Class divide: Filipinos slam MMDA for ‘anti-poor’ EDSA policy

Sofia Virtudes
(UPDATED) MMDA traffic chief Bong Nebrija says the problem lies with the lack of discipline among bus drivers who swerve lanes, causing traffic buildup

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Were you stuck in traffic today? You’re not alone, as Filipinos took to social media to slam the attempts of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to ease Manila’s traffic congestion.

On Wednesday, August 7, netizen Karl Mercado posted a photo on his Facebook account, showing the traffic situation along EDSA due to MMDA’s yellow lane policy, which allows buses to use only the two outermost lanes in EDSA. The policy has resulted in traffic gridlocks, affecting mostly city buses.

Mercado’s photo, which circulated soon after it was uploaded, showed the city bus gridlock, barely moving, and extending to an end hardly in sight – in stark contrast to the lane for private vehicles, which was almost empty, except for a traffic enforcer’s motorcycle parked comfortably in the middle. 

The traffic situation also coincided with the dry run of MMDA’s controversial provincial bus ban along EDSA, which pushed through despite a Quezon City court’s preliminary injunction against the policy last week. 

Pointing out how MMDA’s solutions to the traffic only seemed to worsen it, netizens expressed their outrage over MMDA’s overt lack of consideration to Filipinos who take public transport on a daily basis.

For many netizens, one need not take a hard look at the photo to see what the policy really is about and who the policy is for: the line drawn between the rich and the poor has never been so apparent.

Noting the clear disparity between the lanes for buses and private cars, netizens lamented how the “anti-poor” policy discounted the needs of commuters. 

This is not the first time the MMDA has been labeled as “anti-poor” for its policies. The provincial bus ban, especially, inconveniences the commuters from the provinces more than anyone else.

Many reiterated that most of those who take the buses are workers who cannot afford the convenience of private cars and are left with not much choice other than public transport. 

Netizens lamented how MMDA’s policies seem to prioritize the comfort of the rich at the expense of the poor.

Some also suggested regulating private vehicles as well, instead of burdening only the commuters.

5-minute travel time? Sure, if you got a car

In March and June this year, President Rodrigo Duterte promised to reduce the Cubao-Makati drive to 5 minutes. (READ: DPWH claims 5-minute Cubao to Makati drive ‘possible’ by December)

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and Duterte are not entirely wrong, though. Judging from EDSA’s holiday-like situation for private vehicles, netizens think that the 5-minute drive does seem probable…if you have a car.

Commuters, however, might take a longer time, with some netizens pointing out how the travel might take as long as 5 hours due to the intense traffic. 

At the expense of the poor

Meanwhile, some who got caught in the gridlock shared their horrendous commute experience, with others being stuck in traffic for more than 3 hours.

 

Not a matter of class, but of discipline

Following the massive backlash, MMDA traffic chief Bong Nebrija took to Facebook to respond to commuters and netizens alike who surmised that MMDA prioritizes private vehicles over PUVs (public utility vehicles). 

In his public post on Sunday, August 11, Nebrija explained that the private vehicle lanes looked empty only because the private vehicles were wedged between buses and could not move.

Nebrija also said that the problem lies with discipline – or the lack thereof – among bus drivers who swerve lanes and block vehicles behind them.

“Before you judge MMDA please look at the pictures. Ang problema minsan wala sa bilang nasa disiplina, 5% nga lang ang buses but it could block the 95% from moving tapos MMDA ngayon ang nag-eexperiment,” he said. (The problem here is not the number [of vehicles] but [the lack of] discipline, the buses may take up only 5% but they could block the 95% from moving, and you tell us MMDA is experimenting.)

The photos he was referring to showed buses changing lanes, thus causing traffic buildup.

 

Nebrija hit back at critics and said that they should cooperate with MMDA instead of pointing fingers at them.

 “Kung ayaw nating makipagtulungan, please naman huwag na tayong magsisihan,” he closed. (If you don’t want to cooperate, please don’t put the blame on us.) – Rappler.com