February 13, 2024
MANILA – The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) recently presented to media its new Communications and Command Center (CCC) in Pasig City, the biggest, most advanced facilities with new technologies.
Four hundred three (403) High-Definition CCTVs across critical and major infrastructure roads (including bus bays, waterways, pumping stations, and Baywalk Dolomite beach). These cameras will be equipped with facial recognition that can help with security and solving crimes. Also, adaptive, and sensor-based traffic lights linked by fiber optic systems operate the intelligent traffic signalization system while the new Hytera dispatch system uses GPS and a smart map to locate traffic enforcers in real time and receive live video feeds from their body worn cameras. Quite impressive and expensive for us taxpayers, however, the biggest question remains, will this new facility solve our worsening traffic?
Out of 387 cities in 55 countries, the 2023 Tom-tom index declared Metro Manila as the leader in Metro areas with slowest travel time. On average, it would take 25 minutes to travel 10 kilometers here. Manila is the ninth worst city center traffic with 27 minutes and travel time but better than leader London with 37 minutes. During rush hours, according to TomTom, Filipinos lost 117 hours due to traffic congestion in 2023. This was longer than 12 hours and 51 minutes compared to the situation in 2022, enough evidence that traffic is indeed worsening.
Last year there was a record number of 1.27 million new vehicles reported. New Motorcycles/scooters were at 104,445 units. This will further aggravate the present 3.54 million vehicles on our roads, which LTO says are already 1.56 million cars, and 1.6 million motorcycles.
On October 6, last year, the MMDA and the 17 NCR Mayors approved Regulation 23-003 October 6 last year that declared the removal of “window hours” and implement a 7am to 7pm number coding. And a public outcry ensued. Chairman Romando Artes explains, “We just readied the resolution, and in case of heavy traffic, we can implement it immediately”. Until today, it remained a threat to us number coders. If implemented once a week, a motorist’s vehicle will be grounded the whole day in his home, and he will be forced to commute.
Again, the question is: can we rely on today’s public transportation?
I believe that Metro Manila’s traffic are caused by both “lack of driver discipline” and “better road safety facilities”. There are not enough government personnel, even with combined LGUs and MMDA, to implement traffic violations of errant public or private motorists, with of course, wanton corruption and bribery.
The suspended Non-Contact Apprehension program (NCAP) implemented in 2022 by a few LGUs in Metro Manila had great results. Except for its exorbitant penalties, I will favor its return if the Supreme court reverses its TRO issued also that same year. I heard the justices have heard all the sides and the case is now up for resolution.
Transparent digital technology ensures comprehensive enforcement of all traffic rules regardless of all situations, plus it minimizes or removes opportunities for corruption between violator and traffic enforcer. A 2022 Pulse Asia survey confirmed that eight in ten Filipinos agreed that NCAP is effective in instilling driver discipline and improving road safety.
If this government is helpless and cannot initiate discipline on the rampant traffic violations and lack of discipline of 3.54 million drivers of vehicles in public roads, then we will continue to be a nation and economy, forever stuck in traffic.
QC Vendor Business School and Fluff fuel
Two projects worthy of our attention are QC-LGU’s Vendor Business School (VBS) and the “Fluff fuel” of a Japanese company and SM.
Mayor Joy Belmonte’s project was in collaboration with the Consultancy Group on International Agricultural Research Resilient cities project (CGIAR). They will train 49 public vendors, 60 hawker vendors and 60 temporary vendors for six months on entrepreneurship, food safety, market technology including proper calorie content for their food products.
This is a first in our country and the only two in the world, Nairobi city, Kenya. Lucky recipients of the six-months training are frontliner vendors selected from different markets within Quezon city. This initial batch will drumroll the importance of better food systems consumed by citizens and at the same time uplift the capabilities of our vendors in the public markets.
In my many years in local governments, worked as a Manila city hall employee in the 70’s, this is a great and laudable innovation by pro-active QC mayor Joy Belmonte.
On the other hand, I must also mention this interesting tie-up between SM prime and Yokohama, Japan based GUNN Co. Ltd on the so called “FLUFF FUEL”. This is a mix of plastics, paper, and textiles that cannot be recycled but can be used as coal transition fuel in cement plants, power plants, textile mills and paper industries.
This means that all trash that cannot be recycled and end up in landfills will now be collected for fuel. This includes all used coffee ups and lids, pizza boxes, cardboard containers, disposable utensils such as chopsticks, paper straws, sachets for condiments for ketchup sugar, creamer etc. All of these will be sorted for fuel properties, mixed to specifications, shredded then baled for shipment. As early as 20114, GUNN co. Ltd has initiated production of “fluff fuel” in Cebu as and today their goal with SM is to reduce the landfill impact of all SM prime and non-prime properties.
If malls , shopping centers and other companies nationwide would recognize the proper disposition of non-recyclable waste materials and turn them into “fluff fuel”, then our heavily polluted landfills all will be drastically reduced.