Dear President-elect Duterte: On solving the traffic crisis

Cleaning up the roads also means eliminating obstructions. This includes parked vehicles (both legally and illegally parked), crowds waiting in the roadway at bus stops, and poorly managed road repair projects. We need to prioritize the free movement of traffic over everything else on the road.

Second, we need to control public buses. I'm not talking about the number of buses; I'm talking about their behavior. The aggressive, competitive, illegal ways buses operate is one of the major causes of congestion in Metro Manila, and bus companies seem to have an amazing ability to resist enforcement.

Government needs to prioritize the quality of bus service over the ability of bus companies to make money. We need to make the Metro Manila bus system something that everybody wants to ride, not just those who have no choice.

Third, we need to professionalize the entire enforcement system. The behavior of individual vehicles always affects the smooth flow of traffic across the metro. When vehicles move in accordance with rules and procedures, the entire traffic network flows more efficiently. But asking drivers to be self-disciplined without first enforcing discipline will never work.

There are some good traffic enforcers out there, but most are poorly trained and poorly managed. Corruption within the enforcer ranks is a big part of this problem, but there are simple solutions.

Professionalizing the enforcement system also includes overhauling the vehicle registration, vehicle inspection, and driver licensing agencies, which have become so corrupt and inefficient that they simply serve no useful purpose.

In many cases, the anti-corruption measures they have instituted only provide the illusion of effectiveness. As they currently operate, the value these agencies provide to society is outweighed by the cost of their own existence.

Moving forward

Mr President, you recently declared traffic to be a crisis, and you said you plan to go to war against the problem. To be honest, this is an easy war to win, but only if you're willing to do something different. Infrastructure and big money have been tried for decades, and have not solved the problem.

As I said at the beginning, Metro Manila roads are congested, chaotic, and unsafe because we allow them to be. But it doesn't have to be this way. Metro Manila could easily have a highly efficient, world class transportation system, and doesn't need to spend a fortune to create it.

The solutions are easier than most people think. With proper management, I guarantee you can dramatically improve the flow of traffic, reduce the accident rate, and even cut air pollution, within a few months. Not to mention saving a big chunk of that P200 billion the country loses every day.

It's not a matter of searching for a solution. It's a matter of acting.

I'd be happy to help. – 

Michael Brown is a retired member of the US Air Force, and has lived over 16 years in the Philippines. He writes on English, traffic management, law enforcement, and government. Follow him on Twitter at @M_i_c_h_a_e_l. Or email him at