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Feb 07th
Home Columns Op-Ed Page Traffic Problems in Manila Are Beyond the “Wang-wang”
Traffic Problems in Manila Are Beyond the “Wang-wang” PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - Op-Ed Page
Written by Dr. Cesar D. Candari   
Thursday, 05 August 2010 09:52


By Dr. Cesar D. Candari


Traffic Problems in Manila Are Beyond the “Wang-wang”


In his inaugural speech last June 30, President Noynoy Aquino had spoken out against the wang-wang, (sirens) which he said has become “a symbol of inequality.” Indeed, he is right.

Following that, he proclaimed a Decree (No. 96) that abolished the abuse and hit hard the illegal use of the wang-wang by unauthorized people that want to use it in pulling over other motorists in Metro Manila’s traffic, so that they could travel faster. The traffic situation is simply a nightmare. There are bottlenecks everywhere, if not chaotic-and-senseless traffic jams. The EDSA highway from Quezon City to Makati is a horrible gridlock with different types of transportation fighting inch by inch each other and not respecting lanes in order to move on.  Horns are blasting. It now takes two hours from Cubao (Quezon City) to the Buendia intersection (Makati City), a mere distance of approximately 15 miles.

There is a blatant indiscriminate and unregulated use of sirens by vehicles on the road. It obviously disturbs further an already jam-packed traffic in the metropolis. My question is: Will this decree improve the traffic in

Editor’s Notes: Our new columnist, Cesar D. Candari, MD, FCAP Emeritus, is the first Commissioner of Filipino descent of the Governing Board of the San Diego Stadium Authority and Field Commissioner of the Licensing Division of the State Medical Board of California. He exemplifies the multi-talented and positive contributions of Filipino Americans to Mainstream America. He has been making, and still makes, Filipino Americans look good and feel good about themselves and their multiethnic heritage. (A more detailed introduction is found at the end of this article.)

T he sirens’ effectiveness is unquestioned in perkily solving traffic jams and the politicos are making a popular scheme out of it. Because they can afford a few thousands of pesos for installing a quick traffic-dispersal device, the politicians, their families and also civilians who have connections in government take advantage of the device for sale in several stores in Manila. To quote one writer, “the worst kind is an ambulance (usually from distant towns or provinces) navigating main streets, curtains drawn literally in a veiled attempt to simply beat traffic. It is not unheard such ambulances, blinkers and all, run errands for the local mayor or on local-government business, aside from life-and-death situations.”

The National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) has confiscated some 148 sirens and blinkers in its anti “wang-wang” campaign following the order of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino,
III. Imagine 148 cars (it should be more than that) with sirens used to travel all over Manila. Just 50% of those cars traveling on the road would surely sidetrack the heavy traffic in the city.

I have witnessed many times a high-ranking official with escorts blasting their wang-wang and car horns to part the solid sea of traffic in front of them. (Can you imagine Moses parting the
Red Sea?)

It was in 1997 when I started writing about traffic problems in
Manila every time I went home for a vacation. It may have changed. It was total nonsense the way Metro Manila Development Authority regulated and managed the traffic operation. The Department of Transportation and Communications must do something to confront this horrible problem. I emphatically said then that Malacañang Palace must lead the effort!

Consider this one. These traffic delays in
Manila affect everyone, the common people and the executives alike. You may lose an appointment, get exhausted, or just stay away from it all.

Jeepney passengers are jammed and suffocated in clouds of dust and pollution. Yet the government has not done anything to correct the tragedy of the public transportation system in
Manila. Do the public officials care?


Manpower Lost Due to Traffic Jams

I sat down and calculated the loss of time and productivity encountered by every office worker in
Manila because of the delays in traffic. I figured that if a worker spends two hours in commuting delays, a 5-day work week and a 12-hour work day would amount to his spending 480 hours or 40 working days or two working months a year trying to get to his workplace. And if he spends two hours one-way or four hours a day, he would be spending twice as much time or four working months a year on the road. To me this is the tragedy of a chaotic public transportation system in Manila – a gigantic waste of time, money and energy, not to mention its toll on one’s health and peace of mind.

Obviously, the major cause of the never-ending traffic in
Manila is the presence of 600,000 or so motor vehicles (per the 1997 data) that make use of the inadequate road system. In passing, although cars are classified as luxury items, a Filipino’s number-one dream is to own a car before anything else. A common saying in Manila is that most private-car owners consider their vehicles as an extension of their home but with one difference: a home is where his wife cooks while a car is where his girlfriend builds a fire. Hmm.

There are too many jeepneys, private cars, trailers, passenger buses, junk trucks and delivery vans plying their way in every thoroughfare in Metro Manila. The streets are narrow and many are in bad condition. There is no order and the proper use of primary and secondary routes is seldom regulated.

A national-government intervention is needed to correct this problem. The President must take notice and send directives to the local governments and the Department of Public Works and Highways to upgrade the roads and install more new Light Rail transit lines.

There are now “overpasses or fly-overs” in many major thoroughfares but it seems that they are not able to ease the traffic anarchy. Big metropolises in many European countries as well as in the
U.S. and Japan make use of subway trains to transport millions of people. I don't see why the Philippines could not start thinking of subway lines.

It has been speculated that subways are not possible in
Manila because the soil is too muddy and soft, and many areas of the nation’s capital are below sea level. Alternatively, constructing double-decked elevated highways like in San Francisco, California, is not impossible to do. I heard that there are blueprints of such projects but nothing has happened so far. They have too many engineers in the Philippines.

