POLITICAL LOYALTY CAUSES TRAFFIC PROBLEMS
 

MANILA, AUGUST 12, 2013 (MANILA TIMES) by Ben D. Kritz - As expected, the inauguration this past Tuesday of the Metro Manila Development Authority’s (MMDA) Southwest Interim Transit Terminal—or SITT, which as it turns out is a dubiously appropriate acronym from the chaotic commuter logjam created by this dimwit idea—was met with a storm of criticism.

The facility, situated at the largely derelict and slightly creepy Coastal Mall at the intersection of Roxas Boulevard and NAIA Road in Parañaque, reportedly cost the MMDA P24 million to develop and was considered such a good idea by President B.S. Aquino III that he included it among his list of random accomplishments in his recent State of the Nation Address.

The stated objective of the SITT—which is to be one of three similar terminals to be opened on the periphery of Metro Manila in the coming months—is to ease metro traffic by stopping provincial buses from entering the city.

The idea is that commuters coming from Cavite and Batangas will now only be able to travel as far as the new terminal, where they will transfer to jeepneys, FX taxis, or city buses to go on to their destinations. As a general idea, it’s not a bad plan, but in practice it is—as most ad hoc brainstorms of the MMDA’s embarrassingly incapable Chairman Francis Tolentino have been—an utter disaster.

Having heard horror stories about the new scheme from a dozen or more of my neighbors on Tuesday night, I decided to make a quick trip to the SITT during the morning rush hour to see for myself, and what I found was appalling.

If the SITT is any indication of what commuters can expect when similar terminals planned for later this year at Trinoma in Quezon City and Filinvest in Alabang, the public should brace itself for a quantum level of unpleasantness.

The current setup works like this: commuters coming from the south on buses that travel the Manila-Cavite Coastal Road disembark at the SITT, and commuters leaving the city in the opposite direction board the buses heading back to Cavite or Batangas at the terminal.

The transfer point to the city transportation network (a term that should be used very loosely, if at all) is on the northeast corner of the Roxas Boulevard-NAIA Road intersection, reachable by the overhead pedestrian walkways.

The two- or three-block stretch of Roxas north of NAIA Road is not really a “transit terminal” in any sense of the word, but rather just a wide spot in the road.

As a consequence, it is a random stew of mixed pedestrian and vehicle traffic, and that has, along with the increased traffic into the SITT across the street, turned what was already a busy, traffic-prone intersection into an impassable mess.

Pointing out that this harebrained scheme actually aggravates the problems MMDA Chief Tolentino believed he was solving while creating additional costs for commuters in time, money and their levels of sanity would be to state the obvious.

Apart from repainting former MMDA chairman’s Bayani Fernando’s pink overpasses green, Tolentino’s tenure at the MMDA has otherwise produced no discernible results—unless allowing the modicum of traffic discipline that started to appear during Fernando’s term to disintegrate can somehow be considered an achievement.

A video clip by TV-5 news being widely circulated on the Internet in the past couple of days (see it here: http://news5.com.ph/Top.aspx?g=7857E1F8B550415&c=1001) of one angry old duffer confronting the MMDA head at the SITT unintentionally summed up three years’ worth of Tolentino’s ham-fisted management: “Mali ang diskarte mo!”
Literally, “Your plan is bad!” although lolo’s [grandfather] body language and the finger he was wagging at Tolentino in the video suggest the comment was verbally a lot milder than the emotion behind it).

[PHNO NOTE: UNFORTUNATELY THAT VIDEO, 'MALI ANG DISKARTE MO' HAS BEEN REMOVED; SCREEN MESSAGE SAID: 'NO PLAYABLE SOURCES FOUND" on the news5.com.ph.]

The disservice done to the people of Metro Manila—a population that is approximately equal to the number of people who voted him into office—by President Aquino in appointing a person with no obvious qualifications besides being an Aquino family favorite (Tolentino was first appointed mayor of Tagaytay at the age of 28 by then-President Cory Aquino back in 1987) to the MMDA is hard to overstate.

Metro Manila’s infrastructure is stretched beyond the breaking point, and the fact that a moderate rainstorm or one traffic accident on a major street can bring a large section of the city to a standstill has apparently not made much of an impression on the man responsible for working toward solutions.

