Traffic at Manila, Philippines
Traffic at Metro Manila, Philippines
There is a solution to the traffic congestion problem not only in Manila, but one that could decongest the whole of the Philippines within a couple of years. It does not involve banning trucks or any vehicles, or inconveniencing anybody.
Take your concerns online
Take the Traffic Online

The Philippines has a massive on-line mobile community… millions of Filipinos are clutching smart-phones frantically messaging one-another, taking selfies and posting them on Facebook, but that is all the internet is used for in most cases. Not for search, and not a lot of transacting. We need to embrace the internet to take our daily activities online.

So how can we fast-track our way to migrate to the internet quickly? – I suggest by government incentives to its departments, or even slight tax breaks to big business like banks. Even if the incentive is only of participant recognition, we should somehow incentivize big business and government to Take the Traffic Online. We need to think beyond the tangibles, past the things we can see on the road like trucks.

BDO ATM Subic Bay
BDO ATM – Subic Bay, Philippines

Recently I got a letter from my BDO bank telling me my new bankcard is at the Manila branch where I opened the account, ready for collection. I phoned and asked if they could please send that to the nearby Subic branch and they said ‘No sir, please just call by here in Manila’ (One more car in Manila). So I went into my branch in Subic (One more car on the road) and asked them how I can transfer the account here. They said that cannot be done. So I asked what should I do and they told me to ‘close the Manila account and open a new one here in Subic’. I asked them to please close the account in Manila for me and they said ‘No Sir you have to drive to Manila to do it’. (One more car in Manila). Once the new account is in place I would then have to enroll all of my payment recipients again. Now this involves driving down to the ATM machine a few times to punch some numbers in (One more car on the road).

So why can’t this popular bank modernize themselves, or the government incentivize them to do so. Then we could rid of all these unnecessary trips burning gasoline driving around paper choking the streets with traffic.

One time I was driving from Subic to Manila (for something that probably should be able to be done on-line) and I observed an armored car as I overtook it. Shortly after that I noticed another armored car heading in the opposite direction, then another one. It occurred to me that these security companies are driving one load of cash Manila to Subic and one from Subic to Manila at the same time. With some incentive these security companies may just be able to configure a system where this pointless swap of identical cargo could be avoided.

LTO Enforcer - SCTEX
LTO Enforcer – SCTEX

Further up the freeway I was detected by a traffic camera radar, and as I came into the toll gate the Police were there in wait for me. The officer declared I was caught speeding and took my license from me. He gave me a piece of pink paper and said that was to serve as my license until I attended to pay a fine in Makati within 3 days to get my license back. I asked him ‘are you telling me that you are forcing me to drive into Manila to get my license back and I have no other option??’ He seemed very pleased with himself as he told me ‘yes that is correct’ he confirmed. I said ‘are you crazy, you are out here on the freeways collecting driver licenses to make everybody go into Manila to pay a fine??’ ‘Yes’ he said and proudly displayed a folder full of confiscated licenses … each one representing another car forced into Manila within 3 days. I imagined how many more traffic officers were on the outskirts of manila doing the same.

One time a friend of mine applied for a Visa to visit to Australia. She made the mistake of ticking the box to apply for 3-months when she only needed one. This meant she needed an X-Ray to clear her for Tuberculosis. After some time the department of foreign affairs contacted her and gave her a schedule to have the X-Ray. I said to her ‘congratulations ! …you must have got the Visa Approved conditional to the Tuberculosis clearance’. She went out into the traffic to attend a clinic that was packed with hundreds of people getting X-Rays. Eventually it was done and she travelled home again. Days later her Visa was Declined because of the length of stay requested, nothing to do with the X-Ray. That was a waste of time and an unnecessary car on the road. All the DFA need to do is process the Visa first, if it is approved follow through with the X-Ray then. I wondered how many other people in those hundreds at the clinic were there when they really didn’t need to be. I wondered how many other thousands of unorganized government departments are causing traffic that really doesn’t need to be on the road.

One time my wife applied for a Visa. The embassy had her tripping back and forward to the LBC to send the most unnecessary things, including cash and receipts and even an original letter from us telling them that they have confirmed that they have received her passport by LBC! Yes, us telling them that they have confirmed… and ‘No you cannot do this by email sir’, they want the piece of paper. No Visa facilities either, they want the paper cash. We took the car back and forward to the LBC probably 6 times during the pointless process.

Waiting in line
Filipinos outside an office, waiting in line

I spend untold time driving around paper money, it is the only way to pay my power bill every month… cash only. PLDT let me use my credit card but make me come in to sign it. I said ‘please keep the card number and charge the due amount each month’. ‘No Sir, we cant do that. Please just call by’ (each month) I was told. I could go on with so many examples of unnecessary traffic on the road, doing things that can so easily be done on-line.. but all our LTO can think of is banning trucks and talking about building some infrastructure.

Poor search engine results are another reason we don’t use the internet to find stuff as much as other countries do. We Filipinos will ask someone who knows where to get that something or drive around looking, because the use of search engines like Google is uncommon compared to other Asian countries. Maybe this is because much of the information on-line such as business websites is not kept up to date nor is it user friendly. Perhaps this is because everyone is so busy driving around paper.

Our websites are uninformative and unoptimized in the search results, perhaps because not many people use Google search anyway, so why bother? So it is a vicious circle of either poor search results because of poor information, or poor information because of poor search results. I once needed Signage so I Googled ‘signs Subic’ and the first result that came up was ‘dolphin at Ocean Adventure Subic showing signs of improvement’. There is not one Sign company in Subic with a reasonable enough website to rank in the search results. Only low quality pages available delivering poor search results.

So I hear you asking ‘how can I help as an individual?’ You are not a government official or big business person. You could get yourself on-line to search for something rather than take a car. You also can help by simply keeping your work-place information up to date. Get on Google Maps and Claim your free Pin, keep it updated. Keep your workplace website up to date also. Stay with just one phone number permanently, or keep your new number published on line up to date, so then you can be contacted on the phone and online rather than just ‘calling by’.

Sangat LandscapeOver Gaard

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