POSTSCRIPT / March 6, 2012 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Naguiat is not a casino player. He’s the regulator

40 KPH TOO SLOW?: It is odd that bus operators plying the Epifanio delos Santos Ave. route complain that the bus speed limit of 40 kilometers per hour is too slow.

Now and then I check with my dashboard instruments my speed on the same busy road. Despite my rushing, with all the chaotic traffic particularly in the choke points, I average only 25 kph.

Even at 40 kph, reckless bus drivers, especially those driving under the influence, can still maim and kill pedestrians and passengers and damage property.

Allowing them excessive speed increases the probability of their getting involved in worse situations. Statistics will bear witness to this.

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REBLOCKING BLUES: The random tearing up of sections of EDSA for reblocking – resulting in traffic slowdown — will never end if the MMDA does not dig also into the reasons why the pavement deteriorates that readily.

Aside from the usual reasons – improper preparation of the foundation, substandard concrete mix, haphazard pouring, poor drainage – there is the unregulated traffic of superheavy and overloaded trucks.

The reinforced concrete is designed to withstand so much weight and punishment, not more, assuming its specifications are correct and it was poured according to accepted practice.

As one who uses EDSA many times each day, I have noticed that after 9 p.m., the road is dominated by overloaded trucks weaving in and out of the lanes, literally throwing their weight around.

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OVERWEIGHT: That was the same weight problem that caused the premature and costly deterioration of the old North Diversion Road (former name of the North Luzon Exressway or NLEx) in Bulacan and Pampanga.

Its northbound lane remained relatively undamaged while the southbound lane punished relentlessly by superheavy trucks was perpetually cracked and rutted. Many of these trucks carried wet sand from Pampanga quarries.

The cost of the damage was not in proportion to the toll paid by the trucks. Then the endless repair and maintenance slowed down considerably the traffic flow. Also, vehicles using the rutted road were subjected to more than normal wear and tear.

That problem of overloading, already solved by the NLEx management, seems to have been inherited by the MMDA.

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LOAD LIMITS: Aside from vastly improving the capacity of NLEx to carry heavy moving loads, the Manila North Tollways Corp. that operates it has set a strict schedule when heavy trucks may use the expressway.

Aside from confining the delivery trucks to the rightmost lane, the operator of NLEx has also set strict load limits. They check the weight of suspect trucks with the use of weighbridges.

Overweight trucks are directed out of the expressway. But with frequent users already familiar with the rules and their enforcement, violations are more of the exception than the rule.

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SPLIT CARGO: There should be a similar limit on moving loads on EDSA if we want to prevent its fast deterioration and the frequent reblocking that causes so much chaos and loss of valuable man-hours.

Since we cannot stop commerce into and through Metro Manila, which requires the efficient movement of goods, a way should be found to allow deliveries with the least damage to metropolitan thoroughfares, particularly EDSA.

Haulers save money by maximizing one-trip loads, but if their cargo exceeds the limit, they should be made to split it on two or more trucks to minimize damage on EDSA.

As in the NLEx experience, once truckers get familiar with the rules and are convinced that enforcers mean business, they will follow weight limits and thus reduce the need for random checking.

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DEDICATED LANE: Delivery trucks should be confined to designated lanes on EDSA. Once they enter the dedicated lane(s), they should not be allowed to meander out, except in emergencies.

This is a logical followup to the assignment of buses and public utility vehicles to the yellow lanes and motorcycles to a special blue lane. Trucks should be required to stick to their lane until it is time to exit EDSA.

Aside from being bulky, trucks are wider and longer than the cars around them. They usually hog more than their share of the road.

Through education and strict enforcement, trucks drivers can be taught to drop the bad habit of changing lanes anytime they please.

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NAGUIAT A REGULATOR: Some yellow elements still insist that the receiving by Pagcor Chairman Cristino Naguiat Jr. of extravagant favors and gifts from a Japanese billionaire in the casino business is “standard practice” and could thus be dismissed.

They should be reminded again and again that Naguiat is not the usual industry VIP or high-roller showered by casino operators with luxurious accommodation and expensive freebies to keep him coming.

As Pagcor chief executive, Naguiat is a regulator of the casino industry in the country. It is his duty to license, monitor and regulate the casino business of Kazuo Okada, a director of Wynn Resorts Ltd. and of Wynn Macau Ltd. who allegedly gave him those extravagant gifts.

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NEVADA SUIT: Traveling incognito with his family, Naguiat allegedly was billeted in a $6,000-a-night suite, the most expensive in the Wynn Resorts Hotel in Macau, showered with extravagant gifts, allegedly including cash and an expensive designer’s bag for the wife.

If true, the giving of those gifts to an industry regulator (Naguiat) violates corrupt practices laws in the United States, where a suit has been filed.

A key point is that, as we keep repeating, Naguiat as a regulator should have kept his proper distance from Okada. The latter has reportedly been able to secure from Pagcor a license to operate a giant gambling complex in the Pagcor entertainment city to be built in the reclaimed bay area.

One problem now is that cases filed in a Nevada court and in the US Securities and Exchange Commission against Okada, using the Naguiat scandal, may just explode and embarrass President Noynoy Aquino who has already cleared his bosom friend Naguiat.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 6, 2012)

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