Wishing For Change In Metro Manila

Today marks a new chapter in our country’s history as a new leadership formally assumes office. The leadership itself is a historic one, with a Mindanawon assuming the presidency for the first time in the person of longtime Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

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The Urban Roamer joins the entire country in celebrating this peaceful transition of power, along with the hope that better things are ahead for the country under the Duterte administration. As far as Metro Manila is concerned, the last six years were quite a disappointment as the metropolis saw a a lack of mass transit infrastructure built, broken trains, worsening traffic, as well as having to bear witness to the incompetence and ineptitude of a (P)Abaya at the Transportation Department and an ang(h)el(l) in charge of Manila’s airport.

With that said, I hope people put in charge by the Duterte administration, namely Arthur Tugade as Secretary for Transportation and Ed Monreal as General Manager of the Manila International Airport Authority, would be able to do better than their incompetent predecessors. Then again, considering how standards fell at a really low level during the previous adminhistration for these agencies, there should be no way to go but up I suppose.

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Along with the new faces in government, it is the hope of the Urban Roamer and the rest of the denizens of the metropolis that the new administration would help deliver the reforms and services Metro Manila direly needs right now. While the Urban Roamer is no urban planning expert, here are some few ideas in mind which we hope gets realized. At least some of them, to be a bit more realistic:

  • Build more mass transit lines not only around the metropolis but also lines that connect to the nearby provinces. Cavite and Rizal are long overdue to have a mass transit line connecting these provinces to Metro Manila. (Personally, I think the gondola idea is not really ideal for the metropolis. Maybe for mountainous areas like in Rizal though)

The current rail and mass transit system in Metro Manila: too few and not enough to meet the metropolis’ mobility needs

  • More trains and better trains running the existing mass transit lines
  • Improve the railway system of the Philippine National Railways which means improving the tracks, better trains, and making sure these trains and station platforms are on the same level so people don’t have to do some splitting acrobatics to get on and off the trains.
  • Rid the boundary system for public vehicle drivers and make them salaried.
  • Rationalize the public transport in the metropolis as far as allocation of buses, jeepneys, AUVs, etc. are concerned. One idea is to have only buses ply the main thoroughfares while jeepneys will be confined to plying along the secondary main roads.
  • Make the streets more friendly to pedestrians and bikers. That means getting rid of obstructions such as sidewalk vendors from taking up space along the sidewalk, among other things.
  • Preserve and promote the metropolis’ remaining heritage.
  • Build more open and green spaces in the country.
Metro Manila: congested with very little open and green space in sight

Metro Manila: congested with very little open and green space in sight

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Lastly, as President Duterte is pushing for constitutional reforms, one of the being a shift to a federal form of government, we hope this shift would bring about the needed reform to the way Metro Manila is being governed. It is high time that Metro Manila gets a unified government that administers all aspects of the metropolis’ affairs and development. Not the system that we have now in which we only have a supervising but not powerful body that is the Metro Manila Development Authority while real power is concentrated on the 17 mayors of the metropolis, each with their own policies and plans which sometimes conflict with one another, thinking about their own turfs rather than the overall development of the metropolis which should be the case.

It does not matter whether this Metro Manila government will be a state of its own or a territory under the federal government. What matters is that there is a central body for Metro Manila that will be able to craft better plans that will benefit the whole metropolis and not just one city or town. (in case of Pateros) Metro Manila direly needs one central authority that will streamline the disjointed policies of these cities to avoid confusion and conflict. If we want to see a better metropolis, the first step is to have a unifying government that will chart its path to progress.

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As we begin a new chapter in our history, here’s hoping the next six years will be a fruitful one for all of us. And may the promise of change remain not just a slogan but a continuing effort for the better of our country.

Mabuhay and the best of luck, President Rodrigo Duterte, Vice President Leni Robredo, and to the rest of the government officials who will steer us in this new chapter.

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