Pity all the other big and thriving multi-million population metropolitan agglomerations in these islands. Despite their likeness to Manila — situated right next to navigable bodies of water, surrounded by lots of plains to sprawl, while nearby mountains or higher elevations provide for cooler environs, circumferential roads with the ubiquitous Vista Land communities — Davao, Cebu, Legazpi, etc. suffer from the domination of “Imperial” Manila. So what gave Manila the right to lord it over metros that are not any less endowed?
Imperial Manila and LGU autonomy
The answer lies in centralized national government, a 50-plus year-old Republican concept meant to unify an archipelago of 7,000 islands. But this is slowly and ever so slightly, being eroded away by Sen. Nene Pimentel, when he advocated and implemented intensified independence/autonomy for local governments in 1986, reaching as far as last year's Congressional bill calling for a Federation of the Philippines. Though still largely dependent on the national treasury's largesse for funding, LGUs (local government units) could, within reasonable parameters, collect and spend certain taxes and enact ordinances without the permission of Imperial Manila. True, enhanced local government autonomy is not without its abuses. Just like when the municipality of Makati became the Republic of Binay, defying the directives of the Office of the President and the MMDA during the GMA regime. Nevertheless, 30 years hence, LGU autonomy has become an accepted sine qua non.
18 Regions into 18 Federal states
But for many Mindanaoans, this was not enough. Nothing would make them better off — read truly independent — than reforming the Republic's 18 Regions into federal states, akin to the Federation of Malaysia. Their ideal is that Imperial Manila's exercise of power are left exclusively for national sovereign matters of armed territorial defense and foreign affairs.
Now that we have the first Mindanaoan for our President, we in Imperial Manila, along with the rest of the country find ourselves as the dog being wagged by the tail. With the President/ex-Mayor of Davao, exploiting the nuances of LGU autonomy, claiming success in dealing with criminality, insurgency, illegal drugs, speeding, DUI (driving under the influence) murders, etc. has decided to apply the cornerstones of his success to the rest of the country. This means a curfew for minors, a 1:00 am liquor ban, the vigilante “instant” death penalty, the 30-60km/h speed limit, a 3-day limit in bureaucratic permit processing and many more. One can inquisitively ask, what happened to the ideals of LGU autonomy from Imperial Manila now that Manila is controlled, albeit remotely, from Matina Enclave in Davao City?
One size cannot fit all
Upon closer inspection, the one-Davao-size-fits-all decrees of President Rody Duterte are really nothing new. They're typical rightist/reactionary Big Brother strong arm techniques and not even the slightest bit as “pinko” socialist as Duterte brands himself to be. Curfew for minors, liquor ban, etc. are all vested in the powers of LGU's municipal councils. Many LGU's have such ordinances in their statutes, but like any guide or rule or law, the essence of effectiveness is in its enforcement or non-enforcement.
Nothing really new
So what is truly novel with the Davao city DU30 urban traffic lifestyle? Deaths caused by speeding due to DUI (driving under the influence) of drugs or alcohol happen everywhere. We already have a national law against drunk driving which incorporates a fair procedure against hasty prosecution while enshrining the innocent until proven guilty mantra. While the DUI law doesn't provide for the Death Penalty for the guilty, the penalties for causing injury and death are severe under other statutes.
Speed limits, enforced
Speeding or exceeding the posted speed limit? The tollways, MMDA, SBMA, BGC and even Ayala Alabang Village Association have proper LIDAR equipment and deputized traffic enforcers to handle such violations, legally. In fact, EDSA's extreme traffic, 21 hours a day, becomes a de-facto speed limit so much so that the only time one can even touch 60 would be between 0100hrs to 0400hrs.
Intuitive speed limits
As we have continuously opined, speeding is a variable related to zoning; something I am sure, Davao City practices. The tendency to follow a speed limit depends on what speed limit a motorist finds reasonable or is “comfortable” with. Every rational motorist would like to get to one's destination quickly but safely. Since he shares the road with other motorists with the same objective, the conflict now lies in one's sense of a “proper” speed. To avoid disparity in speeds, which are the main cause of accidents and erratic driving, speed limits are imposed by law.
US Bases speed limits
When Clark, John Hay, Sangley and Subic were US military bases, the speed limit for built-up areas was 15MPH while main roads linking clusters of buildings had a 30MPH speed limit. Similar limits were applied to the neighboring town of Subic where even the national highway passing through the populated area of the town had a 30km/h limit for local jeepneys as imposed by Richard Gordon, who was the town mayor then. In both cases, the speed limits were enforced partly by police presence, but more because of a sense of order and discipline.
