Tuesday, 19 August 2014

"After seeing this"

"After seeing this"

(Or after reading news regarding an accident,
 and the people's clamor for safety, efficiency, and affordability
In mass transport system in the Philippines)

Its been days ago when this writer read about a report about an accident that contributes to the growing clamor regarding the state of the Philippine mass transport system. The accident isn't just a mere glitch that can be stopped and its passengers be promptly evacuated, but instead an accident that brought many of its passengers wounded.

As according to news, dozens were injured on that Wednesday afternoon after a defective coach of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) went out of control and slammed through a steel barricade of the Taft Avenue Station in Pasay City. 50 were wounded and one of them is an infant that requires immediate attention same as the other wounded ones in hospitals such as Pasay's own San Juan de Dios. 

The accident seemed to be one of the few, yet serious problems surrounding mass transport like train-related accidents, and even accident-prone overspeeding buses in Manila (especially from ordinary buses).

But other than accidents such as the latest, there are glitches caused by defective trains, faulty wirings, and inefficiences surrounding the handling of passengers in Philippine mass transport systems that made its concerned customers question the authorities on how they handle the situation if not improve the status of mass transport. And with the problems involving the national budget being discussed and overheard by the people, the issue on mass transport is somehow connected on how the state allocates its budget in the Transportation and Communications Dempartment, and in it be allocated in specific authorities such as the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA), Metro Rail (MRT), as well as the Philippine National Railways (PNR) in improving every station, buying new trains, fixing wiring and electric generators, anything that ensures safety of its passengers and efficiency when it comes to the train's passage "on time". 

However, speaking of the national budget and the state's handling over mass transport would say that most officials are still clinging to their self-gratification no matter how small or big time it is, much more that the state itself, trying to downsize its expenditures in maintaining transport and communications, continues to toying with privatising the entire mass transport system in which potential buyers, mainly oligarchs controlling the power and real estate sector willing to grab a chunk just like in water, power, and in maintaining public roads. Metro Rail Transit, the company behind that goddamn MRT is even controlled as a partnership between private and government with the former undertaking its maintainance and the latter with its budget used for maintaining. 
But with the MRT accident as well as other glitches involving mass transport it would been a clamor from the other side such as privatizing altogether mass transport for it means efficiency and less corruption as they think about the present state. But actually, it's been so long that the authorities have half-hearted idea involving the improvement of mass transport except buying second hand junk and mere repairing, making patches rather than improving altogether as most countries do in regards to mass transport systems. That they continue toying the idea of privatizing mass transport altogether through commercialization and public-private partnerships such as in MRT; while on the other hand they wanted to imitate neighbouring countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, or even Europe and their favorite United States, yet failing to stimulate production through industrialization and instead contening in imports that also meant consumption. 
For sure, some, if not most people remember how the president stated that traffic caused by a greater number of cars serves as its basis for a thriving economy (and this time includes congested ports). Then therefore, why a need for a mass transport especially railroads both in the city and in the countryside? There are buses and trucks to serve better than these coaches on tracks! That's what  the president and his clique thinks of just like his predecessors treat trains as a mere showcase, a museumified piece for tourists to ride on while leaving the rest to buses and trucks as the primary mode of transporting people and goods regardless of increasing fares. 

And as people continue to question the authorities' failure to address the issue, if not handing over a series of press releases, others seemed crying for privatising altogether mass transport using accidents, inefficiencies, and corruption as its reason. The commercialization of state-controlled mass transport system, as well as partnerships with the profit-driven private sector had served as 'stepping stones' to eventual privatisation no matter how unintentional as it appears; but as the corrupt state continues to toy the idea on behalf of the oligarchs would say that they fail to provide services the way they privatise healthcare and commercialise education. After all, from whose class represents the state anyway?
Obviously, for a landlord-and-compradore-controlled state, the Philippines fails to develop for the mindset being imposed by the system is all but to consume than to produce especially if that is for the well being of the society (while at the same time compradores love to profit in seeing people consuming imports rather than producing what comes from theirs). In a nation whose central capital territory is as full of modern day buildings yet fail to stimulate production by means of creating major industries, this writer find it strange why people wanted anything modern and yet they fail to pressure the system to industrialize regardless of having awash with cash thanks to foreign investments and loans from international moneylenders? The Philippines had faced controversies involving state and budget from Pork Barrel to today's Disbursement Acceleration Plan in which the system affords to brag it off no matter how corrupt the recipient is. They even want to privatise mass transport citing the private sector's 'efficiency' in handling "basic social services", from "public-private partnerships" to eventual buying of government stocks; but no matter how the good intention the profit driven sector yearning for, it is simply because they want to cripple mass transport in favor of just buses and a dozen number of cars imported from the west the way it happened post-war when the old tramway system not being rehabilitated but instead be contented in buses and other 4-wheeled transport. And culturally speaking, Cars aren't really a mode of transportation in a pride seeking, consume-driven society, but instead a mere source of pride to brag with.

And all after seeing glitches, inefficiencies, and an accident that brought passengers wounded, again, it shows how the system fails in providing services while willing to give altogether to those whose intention is just-profit. The mass transport system is somehow profitable based from the growing number of customers using the MRT, LRT, or even the PNR; but the state seemed to be half-hearted when it comes to maintaining it the way it took years for the PNR, known as PhilTrack to have new trains, and rehabilitate new tracks, yet fail to improve further. 

Worse, failure to provide a sound alternative to the rising fares like jeeps and buses. People wanted safe, and efficient trips, but does it mean being safe and efficient has to be expensive? Then the state has to provide safe, efficient, and affordable the way other countries did in its mass transport systems. They would take crisis as reference in justifying increasing fares, but come to think of this, in a nation awash with cash, and a government that takes pride in its so-called progress, why not support its mass transport as well as others such as health care and education rather than leaving it altogether to the profit-driven few? 

Anyways, having mass transport-related glitches, accidents as well as inefficiencies also happened in developed countries like Singapore. However, compared to the former that emphasise mere profit over safety and efficiency, the latter is at least lessened its problem in its mass transport system knowing that the safety of their Mass Rapid Transit was even questioned by the public after several accidents on the system during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Most of the problems have been addressed by the government, and many safety measures are visible to users of the system.

And come to think of this, Singapore is a progressive, communitarian-oriented country, yet despite having their standards of living better than other Asian countries, they emphasise mass transport systems than seeing more cars in every road. Perhaps because Singapore is an urbanised isle to maintain with; and having limited space, such as an isle to support a thriving society requires strict policies, regulations, forces that makes a community great as compared to those whose trying hard rugged individualism that creates insignificant results. Mass transport systems, whether it is wheeled or railed has to be supported by the community especially through its own government knowing that most people can't even afford a car for themselves yet seeking a transport that ables them to go to their work on time, much more that there are people whom rather not to waste gasoline in their vehicles but at the same time seeking for transport that is worth affordable in its fares. 

That somehow should be a lesson for the authorities whom controlling mass transport, be it from the Metro Rail (MRT), LRT, and the PhilTrack (PNR), as well as the owners of buses that dominate major roads such as EDSA. This writer had been riding in public transport despite rising costs of fuel that affects fares, as well as watching reports involving inefficiency when it comes to safety and affordability of mass transport systems whether it is a bus or rail, and through those events somehow made it a duty to question, as well as to insist additional safety, increase affordability, and efficiency involving mass transport especially in a developing society like this so-called Philippines.