The public must be afforded an alternative transportation other than the thousands of jeepneys driven by undisciplined “kamikaze” Filipino drivers fighting their way in order to be able to meet the “boundary system.” These jeepneys pick up passengers and unload them in the middle of the road, a practice that significantly contributes to the traffic tyranny.

Under Presidential Decree 96 only motor vehicles designated for the use of sirens, bells and horns are the Philippine National Police (
PNP), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Land Transportation Office (LTO), Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), and hospital ambulances.

As for government officials, only the President, Vice President, Senate President, House Speaker and Chief Justice are afforded the same privilege.


A View from an American Envoy

U nited States Amb. Harry Thomas Jr. said that “there is no need to use sirens in the country. We follow the laws.”


“I feel very safe here. Please accept the law and respect it,” Ambassador Thomas said further at the Manila Overseas Press Club Diplomatic Night.

Mr. Thomas said the US Embassy had not used a siren even before the campaign waged by President Aquino.

But what we see is that in the past weeks, because of the new edict not to use sirens have become an obstacle; getting stuck in traffic is a serious security consideration. The President demonstrated as an example to follow his decree. He was late on two occasions in meeting his appointments. The President to be stopped by traffic jams is a security concern. Dr. Philip S. Chua wrote: “This makes for an even more dangerous situation for you, as real danger now lurks everywhere. An honest President naturally breeds a lot of enemies; otherwise he is not doing his job well. And there are dozens of other reasons why his security must be beefed up to the fullest, even if he feels he is loved and protected by the people.”

One must realize that the affairs of the state take precedence over everything. Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda reassures that the President has been advised by the PSG (Presidential Security Group) and must take this advice under consideration. He must use all means of security measures to be free from desperados who may assassinate him.

Mr. President, you must be very careful!  Pray, you spare us from the agony! I remember the end of a song: “Ano man ang ating kapalaran, tanging Dios lamang ang nakaaalam” (Only Almighty God knows of our life’s fate or destiny.) # # #


M ore Editor’s Notes About the Author: The author is a pathologist, who has practiced in San Diego for thirty years and retired in 1999.  Born and raised in Pandan, Antique, Philippines, he graduated valedictorian at Pandan Bay Institute. He moved to the United States after graduation from the Far Eastern University Institute of Medicine. After his postgraduate training in the field of pathology, he became a Diplomate in Anatomic and Clinical Pathology and the first Filipino-American Certified Specialist in Immunohematology and Blood Banking. He was Associate Pathologist at Mercy Hospital and Medical Center (now Mercy Scripps) and Medical Director of Transfusion Service.

Dr. Candari has held several major positions in the medical and specialty organizations. He ran successfully for the powerful position as Speaker of the House of Delegates of the Association of Philippine Physicians in America (APPA) a "premier Filipino Medical Organization" in the nation. He served as Alternate Delegate from the state of
California, to the House of Delegates of the College of American Pathologists. He was a member of the Board of Trustees of his alumni Foundation, the Far Eastern University DNR
School of Medicine for 25 years, nine years as vice president. His last position was executive vice president (EVP) of the Foundation.

Dr. Candari has the distinction of being the first Asian American ever appointed as Commissioner of the Governing Board of the San Diego Stadium Authority, now known as Qualcomm Stadium with the main function of overseeing
San Diego’s famous athletic stadium for the San Diego Chargers. It is the stadium where events like football’s Super Bowl and formerly the San Diego’s Padres games were held. It is an honor for the Filipinos in San Diego County to have one of their own people deciding major decisions that affect the profitability of the San Diego’s famous stadium—a major source for revenue for the City” commented one of the Filipino businessmen. “Our city has more than 100,000 Filipinos and Dr. Candari’s appointment to the major position indicates that the politicians are seriously eyeing to develop the Filipino community” Dr. Candari’s evident visibility in the city as well as the state’s political arena has been producing positive image results for the Filipinos. Dr. Candari was a member of the Subcommittee for Asian affairs and a liaison for San Diego
’s popular previous Congressman Jim Bates.

A very-determined person against discrimination of Foreign Medical Graduates (FMGs), he was appointed in 1978 as field commissioner of the Licensing Division of the State Medical Board of California and served for 15 years. In 1992, he was honored as one of the Twenty Outstanding Filipino Abroad (TOFA) by the Filipino-American Image magazine in
Washington, D.C.

Dr. Candari was one of the three founding physicians of Operation Samahan Community Health Clinic where he volunteered his services for 17 years. He became the founding President of the Philippine Medical Foundation that managed Operation Samahan Clinic servicing the medical needs of the disadvantage families in the San Diego Community. As a respected Filipino practicing physician in the
San Diego County, Dr. Candari helped formed the first Philippine Medical Association in San Diego, was President from 1981 to 1982, and 1987 to 1989.

His writing skills may have been upgraded as a former member of the Editorial Board for a number of years of Philippine Physician, the official journal of the Association of Philippine Physicians in America. He had been an editorial contributor for Filipino Press newspaper in San Diego. He said: “I was propelled to write my story and write it in a fashion that would easily relate to other people.”

Dr. Canadari is simply a born social worker . . . endowed with natural diplomatic skills. He is married to the former Miss Cely M. Asprec and they have 4 children and 6 grandchildren.

Dr. Candari and his wife now reside in Henderson, Nevada.




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Last Updated on Thursday, 05 August 2010 10:32

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