POSTSCRIPT / June 1, 2000 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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A chance for PNCC to do something great

THE Philippine National Construction Corp. is in a unique position to do something really great for itself, the motoring public, and the country by adopting the concept of a Traffic Safety and Discipline Zone (Safdiz) for its 88-kilometer North Luzon Expressway.

Motorists writing in laud the Safdiz (with a long “a”) idea we broached in Postscript last May 29. The plan involved (1) making the Balintawak-Sta. Inez tollway into a Traffic Safety and Discipline Zone and (2) building an extra-heavy-duty lane reserved for the superheavy trucks now destroying the highway after paying a toll fee of only P61.

We envisioned the NLE as a controlled, properly engineered area where rules are strictly enforced 24 hours and willingly obeyed by road users. The no-nonsense enforcement would help educate motorists not only on road ethics but consequently also on other aspects of citizenship.

The Safdiz project could condition motorists to drop their mad driving habits upon entering the NLE and automatically switch to disciplined expressway driving – the same adapting observed among drivers entering Camp John Hay and the Subic Free Port.

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GRAHAM Haigh of BF Homes Phase 3 in Parañaque says: “How I wish your proposals for turning this death-trap of a highway into a disciplined thoroughfare trafficked by educated safe drivers could become a reality!

“I use the tollway regularly. I have driven on some scary roads in many countries, Egypt and the Indian subcontinent to mention a few, but the NLE is something I have to psych myself up for, fasten my seatbelt, breathe deeply, and summon up every piece of defensive driving skill I have.

“Idiots screaming past on the shoulder, trucks without lights (I have been sideswiped twice by these), and lunatic buses tailgating me and trying to get up my exhaust pipe, rusting overloaded wrecks wobbling along blocking the fast (he-he!) lane, etc. And this is daytime! Try it at night and in the rain, with barely marked edges or center lines, amid columns of rickety trucks driven flat out by cretins full of shabu, no doubt. Or rather, don’t.

“You are right, there is no policing. Improving the road by increasing the tolls might help, but at the end of the day, brutal enforcement of proper traffic behavior and the law are what is needed. How I would love to bring over the British motorway police with their fast cars, radar guns, video cameras, powers of arrest.

“The traffic blocks at the Valenzuela/Meycauayan end would be gone within hours simply because 8 out of 10 vehicles would be grounded. Bring over a contingent of Singaporean traffic police to help out! Add caning to the list of traffic violation penalties!

“The only problem would be a severe shortage of police notebooks as they wrote up all the offenders!

“Surely the PNCC can do better. But where is the will? The bottom line is there isn’t any. Even if your commendable much-needed scheme got off the ground, some litigious truck drivers’ group or other would slap a TRO on it, claiming they don’t have the money to install rear lights… back to square one.

“Your heartfelt cry is, I fear, a voice in the wilderness. You and I just have to remember our defensive driving skills, carry our St. Christopher’s medallions, check our seatbelts and say a traveler’s prayer.”

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WE’RE sure Growler Graham did not mean it when he said we’re a voice in the wilderness. He’s just provoking action from the proper authorities, including the PNCC that operates the NLE.

The idea, which is very clear in our mind, is not really difficult to implement. Director Jogy Mantaring of the Philippine Motor Association agrees and is, in fact, excited about fleshing it out and doing it right away.

“Your proposal is a very doable project,” he said. “It will not be expensive to support either. If you intend to pursue this, I would like to propose to the PMA board that we give it unstinting support.”

Maybe PNCC officials can find time to study our proposal for making the NLE a Traffic Safety and Discipline Zone?

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VIRGILIO U. Tuldanes using a driv address: “Your column regarding the conditions in North Expressway deserves to be looked into and evaluated by the concerned government agencies. The deplorable condition of the road and the problems created by undisciplined motorists are really true.

“However, one other thing that should be considered is the traffic jam created by vehicles exiting to or going from Valenzuela and Meycauayan. My suggestion is to construct an additional lane or improve the North Expressway similar to the South Expressway to be able to accommodate the bigger volume of traffic especially on peak hours.”

