Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Posts Tagged ‘jeepney’

Consolidate Buses in Metro Manila

Posted by butalidnl on 5 July 2011

We are quite familiar with the woes caused by buses: they stop everywhere, they block traffic, overspeed, etc. We even think that we know the cause of the problem: the “boundary system” for drivers/conductors of buses. With the boundary system, the drivers/conductors pay the bus owners a fixed amount at the end of the day. This means that the drivers/conductors should earn as much as they can during their trips – resulting in a mad scramble for passengers, in order to make a profit at the end of the day.

With the boundary system, drivers/conductors don’t have an assured income – if they earn too little during the day, they may go home without any money at all. In contrast, the owners of the buses have hardly any risk, since they get an assured income every day.

The problem is worsened by the presence of “colorum” buses (i.e. buses which are not authorized to ply those routes) which compete with the regular buses, and which tend to be even more guilty of traffic offenses. At the same time, the presence of these buses mean that the income from a given route is divided among even more drivers/conductors, resulting in lower incomes per team.

Consolidate the Buses
I suggest a straightforward solution to these problems: consolidate all Metro Manila area buses into one bus company.  All bus companies should contribute their buses, and get corresponding shares in the new company. This is an essential step towards rationalizing the bus system in Metro Manila.

After the buses are consolidated, it would be time to change the compensation scheme for drivers/conductors from the boundary system to fixed salaries.  Since all legitimate bus companies are part of the new consolidated bus company, there would be no problem of competing buses (who may be under the boundary system) to crowd them out of picking passengers. There would be dispatchers at the end of each route, timing the departure of buses. There would also be room to have a stricter enforcement of bus stops, and to regulate driving speed.

With consolidation, the logic shifts from “every bus for itself” to that of maximizing overall company profits. And company profits are maximized when buses are properly spaced out, and that there is no oversupply or undersupply of buses in any route. The threat of colorum buses will also be over – they could be easily spotted and apprehended.

Provincial bus companies would be encouraged to move their stations to the borders of the city, so that only Metro Manila buses operate within the city. However, until this is the case, provincial bus companies will be expected to only stop in the designated bus stops, and to follow defined departure schedules.

Should jeepneys also be consolidated? I don’t think that this a feasible thing to do; especially because of the multitude of jeepney operators. Besides, jeepneys service smaller routes – where the roads may be too narrow for buses, or where the volume is too small.

Steps could be made to consolidate jeepneys, though not as thoroughgoing as that for buses. Operators could be encouraged to have bigger jeepneys or even minibuses (with 30 passengers). Operators could form cooperatives that will regulate jeepney departures, and ensure that all members make a decent living.

Posted in Philippine economics, Philippines | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Only in the Philippines?

Posted by butalidnl on 26 October 2010

We hear the expression “only in the Philippines” quite often. It comes out in TV, blogs, even everyday conversation. I wonder how many people really believe that these things are really “only in the Philippines”; and how many just go along since this has something to do with our national identity etc, even though they know these things are not unique to the Philippines.

I think that there are indeed some people who DO think that these things are really “only in the Philippines” – and I want to respond that most of these are NOT. In fact, I think that there is practically nothing that is truly found “only in the Philippines”.

Food, Faith, Geography
Many things we consider Filipino are actually similar to those found in other Asian countries, because of our common cultural background and history. Food is a good example: pansit and siopao are due to the Chinese influence, leche flan and arroz valenciana are Spanish, fruit salad is American. But even food like kare-kare is due to Indian influence, and eating all parts of the chicken or pig (e.g. “Adidas”, or “IUD”) is common in Southeast Asia and beyond. People think that balot is Filipino; but it is Vietnamese as well.

There are also a lot of things we have in common with Latin America, due to our history as a Spanish colony.  Our common Catholic roots mean that things religious couldn’t be uniquely Filipino. For example, our veneration of the dead during All Souls day is common in Latin America. Self-flagellation and even the reenactment of the Crucifixion is also not unique to the Philippines.

But there are things less obvious which we may think are Filipino, but which we have in common with Latin America after all. Take the barong tagalog: the Cubans have the guayabero; and most of Latin America have a similar shirt that is a national costume for men.  Or the kundiman: we may think this is uniquely ours, but it turns out that the tune of the kundiman we share with some Mexican or Central American countries. It seems that sailors in Spanish galleons brought these over to the Philippines. And thus, the kundiman has Aztec or Mayan roots.

