Fulfilling President Rodrigo Duterte’s promise of a five-minute commute from Makati to Cubao, in Quezon City (which currently takes about an hour — on a good day), remains an attainable goal, and can still be accomplished before Duterte’s term ends in 2022, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo insisted in a radio interview yesterday.
Yes, Panelo, the same person who was widely scorned for telling Manila’s beleaguered commuters to simply “go [to work] earlier” if they didn’t want to be late due to traffic jams; Panelo, who denied the city was in the throes of a traffic crisis even after it was found to be the most congested in Asia; Panelo, whose refusal to acknowledge said congestion was so staunch, he was challenged by activists to “experience the hellish reality” of a Manila commute; Panelo, who took up that challenge and was forced to spend nearly four hours on three jeepneys and a motorcycle taxi traveling the 15 kilometers from his home in Marikina to his office in Malacañang — yep, that Panelo — maintained the promise of a five-minute commute between Makati and Cubao was still feasible.
Despite his first-hand experience with Manileños’ typical commute, Panelo told DZIQ Radyo Inquirer on Sunday that the seemingly impossible feat was still on the table as far as the administration is concerned.
“If it’s not done this year, it does not mean that it won’t happen before the end of the president’s term,” he insisted.
Duterte first made the promise of cutting the notorious hours-long commute between the two Manila cities back in June, although Panelo at the time offered no details as to how the president aimed to do so. Yesterday, Panelo was similarly vague, merely adding in Filipino, “As long as there’s life, there’s hope.”
And if that remark wasn’t cryptic enough, Panelo went on to say that Duterte’s assurance “depends on the factors and trends that will give fruition to his promise,” adding, “If those were not met, if those conditions were not present, then the promise would not be fulfilled.”
Panelo did not elaborate what exactly those factors and conditions were.
Panelo’s statement comes after the Transport Department on Saturday announced that the ambitious Metro Manila Subway system’s construction — one of the centerpieces of Duterte’s Build, Build, Build scheme — has started its clearing phase in Valenzuela City. Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade said the 15-station, multi-billion subway is expected to be completed by 2025 (after the end of Duterte’s term), Rappler reports.
Meanwhile, thousands of bikers, commuters, and transport advocates have taken to the streets since Saturday to protest the government’s decision late last week to cut back motorcycle ride-sharing fleets — capping the number of drivers for each service at 10,000 by January 2020, citing safety reasons.
Among the services to be affected is Angkas, which has some 27,000 riders in its fleet. In a statement on Saturday, Angkas said that the driver cap is a “direct blow to over 17,000 Filipino families,” and added that they “prioritize the safety of our passengers and welfare of our bikers,” but doing so will be harder with the new transport rules.
Angry Angkas users took to Twitter over the weekend to voice their displeasure, saying that the motorcycle ride-sharing services shouldn’t be targeted as they were one of the few ways to easily travel in Manila’s gridlock.
“Well if safety is the reason they’re cutting down Angkas drivers, then let’s cut down government [officials],” user @FiaOrtega flippantly suggested. “After all, we’re all unsafe from all of you. #SaveAngkas.”
Aba, kung safety lang din naman ang dahilan kung bakit babawasan ang Angkas driver, edi bawasan na din yung nasa gobyerno na ‘to. Unsafe din naman kaming lahat sa inyo. #SaveAngkas
— Fia Ortega (@FiaOrtega) December 21, 2019
Subscribe to The Coconuts Podcast for top trending news and pop culture from Southeast Asia and Hong Kong every Friday!