Metro Manila transportation crisis reflects rotten economic system

Over the past few weeks, public attention has been focused on the massive traffic problem that plagues millions of commuters in Metro Manila. This came after the breakdown of rails and public transportation systems, as well as the gridlocks in Metro Manila’s main thoroughfares.

The Duterte government has been trying to downplay the magnitude of the crisis and dodging responsibility over its failure to forge solutions to transportation problems by blaming these on former regimes.

By purchasing a luxury jet for the commander-in-chief and other top military officers, the government has further rubbed salt into the people’s wounds. Clearly, an efficient mass transport system is necessary to resolve the daily agony being suffered by the people, especially the masses of workers and low-income earners.

The people’s demand for immediate solutions and call to end anti-people policies that further burden commuters are just. While demanding a solution, the people must also understand that the transportation crisis, at the more fundamental level, is a reflection of the rotten social and economic system in the country, and can only be resolved strategically through a radical change of that system through revolutionary struggle.

Metro Manila is in a state of decay and disarray

Metro Manila residents suffer not only from traffic, but also from floods, homelessness, waterlessness, lack of sewers and garbage collection, air pollution and congestion, especially those in urban poor poor communities. Currently, there are approximately 13-15 million residents in the national capital. Manila is considered the world’s densest city.

This is a result of the chaotic big bourgeois real estate speculation (malls, high-rise offices and condominiums), corruption-laden government contracts for public works by whoever bureaucrat capitalist is in power and profit-driven privatization of public utilities, and dumping of surplus cars from Japan and the US. There is no national-level economic planning to achieve balanced industrial and agricultural development and ensure the spread of economic activity.

Residents from rural areas migrate to the national capital in large numbers because of the stark imbalance between urban and rural areas. Presently, the country’s main manufacturing and commercial activities are concentrated in Metro Manila and to a certain degree to outlying provinces. Employment opportunities are also concentrated in these areas.

The large army of unemployed people in Metro Manila is advantageous to big business who uses the oversupply of idle labor to press down wages. Thus, the past reactionary governments have largely ignored the problem of overpopulation of Metro Manila and its concomitant social problems.

Over the past 30 years, traffic problem in Metro Manila has been short-sightedly addressed by one public transportation infrastructure project or another, which soon after reaches overcapacity, requiring another project, and still another.

First, it was the flyovers in EDSA, then the MRT along EDSA, then LRT2 along Aurora. Now, there is a flurry of proposals to solve the daily traffic gridlocks: a subway, a skyway and walkway at EDSA and a North-South ring to bypass Metro Manila.

The contracts for these projects were awarded to bourgeois compradors favored by the regime. All these, including the construction of light railways to Bulacan and Cavite, are projects driven by profit, marked by corruption and burdensome terms of loan payments. These may help ease traffic temporarily. In the long-run, however, these will also contribute to the further congestion of Metro Manila.

Upon the victory of the national democratic revolution, the problems of urban decay and overcongestion will be decisively addressed. There will be a plan to achieve balanced growth of industry and agriculture. There will be jobs available all over the country which will encourage population dissipation of congested cities. Surplus rural labor will be absorbed by industries spread throughout the country. Workers wages and peasant income will be raised.

Only under the people’s democratic government and through economic planning can we achieve well-distributed economic growth, and concomitantly, a balanced distribution of the population. The people’s democratic government will pay attention to developing mass public conveyances (railways for both in-city and long-distance travel). Only through such planning can Metro Manila and other cities be decongested, and the grave traffic problems and other problems of urban decay be resolved.