As much as some want to pretend the traffic situation in Bacolod City has been solved – claiming those who complain about traffic are just exaggerating (or are the ones at fault) or believing slapping on a slogan will fix everything – sometimes ignoring the issue all-together and finding a scapegoat; in the city’s case it’s (somehow) car dealerships – it’s fairly obvious, traffic is an ongoing problem that is only getting worse – no matter how many columns are penned or press releases distributed claiming otherwise.
Besides the headaches it causes for people behind the wheel (along with passengers), the mere thought of the type of traffic interactions encountered on a daily basis in the “City of Smiles” is enough to turn one into a hermit. Whether it’s bumper-to-bumper gridlock along any of the city’s thoroughfares, the manic driving of jeepney and tricycle drivers, the way every driver feels compelled to be first in the line – to the point of creating lanes directly in the line of oncoming traffic, and many other experiences that one outside the country would think was outlandish; but for the local Bacolodnon, that’s “how to drive.”
Like many inconveniences that (with little effort) can be resolved, like “Filipino time,” most people have settled on the idea of “that’s just the way things are” or “Welcome to the Philippines” – it explains why so many Southeast Asian contemporaries have seen their domestic situations on an upward trajectory and the Philippines has a kept a generally stationary course – that’s just the way things are.
This column has discussed limited mobility in terms of an economic scope, in that the average worker has a difficult time advancing in their industry – unless they are related to somebody higher up. In terms of Bacolod City roads, there is also a lack of mobility.
After living in Bacolod City for five years (come December), traffic conditions have visibly worsened, yet the city continues to invest more and more into “innovations” that only seem to be making things worse.
More traffic lights are good thing, but when drivers are not aware of what the colors mean, then that is the problem.
Perhaps the majority of average drivers know red means stop and green means go, but jeepney drivers definitely do not know the difference. Whether it’s at the corner of La Salle Avenue B.S. Aquino or along Lacson Street in front of Robinsons Place Bacolod, the red light is meaningless for jeepney drivers, especially if they see a potential passenger just on the other side of the intersection – or even within in the intersection.
The only explanation would be the existence of some unwritten rule that exempts public utility vehicle operators from following traffic laws (much like the demands of Ilocos Norte first district Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas is demanding for members of Congress). The best way to ease the confusion – since there is nobody willing to crack down on the illegal practices conducted by jeepney drivers – is to have the Bacolod City Sangguniang Panglunsod (SP) pass an ordinance declaring jeepney drivers above the law; they already act like it, might as well make it official.
Drivers also have a stake in the problems for their unwillingness to follow the rules, but when there is nobody to enforce the rules, these errant drivers also have no excuse not to. It is not as simple as publishing a column and saying “don’t do that” (not to mention, it would also be massively conceited to think that would be the be-all-end-all solution); it’s a part of the culture.
The only way for these kinds of motorists to be discouraged from their bad habits is disciplinary action; however, (as the public has seen) many in government are too afraid to implement policies for fears of repercussions at the ballot box. They love photo opportunities showing them shaking hands and handing out government entitlements, but when it comes to governing by enforcing existing law, that’s when everything becomes quiet.
It’s interesting, given how many government officials have sworn allegiance to the PDP-Laban because of President Rodrigo Duterte, and all the praise they shower upon him for his action, yet none of them are willing to take the firm positions taken when the president was mayor of Davao City. It’s likely, given how nearly all elected officials shift parties whenever it’s convenient, just adding the party acronym to one’s name it enough, no need to adhere to policies or follow examples led by senior party officials.
The lawlessness of the roads and the hands-off approach by the city government is what makes the roads immobile. It has come to a point where there are no more shortcuts or detours in the city. Mouthpieces for the city can keep denying there’s a problem, but when individuals see the reality, they can also see right through the empty words claiming everything is alright.
The inconvenience of errands
Just going out to pick something up from the supermarket is too much of a hassle. Have experienced many instances of needing to go to the supermarket and the mere thought of getting from Point A to Point B was just too traumatizing. All too often, end up just settling back and finding something else to cook or some other alternative already available at home to avoid venturing out.
As the years have gone by and the traffic only getting worse, have found it also correlates to becoming more and more of a homebody. Previously, even without ample funds to buy anything (or finding anything worth the inflated prices most stores put on their products) would take a trip to the mall to wander and grab something to eat. Today, those trips are very limited – and usually only if there is a dire necessity. The aggravation of having to deal with the traffic and encountering ridiculous driving habits is not worth an hour of wandering around; there are many more things that can be done at home without having to deal with the annoyances.
Geroge Chua wrote a piece about the economic effects of traffic in a 2015 issue of the BusinessMirror.
“Delivering finished goods or receiving raw materials or inventory is time sensitive,” he wrote. “Delays affect production, delivery, and work schedules, [and] take its toll on the bottom line of the company.”
While Chua looks at the issue from a business perspective, the situation runs parallel to the average city resident. Everybody has somewhere to go or something to do on a daily basis, but when traffic causes delays, interrupting the flow of one’s day, that impacts one’s personal productivity.
“Without a doubt, the public, transport companies, and businesses are all losing time and money, even the government is losing taxes because of the lost revenues from the traffic situation,” Chua pointed out.
Only getting worse
“Why is [traffic] happening when the solution is staring us in the face? Because government officials allow it to happen,” Chua stated. “All of which end up perpetuating poverty and costing all of us three years of our lives.”
Given that the trend among elected officials is to only focus on government handouts and ensuring photographs are distributed to show them taking such action, the emphasis on things like traffic are irrelevant. With their attention solely placed on portraying the public like panhandlers, begging the government for entitlements, to those in office, it is likely they believe the assistance provided should be enough to buoy the inactivity in other sectors (life traffic) to earn re-election.
For decades it has shown (nationwide) the Filipino voter is easily swayed by handouts./WDJ