Let’s take geography. The Chocolate Hills in Bohol look nice, but they are not unique. The Chinese have something that I think is even more impressive: the hills are bigger and there are streams between some of them; and you can see them by going by balloon (all we have is a “viewing hill”).
Or the rice terraces. If you still think that it is the eighth wonder of the world, I’m sorry to inform you that not only is it NOT the eighth wonder of the world (there is no such thing, btw), but that it is not unique. There are more impressive rice terraces in Indonesia and Nepal, and some other countries.

Response to Technology
Even things that we think are our “unique” response to technology are not unique. Jejemon may be uniquely Filipino in that it is the Philippine languages that are being “murdered”; but in the broader sense, people from France to China to Thailand are worried about how the young generation is creating their own language on the internet and on SMS.

Or the jeepney. We may think that we are unique in adapting the American “jeep” to become a public utility vehicle as jeepney. But I found out that they did the same thing in Thailand, and they call it the Songtaew.  And of course, our tricycle is the Thai tuk tuk.

Choc Nut
We could say that Choc Nut is unique to the Philippines. But, this is only true in the sense that there is really no other place in the world where such a chocolate delicacy is packaged as Choc Nut (I don’t think so, at least.) However, there is sure to be a place somewhere in the world which has a chocolate product like Choc Nut, but which is called by some other name by the people there.

And this is common for some other things that are supposed to be “only in the Philippines”. For example, someone said that it is only in the Philippines where the crime rate is 0% when Pacquiao has a boxing match. I agree. But this is only because Pacquiao is specific to the Philippines. But, in a sense, it is not really unique. For example, I’m sure that the crime rate in Brazil was also 0% whenever their national football team played in the World Cup.

We could  say that Kinaray-a, Waray, Pangalatoc, or Iranun are spoken only in the Philippines.  (Strictly speaking, this is not true, because of the many Overseas Filipino communities all over the world. But anyway…) This would be true for many language-specific statements, local place-names, or national personalities. After all, we can say that it is “only in the Philippines” where in every municipality, there is a statue of Jose Rizal. But, what would that mean, really?

There is really no particular thing that is unique to the Philippines. But this is not to say that the Philippines is not unique. The combination of all the things we find in the Philippines is unique only to the Philippines. Our national identity as Filipinos is unique.

Posted in Philippines | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Limit Private Vehicles, not PUVs, on EDSA

Posted by butalidnl on 14 July 2010

The MMDA proposal [see MMDA Pushes Number Coding for Buses ] to implement a number-coding scheme for buses in EDSA is not a good idea. The MMDA is proposing this, because it says that PUVs are a source of traffic congestion, and that there are just too many buses in EDSA (they cite the fact that buses often are only half full).

But I find that this is a bad idea. Buses, even when half full, carry many more passengers than private autos. In fact, a lot of cars on EDSA often only have one or two passengers (i.e. including the driver).  And for a bus to work at their optimum level, they don’t need to be always full. In fact, they would probably be full only about half of the time. If they are always full, this would show that there is a shortage of buses for a given route.

And besides, the MMDA is applying upside-down logic regarding traffic congestion. It seems that it wants to “decongest” EDSA to make it more convenient for private car owners, and not for the convenience of the wider public. Because if the convenience of the wider public were to be the main starting point, it will naturally mean that EDSA be decongested so that public transportation will flow smoothly.

What should we do with the traffic at EDSA, then? Well, the first thing would be to adopt sensible traffic rules, and implement these quite strictly. Buses, jeepneys, and FXs should stop only at designated pick-up points. They should force buses to leave even when half full (which I said earlier, may be the more optimum use of buses), instead of allowing them to wait till they are full. Nobody should be allowed to walk across EDSA; they should all take pedestrian overpasses. Taxis should be required to take passengers only from designated taxi stations, and not be flagged down.

Reduce Private Vehicles
And then, there should be steps taken to reduce the number of private vehicles plying EDSA. One way would be to implement a congestion charge for private vehicles using EDSA; that is, all private vehicles using EDSA would have to pay a fee to use it. This would be in the form of a sticker for a year’s use (to cost perhaps something like Php 2000 or so per year) or a single day ticket for say Php 50.  This should lessen the use of EDSA – after all, there are alternative ways of going around the city. And, in connection to this, all small roads that open to EDSA should be made one-way (i.e. only traffic coming from EDSA), forcing vehicles that want to enter EDSA to do so only through major intersections (where they will be checked to see if they have the necessary stickers). The money collected from the access fee should be used to improve public transportation e.g. the LRT.

