Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Posts Tagged ‘Metro Manila’

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.

Jeepneys?
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.

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Freak Snowstorm Hits Manila !

Posted by butalidnl on 8 December 2010

(This is a fake news broadcast, on what would happen if there really was a snowstorm in Manila.)

MANILA, Philippines, December 10. A freak snowstorm hit Metro Manila this afternoon. It was 1 pm when a huge black cloud covered the city, making it seem like a thunderstorm was underway. But, instead of rain, temperatures came down and snow started falling all over the city! People could not believe their eyes, and started to jump with excitement: “Sa wakas, nagkaka-snow rin tayo sa Pilipinas!” And even though it was rather cold, people were so overwhelmed with the snow that it seemed nobody noticed.. For a while at least.

Now, at 10 pm, things are so different. There is a crisis situation in our hands! The country is used to heat, but this sudden cold weather and snow is not too nice after all. Let us bring you reports from all over the city.

Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). Hundreds of people are stranded at NAIA, because their flights are not able to take off from the international airport. With their flights cancelled, many people have gone home or to hotels for the night. However, there are still those who are forced to spend the night at NAIA.

The snowfall, which started in the afternoon, has covered the runways with a layer of snow; making it impossible for planes to take-off or land. Airport authorities say that they are not equipped to take the snow off the runways, or to de-ice the wings of planes. Thus, in the interest of safety, they decided to close the airport by 2 pm yesterday.

International flights have been forced to land at Hong Kong,  Legaspi or Cebu. The freak weather seems to have affected only from Northern Luzon to Metro Manila, leaving the Visayas and the Bicol region clear of snow.

EDSA, Corner Kamuning. Traffic is going at a snail’s pace, if it is going at all. The snow is 6 inches thick here, and cars have to go slow in order to avoid sliding. There have been a lot of accidents already, but these have generally been cars sliding and hitting other cars. No major accidents really. The high incidence of these “bumping” accidents have caused police to totally ignore them; they have their hands full trying to ensure that the traffic flows.

There are reports of many cars not being able to start; probably due to frozen cooling systems. The buses and cars on the road, however, seem warm enough so as to avoid having their cooling systems freeze.

The LRT line seems to be operating normally; or at least as normal as it could, given the circumstances.  Workers have resorted to manually clearing the interchange links at the end of the lines (as in, shovelling the snow). The trains have to change tract at the end of their routes, and the problem is that the snow gets in the way of these interchanges. Management has decided to let the trains run through the night;  in order to serve the many people still on the streets (trying to go home, or en route to one of the “refugee centers”).

SM Mega Mall. The mall is still open! Following the president’s call for all malls to remain open overnight, SM Mega Mall, and other malls; as well as centers such as Araneta Colliseum  have opened their doors to thousands of cold weather refugees –  people who literally are in danger of freezing from the cold. The Philippine National Red Cross is distributing blankets and hot soup in these centers. However, it seems that the supply of blankets is woefully inadequate.  The place is packed, and most people are just sitting down, and oblivious to the throng of people around them; after all, more people mean more warmth.

SSS Village, Marikina. There are reports that water and electricity are out in this area. It seems that some waterlines burst as a result of the cold weather, and electricity lines have snapped because of the cold, or because snow caused trees to fall on lines. So, it is now a dark and cold evening for the people of this area.

There is an eerie silence in the place. There are no vehicles moving around, and people are huddled in their houses, under blankets, and  with candles lit.

Philippine General Hospital, Manila. The staff of the PGH has been on emergency status almost since the snow started falling in the afternoon. As one would expect, there would be people suffering from the cold. There are reports of hundreds of deaths because of the cold – mostly older people, babies, or people with respiratory illnesses.

People are also coming in with broken bones, due to having slid on the snow. Hundreds of cases have overwhelmed the orthopedic staff.  People with broken arms and wrists, mainly, which people get when they attempt to break their fall. There are also people who have been “bumped” by cars which have slid on the roads.

Snow in the Philippines is sure to be a disaster.  This “newscast” is an example of what would happen if it did snow. Snow belongs only in places like “Snow World”, in Star City, Manila. Let’s hope it stays that way.

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Reforming Water Distribution in Metro Manila

Posted by butalidnl on 14 October 2010

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This blog is my contribution to Blog Action Day, when people throughout the world will be blogging about: Water.


It’s a recurring problem in Metro Manila: lack of water.  People complain about high water bills, and of water service interruptions.  But at the same time,  many people use water “as if it was water”, i.e. in quite a wasteful manner.  I believe that the price of water in Manila could be restructured in such a way as both to conserve water and to distribute it more equally among the people.

Change price structure for water
I think the structure for water charges should be changed. The first change will be to separate a per-connection charge from the charge for water use. Then, the price for water use for amounts less than 20 cubic meters a month should be lessened, while the price for use above 20 cubic meters raised. 20 cubic meters (or 20,000 liters) seems to be a fairer cut-off amount (as opposed to the present cut-off amount of 10 cubic meters), since the average consumption of water is about 3500 liters (or 3.5 cubic meters)/person/month; making a household with 5 members consume less than 20 cubic meters/month.

