POSTSCRIPT / July 22, 2012 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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One way to get out of Asean ‘cul de sac’

CONSENSUS: For the first time in its 45-year existence, why was there no joint communiqué capping the last ASEAN ministerial meeting when it closed last week in Phnom Penh?

Foreign Undersecretary Erlinda Basilio offered explanations in an article carried by major newspapers except for the Manila Bulletin. She was in the substantive meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in the Cambodian capital.

With due respect, we offer a more direct and simple explanation: There was no joint communiqué because the conference failed to produce a consensus on the contentious issue of how to resolve territorial conflicts involving ASEAN members.

But what is consensus in the ASEAN tradition?

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CUL DE SAC: In the same way that the law is what the Supreme Court says it is, consensus in an ASEAN meeting is what the chair, the presiding officer, says it is.

Participating ministers discuss an issue till a consensus emerges and the chair then announces it. But since Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, the chair, saw no consensus there was no consensus to announce.

ASEAN prefers to go by the gentle Asian way of consensus. It is less confrontational, unlike the Western practice of dividing the house by putting delicate issues to an open vote.

If the majority wants a way out of the political cul de sac, the solution is to change the ASEAN chair (chosen on a rotation basis). Cambodia happens to be an ally of China, its neighbor and benefactor, but then the other members also have their own alliances and interests to advance.

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TRAFFIC IDEAS: The widespread flooding caused by continuous two days of rain in Metro Manila has worsened the eternal traffic mess on Epifanio delos Santos Avenue.

Ramy Diez, a racer, broadcaster and former president of the Philippine Motor Club, now a board member of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, stepped up yesterday with a bagful of ideas. He said in an email:

“I have been using EDSA since it was still a two-lane road called Highway 54 to the eight-lane main artery that it is today. I am witness to the traffic problems getting bad to worse.

“Our mutual friend, the late Dodo Ayuyao predicted in 1978, when we both sat in the Metropolitan Manila Traffic Council that by the late 1980’s and early 1990’s traffic on Highway 54 would crawl to a miserable 15 kilometers per hour. Everyone was incredulous and he was endlessly teased about his prognostication, but it has happened as he predicted.” (My car’s computer, btw, has averaged my EDSA speed to be 23 kph over one month. –fdp)

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PRACTICAL STEPS: “There is no magic pill. However there are some steps that the MMDA can take to alleviate the problem while more permanent solutions are being worked on such as more train service, an elevated roadway on top of the present highway, rationalization of the franchising and routing system for bus services, etc.

“First, MMDA should get the President to convince the Metro Manila Mayors’ Council to work as a team in solving the EDSA and other traffic problems.

“Second, MMDA should use common sense and strong political will to enforce all laws and regulations and not pander to unreasonable public and vested interest pressures so that it can ‘do what is right.’

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DOABLES: “Third, stick to doable solutions and leave esoteric, untested and obviously unworkable solutions in the trash can. Examples:

*“Get rid of the colorum buses plying EDSA. Work with the LTFRB, LTO and PNP to enforce this. (This is where presidential support becomes invaluable.)

*“Provincial buses should not be allowed on EDSA during coding hours. In Iloilo City, buses are not allowed inside the city 24/7. This was met with protests, but is now accepted and traffic has become much lighter.

*“All trucks (without exemption) should not be allowed on EDSA and C-5 during coding hours. The heavy vehicles can move faster after coding hours instead of crawling with all other vehicles until midnight. Delivery schedules must be adjusted.

*“Slow driving and over-speeding should be reasons for citations and penalties. Tricycles, bicycles and similar contraptions should be banned 24/7 from EDSA and C-5. Clogging C-5 clogs up EDSA as well.

*“Strictly enforce ‘No Stopping, Loading, Unloading’ rules. Loading and unloading passengers anywhere, anytime, is a major cause of congestion and accidents to pedestrians.

*“Invest in traffic motorcycles for going after speedsters and moving violators. Get back the money out of the penalties and fines.

*“Set up ‘radar speed traps’ on sections of EDSA and C-5 where buses run at breakneck speed. One example is from the corner of Ortigas to the Camp Aguinaldo gate. Motorcyle cops can wait to ticket them at the end of the ‘trap’.

*“Motorcycle-riding enforcers should be mobile and not static unless for a good reason. They should not be used as escorts for burials, weddings, etc. Use them for enforcement.

*“Assign ‘pull over areas’ where drivers will be issued tickets so traffic is not blocked. Also open up more impounding areas.

*“Reduce Left-turns and U-turns except in designated areas. Make vehicles go farther out to make such maneuvers.

*“Enforce strictly no-crossing of double yellow lines. Ticket violators.

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ENFORCEMENT: “The reason why drivers follow the rules in Subic is because of strict enforcement. When they violate the rules they get caught and must pay the fines without exception.

“The lesson is very clear: Enforcement is the most important of all the E’s. Remember too, that Enforcement is the best way to Educate people.

“I am all for E-Management. In fact, I vote for the plan to install RFID (an electronic ID/monitoring gadget). Start with the buses. It will eliminate the ‘colorums,’ make issuance of citations and recording of the same very simple.

“But I repeat, ENFORCEMENT, ENFORCEMENT, ENFORCEMENT — and a lot of COMMON SENSE!”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 22, 2012)

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