POSTSCRIPT / July 17, 2012 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Taming EDSA traffic like Subic, NLEx did

ELEMENTS: Let us add a fourth element to the Three E’s discussed in our July 12 Postscript on restoring order and sanity to the 23.8-kilometer Epifanio delos Santos Avenue.

I first heard of the Three E’s (Engineering, Education and Enforcement) from the late ace car-racer Conrado “Dodo” Ayuyao, president for 18 years of the Philippine Motor Association (forerunner of the Automobile Association of the Philippines) and the corporate counsel at the Philippine Daily Inquirer when the venerable Eggie Apostol was our publisher.

The Three E’s are called elements because with just one of them missing, any attempt to manage traffic on a high-volume road like EDSA will fail.

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E-MANAGEMENT: Overtaken by the galloping world of electronics, traffic control must now add E-Management as the fourth “E” to the original three. We do this for the same reasons why we have MIS (Management Information System) in corporate settings.

Let us banish the days when an officer flags down a bus, asks for the driver’s license, examines his vehicle registration, explains things and writes a violation ticket. Throughout that rigmarole, the bus blocks traffic and passengers are inconvenienced. Instead of improving flow, the big to-do just adds to the chaos on the road.

Aided by electronic gadgets, that long process can be abbreviated or even totally eliminated, with violation tickets sent to the bus operators without obstructing normal traffic flow.

We have gadgets that enable an officer to check the status of any vehicle without stopping it or talking to the driver. If transportation officials would just drop commercial biases, such gadgets could be acquired immediately.

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DATA BASE: The Metro Manila Development Authority and the Land Transportation Office should speed up building a credible electronic data base on motor vehicles and drivers.

There seems to be no systematic compilation of traffic violations – a chore that computers can make fast and simple – so accidents and infractions can be reflected on vehicle insurance and drivers’ licensing.

Some drivers boast of having several licenses under different names. When caught, they just ignore the citation and use their other licenses. Multiple licenses can be easily weeded out electronically.

We have seen also how close-circuit TV has helped monitor accident-prone areas and solve crimes. Electronics helps make traffic move safer and more efficiently.

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DISCIPLINE ZONE: The bosses of MMDA actually have a golden opportunity to develop a new breed of disciplined drivers by exploiting the fact that EDSA is a controlled area.

Taking off from the example of Subic Bay, where even unruly Manila drivers miraculously make a full stop at stop signs and obey all the traffic rules, I proposed years ago a similar regime for the North Luzon Expressway that the then NLEx management adopted substantially.

A similar campaign can be launched on EDSA, a controlled area where all needed resources can be poured to instilling discipline among drivers entering the road – after emplacing the elements of Engineering and Education.

The goal is a Discipline Zone where every driver who enters EDSA should be conditioned to think: “This is EDSA where traffic rules are strictly enforced. I better drive properly.”

The Filipino may appear to be unruly at times, but once he sees that the rules are clear and evenly applied and that violators do not get away, he will gladly embrace a new disciplined order.

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PALAWAN DISPUTED?: It was dismaying to see Malacañang fumbling through last week’s scenario of a Chinese frigate running aground just 60 kilometers off Rizal town in Palawan – clearly Philippine territory by any reckoning.

It was unfortunate that a presidential spokesperson referred to the shoal where the warship was stuck as a “disputed area.” She was not sure it was Philippine territory?

Despite the claim of Beijing over everything that protrudes out of the South China Sea, Manila should avoid officially describing any point within the Philippines’ 370-kilometer Exclusive Economic Zone as disputed.

While six Chinese naval vessels rushed to the frigate’s rescue, Philippine ships timidly kept their distance. Since this is Palawan, Philippine authorities should have been on the scene ahead and immediately taken control of the situation.

Malacañang was lucky that most Filipinos, who cannot stand fumbling in high places, were at the time distracted by the death, wake and burial of Dolphy, the Comedy King.

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SETBACK: With the distressed Chinese vessel having been extricated and sent limping back home, Malacañang expressed great relief that the crisis was finally over.

No, the problem has not gone away. In fact, it has worsened.

The biggest setback was that China was able to show to the watching world that that area in Palawan is Chinese, not Philippine, territory. The interlopers demonstrated that they come and go as they please with Filipinos unwilling and unable to do anything about it.

Never did the Chinese refer to that shoal off Rizal town as a disputed area. Unlike Malacañang, they talked and moved like it is indeed theirs.

How can the Philippines push a convincing claim when it concedes officially that that rich territory within its EEZ is “disputed”?

On sensitive topics, Malacañang spokespersons should choose their words. As they obviously lack background, they should read only from carefully crafted statements. Then, they should not ad lib or go beyond the script.

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TIMID AMATEURS: But whatever we say, one very big problem is that the Philippines does not have the military hardware – including warships, planes and modern weapons– needed to make its presence felt in its archipelagic waters.

This predicament is similar to that of an ill-equipped officer trying to enforce EDSA traffic rules by blowing a whistle and waving a stick from the sidewalk while covering his nose with a hanky to avoid collapsing from air pollution.

How do we fill this deficiency? Malacañang says it has allocated P70 billion for immediate acquisition of military hardware and P500 billion more for the next five years.

But while upgrading capability, something should be done about our losing territory bit by painful bit — mostly by timidity and the amateurish handling of fast-developing situations.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 17, 2012)

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