And then, the capacity of the LRT and MRT should be doubled by adding more cars to the trains, and also by increasing the frequency of the trains. This will encourage some auto riders to take public transportation. The fare should also be increased a bit, making it only a little cheaper than the buses; this will help to get buses to be fuller, and also lessen the subsidy of the government for the LRT.

Construct a LRT line along C5. This should further decongest traffic there, and make it easier to go by public transport if your destination is accessible by C5. This will have an indirect effect of decongesting both EDSA and the MRT.

Then, increase the number of FX allowed to ply EDSA. This will further reduce private car use, while providing an alternative to those using private cars. While FXs ferry fewer passengers than buses; they are an alternative to many people who usually take their cars. It would be better to have more FXs on the road, if this comes in place of more cars.

Build “Transferiums”. These are big parking places for vehicles at the edges of a city, so that people could just park their cars there, and take public transportation from that point on.  For people coming from the provinces, this could be a viable alternative for them, rather than being forced to brave Metro Manila’s traffic. The transferiums should also be the starting point for various airconditioned bus routes into Metro Manila, and if possible be near to LRT/MRT stations.

Posted in environment, Philippine economics, Philippines | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Philippine “Myths”

Posted by butalidnl on 31 March 2010

No, this post is not about Philippine mythology, in the strict sense. It is about the various  “fables” or false claims to fame of the Philippines. Here are some of them.

Davao is the biggest city in the world in land area
This is definitely not the case. Davao, with its total land area of 2444 square kilometers, is a midget when compared to the really BIG cities. The real biggest city in land area in the world is: Hulunbuir, Inner Mongolia,  China. It’s total land area is 263, 953 square kilometers (or about 100 times that of Davao). Okay, the city is rather obscure, so I guess that it really has a lot of land area that doesn’t belong anywhere else, so this becomes part of the city by default. Let’s take then the No. 4 in the list: Chongqing, China. This is not obscure at all (having been the country’s capital during the Second World War), and its land area is 82,400 square kilometers. Or Anchorage, Alaska, (No, 4 in the US) which is 4396 square kilometers in size.

The Philippines is the only Catholic Country in Southeast Asia
Well, this is easy- it isn’t; East Timor is the OTHER Catholic country in Southeast Asia.  East Timor is Catholic, and 97% of the people profess to be Catholic there, in comparison with the Philippines where only 80% are Catholics (and 10% of other Christian denominations). East Timor became independent (from Indonesia) only in 2002, so I guess we could forgive the books for not being so updated.

The Banaue Rice Terraces is the Eighth Wonder of the World
There are only seven wonders, really; and the list of the Seven Wonders of the world is that of Antiquity (of which only the Pyramids of Giza remain standing). Now, some people would name special natural or man-made creations as the “Eighth Wonder”, just to emphasize their being special. Thus, here are some of the other things called the “Eighth Wonder of the World”:  the Grand Canyon in the US; the Great Wall of China; Taj Mahal in India; Machu Pichu in Peru; the Terracotta Army of Xian, China; Angkor Wat in Cambodia; and the moai statues of Easter Island, Chile. So, our rice terraces have some interesting company.

In 2007, a project called the “New 7 Wonders of the World” attempted to make a list of 7 man-made wonders. The list included: the Pyramids at Giza, Egypt; Chichen Itza in Mexico; Colosseum in Rome, Italy; Great Wall of China; Machu Pichu in Peru; Petra in Jordan; and the Taj Mahal in India.  Still, no Banaue rice terraces.

Talking about rice terraces, the ones that we have may not be that special or unique after all. Take a look at some other rice terraces .

The Barong Tagalog
The barong tagalog is the national dress in the Philippines. But it is anything but unique. In fact, many former Spanish colonies have similar men’s wear – the Guayabera. The guayabera is similar to the barong tagalog except that it has 4 pockets in front; it is also transparent and comes in pastel colors, and is not tucked into the pants.
Some people say that the guayabera actually comes from the barong tagalog, but this is not sure at all. Anyway, don’t be surprised when you go to Latin America, try to buy a traditional shirt and find what would look to you like a barong tagalog.

a songtaew
Well, it is almost unique. So far, I was only able to find one other country with a jeepney. In Thailand, they have the Songtaew, which is a converted pickup. It has seats like a jeepney, and is used just like a jeepney, i.e. for intra-city transportation. The only difference I guess is that Songtaews are generally red in color. Otherwise, they would be indistinguishable from our jeepneys.

And there are things like the balut (the Vietnamese have this too), or even self-flagellation in the name of religion (note: even Iran has this too) that are not uniquely Filipino.

So much for Filipino “myths”…

Posted in Philippines | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »