MANILA, Philippines – Although it is a full-fledged city, Pasig has retained some of the rustic qualities of a riverside town on the edge of the metropolis, such as its narrow two-lane roads that pass almost right by the doorsteps of houses on either side. One would think the best way to get around would be the modest tricycle, but the problem is there’s so many of them that they have become quite territorial.
Nearly every neighborhood has its own tricycle operators and drivers association (TODA) and they make sure not to cross paths, so commuters end up having to transfer from one tricycle to another at every neighborhood they pass until they reach their destination.
When Pasig’s Task Force on Traffic Management presented to Mayor Vico Sotto on Monday, August 19, their findings from a 45-day study, among the problems they noted was the city’s 89 TODAs – almost thrice the number of its 30 barangays, and obviously too many.
“Trip chaining,” or having to take several rides in a single commute, discourages people from taking public transport, which leads to more private cars on Pasig’s “predominantly very small roads,” as the task force put it.
Further complicating things is the fact that most TODAs do not have proper terminals. They queue up for passengers on street corners, which creates traffic choke points.
Last week, the new mayor mended a rift between two TODA factions – a “federation” and a “coalition” – to get everyone onboard as he attempts to reorganize the city’s tricycle system.
“Maraming lugar sa Pasig kung saan tricycle pa rin ang pangunahing transportasyon-pampubliko (There are many places in Pasig where tricycles are still the main mode of public transport),” Sotto said in a Facebook post on Saturday, August 17.
On Wednesday, August 21, a public holiday, Sotto went down to Barangay Sta Lucia to sort out a tricycle problem. The existing terminal was right at the entrance of Soldier’s Village, which obstructs vehicle traffic especially at rush hour.
The solution, however, had been staring everyone in the face: a vacant lot right across it. All Sotto had to do was order the tricycles to take over the empty space, and have street lamps built on it so that it can be used at night.
“Kasama ito sa effort ng lokal na pamahalaan natin para sa clearing, at isa rin ito sa mga rekomendasyon ng (This is part of the local government’s effort at clearing, and it is also one of the recommendations of the) Task Force on Traffic Management,” Sotto said in a Facebook post.
That was one TODA; there are 88 more.
Sotto had set about fixing Pasig’s traffic dilemma even before President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the clearing of all of Metro Manila’s roads. The order only added more pressure.
In its analysis, Pasig’s task force said the city was caught in a kind of double-whammy: its streets are narrow and it’s a pass-through area for vehicles traveling to and from the metropolis’ business districts.
There are more commuters than existing means of public transportation can accommodate, but the last thing the city needs are more tricycles. Buses, jeepneys, bicycle lanes, and accessible walkways – not overhead ones – would be better, the task force said.
On Friday, August 23, Sotto announced that the city’s traffic Command Center would be using data from the Waze traffic app, and that an officer from the Traffic and Parking Management Office would be onboard at all times.
Tripled budget for medicines
One local government service that matters a lot to residents, particularly senior citizens, is free medicines.
But as Rappler learned from a few Pasigueño seniors, the service tended to be inconsistent, depending on the barangay. It was not clear which medicines they were entitled to and whether they were available at health centers.
Earlier this month, Sotto agreed to fund a program to train doctors and other medical staff for barangay health centers to bring basic health care and treatment closer to residents.
On Tuesday, August 20, he announced that the city’s Health Cluster budget will be nearly tripled next year, from P89.7 million in 2019 to P253.5 million in 2020.
“Tataasan natin ang pondo para sa gamot (We will increase the fund for medicines),” Sotto’s official notice stated.
On Monday, August 19, Sotto helped launch a Malasakit Center at the Rizal Medical Center, involving several national government agencies including the Office of the President. He said it would dispense P5 million worth of medical assistance every month.
Cash for scholars
On Thursday, August 22, Sotto said the city gave cash incentives to its 110 scholars who were graduating with honors: P30,000 for summa cum laude, P25,000 for magna cum laude, and P20,000 for cum laude.
He promised “big changes to expand the scholarship” and to “reduce unnecessary costs” for students.
“I hope these incentives will also motivate the next batches to study harder,” Sotto added.
The mayor also posted a send-off for 140 student athletes who would be competing in the Batang Pinoy Finals in Puerto Princesa, Palawan. The city government would cover their airfare, allowances, and incentives for those who would win medals, Sotto said, adding that the city would also strengthen its sports program. – Rappler.com