A fatal situation

“Hindi naman siguro fatal ‘yan.”

Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya was recently quoted in a The Standard news item as having said this on TV Patrol about the traffic gridlock that is expected to result from the construction of the Light Railway Transit (LRT-2) extension project that starts next month.

The news item also mentioned that by “not fatal”, Abaya said he meant “not burdensome to the daily lives of the people.”

What is Abaya on? Doesn’t he realize the gravity, the urgency, the tragedy of the Manila traffic situation?

If an ambulance carrying a patient arrives at the hospital late, and the patient dies because of the delay, then that’s just one example how the traffic situation can literally be fatal. What if that patient were Abaya himself? How would he feel about the traffic, then?

 We’re not even mentioning lost man-hours and productivity, wasted time and effort, and stress resulting from the worsening traffic condition. That’s “not burdensome to daily lives”?

Just last Friday (Aug. 14), the construction of the Skyway extension caused an eight-hour traffic jam from  10 a.m.  onward that made hundreds, if not thousands, of airline passengers late for their flights, if not missing them entirely.

With cars barely moving along Airport Road, Sucat Road, and Andrews Avenue —major thoroughfares leading to the airport terminals— many people chose to walk to the airports just to make their flights, those with heavy luggage renting more maneuverable pedicabs and tricycles, some of whose drivers took the opportunity to price-gouge.

We can argue that major infrastructure projects like the Skyway and LRT-2 extensions are important and will contribute benefits to commuters. However, over the years that they are being constructed, they will cause tremendous inconvenience.

The MRT should have helped alleviate this somewhat; instead, its cars are falling apart, it has operational problems and too few cars to meet demand, and lines to ride it stretch for blocks.

Who oversees the Department of Transportation and Communication’s performance? Other government agencies, especially government-owned and –controlled corporations, are tightly monitored by bodies such as the Governance Commission for GOCCs on their targets, balanced scorecards, and such indicators of performance. If a GOCC fails to meet at least 90 percent of their targets for the year, their employees do not receive any performance bonuses.

Does the DOTC have any targets or performance parameters? Where’s their performance evaluation? Can we see this? Because based on their impact on people’s lives over the past five years of the current administration, the DOTC headed by Abaya since 2012 has failed to provide solutions to the MRT problem despite having all the time and resources required to do so, thus making the traffic situation even more intolerable.

Their performance in this regard is abysmal, and they should be held accountable for this. Nor should they be getting any performance bonuses either.

Not fatal? Not burdensome? Really, now.                               

* * * *

Literary news: the Unyon ng Manunulat sa Pilipinas will host the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Literary Symposium on  Aug. 26-28  at the Escaler Hall of Ateneo de Manila University.

Speakers from the Philippines, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia, among others, will discuss the needs and challenges of regional integration, literature, and literary education in ASEAN, while poet Marne Kilates, author and educator Mario Miclat, and others will delve into the importance of translation in a panel discussion.

E-mail convenor Michael Coroza at  [email protected]  or secretariat head Louie Jon A. Sanchez at  [email protected]  for details.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Literary Festival is set for Aug. 28-30 at Raffles Makati. Krip Yuson, Butch Dalisay, Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo, and Marivi Soliven will discuss “Novel Writing Today” on  Aug. 29. Meg Wolitzer (The Interestings) and Matthew Quick (The Silver Linings Playbook) will hold talks and book signings.

There will also be other panel discussions, book launches, and talks featuring today’s most active, visible, and prolific writers, illustrators, and other bookish folk. Visit  for events and schedules.


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