Instead, the city is offered window-dressing that often makes the problem worse than it already was, which is something we probably should have expected from a guy whose most significant achievement in Tagaytay was to form a group to celebrate good Filipino character traits.

Metro Manila has been fortunate to have had some reasonably competent MMDA chairmen in the past—Bayani Fernando was an engineer by training—but the agency should never have been allowed to be staffed by political appointees of any sort.

It’s time to rid this critical and powerful organization of sloth and incompetence.

Instead of an appointed chairman, the MMDA should be reconfigured so that it is directed by a qualified and experienced infrastructure manager—one working for a salary contingent on actual performance rather than taking up valuable three-dimensional space as a mere political patronage beneficiary.

Give the Francis Tolentinos of the country, jobs where their ambitions to honor themselves cause no real harm, and leave the heavy lifting to the professionals.

FROM WIKIPEDIA

Francis Tolentino is the ninth and current chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) of the Republic of the Philippines. He was appointed by President Benigno Aquino III on July 27, 2010. He is the first and only non-resident of Metro Manila to held as MMDA chairman. Tolentino was mayor of Tagaytay City for nine years.[1] He was appointed by former President Corazon Aquino as OIC Mayor of Tagaytay from 1986 to 1987, during the transition to Redemocratization.

During the 1992 elections, he ran for Mayor of Tagaytay, but lost to Benjamin Erni. Two years later, in a decision by the Supreme Court, he won the previous elections and his supporters went to Tagaytay City Hall to remove supporters of Erni. Erni committed suicide at the Mayor's office in January 1995 and Tolentino took charge of the city. He ran unopposed in the 1995 elections, which led to growth in the city known by most Manileños (natives of Manila) as an alternative summer capital to Baguio.

Under his mayoral administration, he created the Tagaytay Office of Public Safety, which became the basis of the rules currently done by MMDA enforcers. He also initialize the Character First programs which encourages governments, government leaders, civic organizations and religious organizations to band together to establish a "city" or "community" of character with a character traits of a Filipino every month.

Tolentino made headlines in 2013 when he wrote an open letter to author Dan Brown complaining about Brown's description of Manila in his book Inferno as "the gates of hell".

EARLIER NEWS FROM ABS-CBN NEWS

MANILA, Philippines – A former city mayor and environmental lawyer is the new chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA).

Atty. Francis Tolentino was installed on Tuesday morning as the new chief of the MMDA, replacing Oscar Inocentes.

As an environmental lawyer and former mayor of Tagaytay City for 9 years, Tolentino believes that he can contribute to some of the pressing issues that the agency is facing.

Tolentino experienced being caught in traffic while on the way to the MMDA office for the turnover ceremony. He was late for around 15 minutes which was scheduled at 10 a.m.

He said he will review some existing methods to decongest EDSA's traffic problems.

Cancel number coding exemptions

In line with this, Tolentino has ordered the confiscation of coding exemptions that have been issued effective Monday.

Based on MMDA’s record, around 4,000 private vehicles are exempted due to accommodation given to government offices and officials.

Under the law only a few, such as medical and media practitioners, are exempted from number coding.

The new MMDA chairman is open to having a dialogue with Metro Manila mayors to thresh out some issues concerning number coding, especially in Makati City.

No iron fist vs erring vendors

Tolentino is also reviewing some rules regarding sidewalk vendors. He stressed that he will be compassionate and would not impose an iron fist on erring vendors.

Meanwhile, Tolentino is also targeting to make Metro Manila like London, where parks will be fully developed for the public.

With the onset of the rainy season, he assured the public that the MMDA will be available 24/7 to provide assistance to all residents.

He is also bent on making part of the MMDA building as his residence just to prove that he is a man of action.

Also, the public can soon contribute to the MMDA in giving solutions by way of texting or through Twitter.

Tolentino also said that it is not his concern to change the color preference of the agency, which his past predecessors did.

Under the term of Bayani Fernando as MMDA head, many structures such as fences and pedestrian overpasses were painted pink. Inocentes replaced this with the color green.

When asked about Tolentino’s favorite color, he answered—rainbow.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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