When it comes to the most congested cities in the world, Manila, Philippines, ranks 8th in the world, according to a research result by GoShorty, a British car insurance provider.
The company said they are sourcing their data from TomTom Traffic Congestion Index. Their research also shows that Manila, the country’s capital and largest city, has a 43% congestion level. Congestion cause commuters to lose 98 hours of their time, equivalent to more than four days annually.
Although congestion in Manila slightly dropped in 2020 due to the pandemic lockdowns, it resurged again in 2022 as the lockdown eased and normality gradually settled in. Gridlocks are also costing the country’s economy.
A 2018 Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) study shows that traffic jams in the Philippines cost Php 3.5 billion in “lost opportunities” daily, which is expected to triple by 2030.
To illustrate the traffic in Manila, a Business World article tells of the daily commuting experience of an office clerk in Manila.
Kurtson Roween Gamboa, 22, must wake up before dawn, then queue for a train and jeepney – a minibus-like public utility vehicle endemic to the Philippines. “Commuting to work has become as tiring as ever. Going home is the same, and I’ve had to rest less because of this,” she adds.
But now that physical classes have resumed, after more than two years due to the Pandemic, she expects traffic jams to worsen. She says she doesn’t look forward to it come November this year.
According to the article, poor infrastructure connecting other cities to Manila is a part of the problem. Transportation experts in the Philippines blame the government for failing to fix it during the Pandemic when it has the chance to do so.
They say that the uptake of school buses and public transport can help ease the gridlock, but with spiraling fuel prices, the pandemic lockdowns’ impacts when fewer students use it forces many of them to close their businesses.
For wealthier families, this means that they will use private vehicles to bring their kids to school, which can add to the congestion.
Transport economist Robert Y. Siy said that to help ease congestion, the government and schools should encourage the family to shift to school or shuttle buses, or those living in the same neighborhood can organize a school bus or shuttle. Incentives or subsidies from the government can also help school bus operators who have closed down to restart their operations.
Jose Regin F. Regidor, a research fellow at the University of the Philippines’ National Center for Transportation Studies, says the country needs to boost public transportation capacity to address rising demands.
Siy also mentioned other solutions, which include reclaiming roads for bike and pedestrian lanes to encourage people to bike or walk more. Those roads leading to the school could be made car-free streets or assigned very low-speed limits on roads leading to schools. In addition, schools can provide “end-of-trip” facilities like shower rooms or bicycle parking for those who walk or cycle.
The Philippines can also look at best practices in other countries, such as the “walking school bus” in Norway designed to encourage their students to walk more for health reasons and to save transportation costs, Siy adds.
Some students preferred blended learning or hybrid classes or limiting in-person classes to spare them from the hassle of the daily commute.
CNN Philippines reports that Terry Ridon, head of the Infrawatch Ph, a public policy think-tank focusing on major public infrastructure and development projects in the Philippines, says that President Marcos lacked clear initiatives to bolster the infrastructure sector, address Metro Manila’s years-long traffic issue, and make electricity cheaper, saying the latter only “rehashed” former President Duterte’s massive Build, Build, Build program (Isamel, 2022).
According to Manila Bulletin experts, private sectors and various advocacy groups urged President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. to ensure transparency in infrastructure projects (Recuenco, 2022).
They are calling on him to avoid the same mistakes that compromise the achievement of former president Duterte’s Build Build Build program. A review of the ambitious infrastructure program shows that in 2019, Duterte’s administration shifted from ambitious projects to more doable ones.
The program did not achieve its target of increasing infrastructure spending compared to its GDP. Between 2017 – 2021 infrastructure spending was 5.5% of GDP, compared to the original goal of reaching 7.3% in 2022.
“There was weak strategic guidance… There was poor project appraisal. I don’t think NEDA (National Economic Development Authority), DOTr (Department of Transportation), and DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) have an internal capacity to do a rapid appraisal. You always need World Bank money, ADB (Asian Development Bank) money to hire consultants,” said Epictetus Patalinghug, University of the Philippines- Virata School of Business Professor Emeritus and Stratbase ADRi Trustee and program convenor.
“Then you have poor project selection and budgeting. As usual, completion delays and cost overruns. And very few interim and ex-post project evaluations done in our projects,” Patalinghug added.
Another observation raised over the Build Build Build program is the apparent need for citizen involvement in the planning and development of the government’s infrastructure program, the article says.
The Build Build Build projects also only focus on the National Capital Region in the country where Manila is located and deprived rural areas that are also in need of infrastructure projects.
In the future, experts advised President Marcos Jr to “look at the shovel-ready projects left by the Duterte government and implement them, ” prioritize consumer-friendly projects, and streamline the approval process of major infrastructure projects.
Atienza, K., & Tan, A. (2022 October 5). Filipinos brace for ‘Carmageddon’ as students return to school. Business World. Retrieved from https://www.bworldonline.com/top-stories/2022/10/05/478632/filipinos-brace-for-carmageddon-as-students-return-to-school/
Manila is the world’s 8th city with longest hours spent in traffic — study. (2022, September 8). Philstar. Retrieved from https://www.philstar.com/business/2022/09/08/2208311/manila-worlds-8th-city-longest-hours-spent-traffic-study
Esmael, L. (2022, October 8) Sinking or winning: How was business confidence in Marcos’ first 100 days?. CNN Philippines. Retrieved from https://www.cnnphilippines.com/business/2022/10/8/business-confidence-in-Marcos-first-100-days.html
Recuenco, A. (2022 October 8). 100 Days After: Experts urge PBBM to ensure consumer-friendly, transparent infra programs. Manila Bulletin. Retrieved from https://mb.com.ph/2022/10/08/100-days-after-experts-urge-pbbm-to-ensure-consumer-friendly-transparent-infra-programs/