30 : an internationally recognized speed limit
Generally speaking, 30km/h is the international speed limit for built up areas with roads of a certain width and with a minimum amount of 270 degree clear lines of sight for the driver. Hence enter a narrow street cutting through a thickly populated zone with children playing on the shoulders, slow-moving tricycles and bicycles on the roadway and intuitively, a driver will slow down. Break free from that scenario, with minimal structures and no people on the roadside but with the same roadway width, a driver will naturally speed up.
So is 60
In the developed world, the end of the built up area with the slower 30km/h speed limit, is clearly demarcated with an appropriate sign that says “resume speed” or the end restrictions diagonal black stripe on white sign or the new posted speed limit which is either 50km/h or 60km/h, depending on the country's laws. Needless to say, 50 or 60 is the international speed limit for 2-way single carriageway roads that go through sparsely populated areas.
Speed limits determined by zoning
The problem lies when, due to economic growth, the less populated 60km/h zones lining the roads, become built-up and congested eventually. This results in longer stretches of road now falling under the slower 30km/h speed limit leading to driver fatigue and impatience. This has become the natural progression as our towns and cities, like Davao, grow. This is aggravated by our tendency to build linearly, along the main roads since our zoning laws do not plan clustering communities with plenty of open agricultural land spaces in between to provide “green belts”.
Time for pro-active zoning
Our zoning tendencies are not so much a predictive instrument of town planning as they mostly reflect “after the fact” realities on the ground, i.e. an area is converted from residential to commercial once a local residence is converted into a store or a cafe-bar. Unlike packed Metro-Manila, Metro-Davao, having the country's largest land area, can still wean its city zoning ordinances away from linear development into clustering townships with large open space gaps in between to improve traffic flow and community life. Hence negating the need for long stretches of thickly populated road under the 30km/h speed limit.
Speed as a function of sight lines
Still, road engineers take into consideration the fact that increasing driver sight lines along with increasing width allows for higher speeds. With higher speeds, then comes the need to limit access into the roadway. This is where limited access highways come to being. By virtue of restricting entry and exit, and also roadside access, whether through wide right-of-way or walls, higher speeds can be attained in safety. This overall plan for highways and speed limits make it intuitive to the rational driver to drive at higher speeds of up to even 130km/h with the least anxiety.
It's in the zoning...
What we are saying here is that when it comes to enhancing our urban lifestyle, “a one size fits all” law doesn't always work. The law, to be intuitively obeyed, must reflect the reality of the environment. Its really a question of proper zoning with the appropriate ordinance to bear. It is fine to have a curfew for minors in CBD's so as to have them minors at home with their parents in their residential communities, where a curfew is not needed. It would be fine to have a liquor ban, karaoke and street party ban on quiet residential streets but not in 24/7 tourist zones like Uptown BGC, Valkyrie and Pool Palace. Simply put, you don't want to kill Boracay's tourist industry with an inappropriate curfew and liquor ban.
Davao isn't world class 24/7, yet
Davao, still being largely agricultural, despite the upcoming San Miguel industrial estates, practices staggered work hours by default: 0200-1000hrs for fishing, 0300-1100/1600 -1800hrs for farming, 0900 to 1700hrs for white collar commerce. That's why the President's spokesman said that the 0100hrs liquor ban goads drinkers to drink earlier, go home earlier because they have to wake up early for work the next day. Fine for 9-5 workers but not in a wired globalized city. Davao just isn't in the same league as Metro Manila in being as 24/7 as New York, so Metro Manila should be left to handle its own ordinances appropriate to the zone, whatever the zone may be whether residential, tourist entertainment, commercial, industrial or BPO.
No such thing as a government luxury car?
As for LGU execs and legislators using luxury cars, President Rody's directive to limit purchases to Avanzas or Crosswinds, is covered by existing laws governing government vehicle purchases. Fact is, whenever gov't officers use luxury cars, it happens to be privately owned. Case in point: PNoy's “vintage” Lexus SUV belongs to his rich brother-in-law, while he keeps his even more vintage LC200 Land Cruiser. With the Toyota Innova as the default COA approved government purchased vehicle anywhere on the archipelago, what would be welcome change is if government official cars follow President Rody's example — his privately owned Isuzu Mu-X — which hardly costs more than a Crosswind – and a D-MAX pick up.
Its about enforcement
Amidst the shock and awe of the incoming Duterte administration, much of what is being proposed is mainly in the statute books. The difference is that the experience of Davao shows that for laws to work, it has to be enforced.