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WEENA Roldan using a yahoo address: “Your article should enlighten lawmakers, MMDA, PNP, DPWH, etc., on the horrible condition of our roads. Motorists should sue the government for monetary claims for wrecking their vehicles with moonlike craters and uneven patching of roads.

“We’re sick of complaining of such perennial problems as flooding, traffic, corruption, cronyism… the list goes on and on.

“Worse, the government is even planning to impose a Road User’s Tax. No wonder a lot of Filipinos want to go abroad to seek a better life.”

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A FAN of San Juan Mayor Jinggoy Estrada using an aol (AmericaOnLine) address, meanwhile, wrote to point out that there is nothing new in officials’ putting their names on such government vehicles as ambulances.

He was reacting to our Postscript (5/23/00) criticizing the placing of the name of Jinggoy, a Senate wannabe, on Sweepstakes ambulances distributed to his fellow mayors. We said it was shameless personal, partisan advertising.

Signing as Manolo, Jinggoy’s defender said: “But, what’s new? It happened during Marcos regime including most if not all the previous administrations. When you are in power, you can practically do everything. Actually, the politicians are not the only ones guilty of this. Even the Church, I mean the Catholic Church. Don’t you notice those plaques and signs posted on pews indicating the wealthy sponsors? Don’t you hear the politicians’ names being proudly announced by these religious leaders? I think we should blame this on the Spaniards who colonized us for almost 400 years. Such influence, practice and tradition are still being experienced these days. Please don’t pick on Jinggoy. He must have learned it from the former First Lady Imelda.”

* * *

WE emailed this reply to Manolo: “The donors whose names are engraved on church pews paid for those pews. Jinggoy did not pay for those ambulances sporting his name.

“The fact that a certain misconduct was committed by officials in the past does not make the same act less reprehensible today.

“We are responsible for these things that we allow to happen around us today. Let us not blame the Spaniards who were here centuries ago, or Imelda even if she has influenced her friends the Ejercitos of San Juan.”

(Postscript: We urge readers to inform us of their own sightings of Sweepstakes ambulances emblazoned with the names of politicians. Kindly indicate the license plate number, the names of the politicians, date, time and place, and if the ambulance was on sick call.)

* * *

Dr. Josie Banaag, Hardin ng Rosas, UP Diliman: “Shall we make some suggestions on alternative ways of identifying the vehicle, ambulance, public works projects, etc.? Here’s a suggestion: Instead of personal names, use the name of the office concerned. For example, ‘Office of the Mayor, Quezon City,’ or the name of the barangay (say, ‘Barangay VASRA Zone 1’).”

“In this way any change in the leadership will not necessitate changing the sign. It will not only save funds but it will also enhance the respectability of the office concerned. Let’s make it unlawful for politicians to exhibit their names on anything paid for by taxpayers!”

* * *

VICTOR P dela Dingco using an edsamail address: “I have been following your articles on the ‘PCSO Ambulance’ issue and I thought that while you’re at it, you might want to check on the ownership of a brand new, black Ford Expedition purportedly a government vehicle (must be an affluent government agency to own an Expedition) since it bore red plates (SFK633).

“Said vehicle and a backup car, a white Honda Accord (also with red plates but we didn’t get to jot down the number) bullied their way into what otherwise was an orderly single file of motor vehicles at the toll booths of the

“We don’t know what he was in a hurry for but we don’t see the justification of what they did just to get ahead of everybody since the line was short and it would not hurt to be patient since the queuing was proceeding very smoothly.

“It may not be the owner himself who was driving, but he should not lose time in firing the driver (unless of course, the driver was under instructions to do so) as this is the kind of display of arrogance of power that puts government officials in a bad light. It is no wonder that the general public abhor people in the government because of such behavior. They don’t realize that they owe their positions to us the taxpayers.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 1, 2000)

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