” We agree with the AAP that immediate solutions are required to solve the problem of horrendous traffic congestion in Metro Manila “
WE’RE not surprised at all that the lingering COVID-19 pandemic has led to some 2.3 million Filipinos joining the ranks of the poor.
That’s because thousands of small local businesses had been shuttered by the most stringent lockdowns at the onset of the pandemic in 2020.
The pandemic also temporarily stopped the deployment of overseas Filipino workers, while hundreds of thousands of them lost their jobs and returned home due to the global recession.
According to the Family Income and Expenditure survey for 2021 of the Philippine Statistics Authority, the poverty rate had worsened to 18.8 percent from 16.7 percent in 2018.
This means 19.99 million Filipinos who are living below the poverty line, or those making less than P12,030 a month for a family of five.
In 2018, the last time the survey was made, there were 17.67 million Filipinos living below the poverty threshold of P10,481 a month. The poverty rate was worse in 2015 at 23.5 percent, or the equivalent of 23.68 million poor Filipinos.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said the COVID-19 pandemic caused income and employment losses that led to the rise in poverty incidence.
Restrictions on mobility and low earning capacity of poor households due to limited access to regular and productive jobs made the lives of Filipinos difficult, he said.
But he hastened to add that the government is “prepared to face these challenges head-on,” poverty reduction efforts focusing on three main areas: full reopening of the economy; more investments in human capital, social development, and social protection; as well as transformation of the production sectors to generate more and quality jobs and competitive products.
Sen. Grace Poe asserts that social protection programs and services must effectively reach and empower the poor. Improving employment opportunities for Filipinos is therefore critical, particularly in the agriculture sector, as the pandemic forced many companies to close down.
The reality is that despite recent employment gains due to the reopening of more economic sectors, the Philippines’ latest jobless rate in June of 6 percent, equivalent to 2.99 million Filipinos, was still the second-worst in emerging Asia.
The administration’s economic managers should prioritize the full reopening of the economy to steer it back to its previous high-growth path anchored on accelerated job creation.
No to ‘No Garage, No Registration Act’
The Automobile Association Philippines (AAP) is on the right track in opposing the passage of House Bill 31, better known as the No Garage, No Registration Act. This is an updated version of the No Garage, No Car Act of 2016 and the Proof of Parking Space Act filed in 2019.
HB 31 seeks to curb the number of private vehicles on the road and thus address traffic congestion.
But, if passed, it will have an adverse impact on individuals who live and/or work in the metropolitan areas.
A huge number of those who will be adversely affected by this bill would be the working class for which owning a private vehicle is not a luxury but a necessity in a country like ours with a grossly inadequate public transportation system.
Apart from this, it will negatively affect the automotive industry which provides jobs for many Filipinos and has been a major contributor to economic growth.
The AAP urges the government to look instead at long-term sustainable solutions that would benefit everyone instead of stopgap measures that would inconvenience a large segment of the population.
For the group, the best solution is to ramp up efforts to build an integrated, efficient mass transportation system that moves people, not just cars. If countries around the world have accomplished this, why not the Philippines, they ask.
Making it more difficult for people to own cars will only lead to more scenes of stranded commuters taking over more than half of the main roads or endless queues at bus carousel stations and at MRT and LRT stations.
The AAP suggests that government should strictly enforce existing traffic regulations, such as the No Parking Zone.
By identifying heavy traffic areas and strictly implementing the law against illegal parking through heavy fines on violators, the government can instill discipline not just among private car owners, but among all road users.
To complement this, the AAP suggests that LGUs should provide public parking space or allow pay parking during certain hours on streets that are not heavily congested with traffic.
Building car park buildings on empty government-owned lots is another possible solution as LGUs could derive more income from parking fees.
The stark reality is that Metro Manila and other highly urbanized areas lack enough space to build more roads.
The national government should therefore put more effort in decongesting urban areas for a more sustainable and healthier environment.
We agree with the AAP that immediate solutions are required to solve the problem of horrendous traffic congestion in Metro Manila.
However, long-term solutions are just as important. Requiring all car owners to have their own garages is patently anti-poor and anti-democratic. (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)