The present price structure in Manila is to have a lump sum for the first 10 cubic meters, and then a steadily increasing charge after that. For example, Manila Water (in the Eastern Zone) charges Php 69.16 for the first 10 cubic meters, and then Php 8.44 per cubic meter for the next 10 cubic meters, and then Php 16 per cubic meter for the next 20 cubic meters, etc.

I would propose something like Php 40 as connection fee, then Php 5 per cubic meter for the first 20 cubic meters, and then Php 18 per cubic meter for the next 20 cubic meters, etc…

This way,  there will be a price incentive to have a separate connection per household; since the price of having two households connected to a single water meter will be significantly higher than that of having two water meters.

If more households have water meters, and get water bills, then they will also tend to be more conscious of their water use.  So, instead of having a single water connection for a compound of houses; there would be one connection per house.

All-in bills tend to promote wastage of water. So, for boarding houses, the water bill should be charged separately from the rental fee. If the boarders use too much water, they should pay more, and this will surely result in them being more thrifty in using water.

Check meters once in two months
Water meters are read once a month, and this is the basis for the monthly water bill. Now, if meters are read once every two months; the expenses for doing so would decrease by 50%.  I don’t mean that the bills be made for two month periods. Let the bill be for a month’s use, but base it on a two monthly reading – and simply divide the reading by two, for the bill for the next two months.  Doing so will not only reduce the cost of taking the readings, but also even out some peaks in water use, and make it more affordable.

With this change, the water companies’ cost per connection will go down, and make it possible for them to implement the lowering of the price for poorer households, who use less water.  At the same time, we could encourage the water companies to establish water supply lines to everybody.

Community Charge for “Leakages”
Instead of the current practice of dividing the cost of “leakages” (actual leakages, plus illegal connections) among all the customers; the water companies should charge specific neighborhoods for their leakages. Thus, a neighborhood would have a water meter measuring the whole community’s water use. Then, there would be meters in specific households. The difference between the total readings per household and the overall community meter would be the “community leakage”. This would either be illegal connections, or actual leaking water from pipes. The cost of these leakages should then be charged to all the water users in the community.

The rationale for this approach is community responsibility. If their individual bills are affected by leakages elsewhere in their community, then people will report leaking pipes or illegal connections. And there will be stronger community pressure against illegal connections.

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Decongesting Metro Manila

Posted by butalidnl on 7 April 2010

Manila is full! With the Metro Manila population exceeding 10 million, it seems that Manila is indeed full. Perhaps it is time to do something about it. It may result in a better quality of life if we take off a million or more people away from the city.
How could we do it?

Well, let us look at some reasons why Metro Manila is full of people. In the first place, as the capital city, it has a lot of national government offices, etc.  This also means that companies’ national headquarters are based there. The second reason will be the huge population of students that Manila has. A lot of these students come from the provinces. And lastly, Manila has lots of people because it has lots of people. The mere presence of a lot of people induces businesses to base there, in order to serve the big market – resulting in a “vicious cycle” of people servicing people.

Center of Government
There are a number of ways of lessening the impact of Metro Manila as the center of government.  For one, services from government offices could be distributed more towards the various regions. Things like GSIS or SSS benefits sometimes need to be done in Manila. Or, the processing of passports etc (this is important for people going abroad), needs to be done in Manila. Or various training programs for OFWs, especially seamen are done in Manila; often with the result that seamen’s families simply transfer to Manila.

The most radical solution to responding to Metro Manila as capital, is to simply transfer the capital somewhere else. If we transfer the capital to someplace like Panay island or something, national offices need to be set up there, and embassies will need to transfer there also, with the possibility of visa and passport processing transferring there also.

Or, the in-between-solution would be to have a federal system of government, with the functions of the national government distributed among the various federal “states” or regions. Most national government functions will then be distributed, making people go to regional capitals to process papers, instead of Manila. (Although, with this system, I think visa processing will remain in Manila.)

Concentration of Schools
Manila will have a much smaller population if schools are required to move out of the crowded University Belt and Intramuros-Taft areas. The large population of students here are what make these areas crowded. But what will we do with the families who live in the area, and whose children would have nowhere to go for college? Okay, let us just require that all schools in Central Metro Manila (defined as the area enclosed by EDSA), are required to have students mostly come from Metro Manila – in particular, that 80% of their students had gone to high school in Metro Manila.
Hopefully, this requirement will mean that schools will transfer outside the area, or transfer to the provinces. Also, that most students from the provinces would be required to study in their province.

More People Attracting People
To prevent the vicious cycle that providing services has on attracting even more people to congest Manila, I suggest that there be a ban on the setting up of malls in Central Metro Manila. Also, that all new (non-residential) buildings would be required to provide parking spaces and green areas proportional to the new building’s floor area (something like 1 parking space per 50 square meters floor space, or so). This would have two effects: first, that new buildings would be built with open spaces around them; and that open spaces would more often be utilized as parking spaces, instead of being used to build new buildings.
I think it is a good idea for provincial bus terminals to be located at the edges of Manila, instead of right in the center. These terminals attract a lot of people, and they also tie up traffic that objectively do not need to be inside Metro Manila.
If at least some of the ideas I put forward here are implemented, I think Metro Manila will be a lot less decongested, and a better place to live in.

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