Can Cebu learn from Metro Manila’s lessons?

Jerome NeriAtty. Jerome G. Neri
The Scrutineer

I LIVED in Manila from 1996-2001. This was during my law school days. I stayed at a condominium unit in Ortigas Center. I was lucky enough that the schedule of law school classes was in such a way that my travel to and from school was at odd hours where the traffic was not at its peak and was bearable. I would leave for school at 2 p.m. and leave from school at 9 p.m. But during rush hour, Manila traffic was at a standstill — walking was a lot faster. In the Ortigas area, there were a lot of buildings being built, while Fort Bonifacio was newly developed without any buildings yet.With the traffic and the development going on, the government had a host of traffic decongesting projects such as the EDSA MRT, the LRT 2, the Skyway and new flyovers that would eliminate stoplights throughout the whole EDSA. It seemed like it would work, and Manila would become more livable.

WORRY-FREE WALK. This image of residents walking unhurriedly along a pedestrian bridge in Metro Manila belies the terrible traffic situation that afflicts the entire metropolis, owing to poor infrastructure and government neglect. (AP FOTO)
WORRY-FREE WALK. This image of residents walking unhurriedly along a pedestrian bridge in Metro Manila belies the terrible traffic situation that afflicts the entire metropolis, owing to poor infrastructure and government neglect. (AP FOTO)

Today Metro Manila is at a standstill. At any given time of day and night, the traffic is just horrible, bumper-to-bumper 24/7. There are so many new buildings everywhere, that this place where I lived for five years of my life did not look so familiar anymore. All the anti-traffic infrastructure that was built during my law school days did not seem to work. The whole Metro Manila is complaining about the traffic. Our intellectually challenged President says that heavy traffic is good news because it is a sign of a booming economy. There are new plans for road links and more aboveground roads that will be very soon implemented in order to decongest Metro Manila. I do not think any of these infrastructure projects will work.

The private sector is developing Metro Manila at a rate a lot faster than Government can build its infrastructure, and while the number of people has increased exponentially, the capacity of the roads is increasing at a very slow pace. If government cannot provide proper infrastructure, then government should not allow further development so as to keep Metro Manila livable. If the infrastructure projects continue at its current pace and so too does private development, Metro Manila will self-destruct.

Cebu should learn from what is happening in Metro Manila. Traffic in Cebu now is bad and very bad during rush hour. It is not yet at the level of Manila’s traffic, as we still have time slots where there is not much traffic. However, if nothing is done, in a few years we will be like Manila.

Private development in Cebu is booming. This development will bring a lot of people to Cebu. However, there is not a single major government infrastructure project on the horizon to handle the increase in traffic. What we have is that stupid Bus Rapid Transit and possibly a bridge linking Bohol and Cebu, which I am sure will add to the congestion and worsen things. One of the biggest malls in the country will be operational soon at the SRP, making the link between Cebu City and Talisay City one big traffic jam. The time saved by the SRP for motorists going south will soon be time lost.

We need infrastructure right now that will decongest Cebu or else, all private development must be halted. Otherwise, in the near and foreseeable future, our beloved island will be a living hell.

I am calling on our leaders in both the private and public sector not only to make intelligent plans for the direction and future of our Island. We need to start proper infrastructure projects consisting of new roads, wider roads, a sensible public transportation system and the inclusion of driving and traffic rules in the school curriculum.

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