connector adjoins. Without this, MMSS3 will be disjointed between Plaza Dilao and G. Araneta Ave. Though delayed, MMSS3 has been coordinating with the authorities to design the MMSS3-C-3 link to NLEx Harbor Link. But the more important redesign is the Balintawak-A. Bonifacio ramps of MMSS3. As it is, the ramps from the elevated to the at-grade — parallel instead of staggered — constrict the at-grade A. Bonifacio which will result in a repeat of the horrible daily traffic jams Skyway users experienced for years when Stage 1 only had parallel temporary ramps at Bicutan. Those Stage 1 ramps were the scene of frequent traffic blocking merging collisions which will surely clog the Balintawak clover leaf, EDSA and NLEx.
Selective vision, selective comprehension
TRB (Toll Regulatory Board) is being hauled to court for 6 years of inaction on contracted toll fare adjustments, giving the public the lame excuse that the contract “allows only for a reasonable increase in toll fares” despite the provision of a precise mathematical formula to compute toll fare adjustments. But then the TRB, like many DoTC and government public utility administrators, have appointees who have “selective vision” when it comes to clauses in the BOT (build operate transfer] contracts that do not favor the populist whims of the Palace.
Hope for the failed LLDEx?
We've left out the LLDEx, the Laguna Lake Dike Expressway PPP, this government's biggest and most ambitious infrastructure project. Like we predicted, the project as designed was bound to fail but it doesn't mean it is not feasible. The LLDEx is such a huge undertaking so we will tackle this in a post all its own.
A round of self-applause for the imbeciles
As for the rest of the problematic projects and agencies — MRT3, LRT, MWSS, LTO, MIAA, BCDA, PNR, DoTC — much time has been wasted tinkering and abolishing with what works just because of Daang Matuwid's favorite bogeyman, unproven accusations of corruption blamed on previous administrations. The public is left but with no choice to bear with the powerful pockets of incompetence that thrived in these agencies through the past 6 years. For this alone, many are pinning their hopes on the new incoming administration which should hopefully rid us of “Daang Manhid's” culture of self congratulatory incompetence.