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Apocarlypse soon!

ENJOY the “moderate-to-heavy” traffic while you may. It’s only a matter of days before school opens – welcome to Apocarlypse!

With 40,000 new vehicles and trucks, not including motorcycles, now eating up what little is left of road space since the year began, it will be Mayor Duterte’s gift to the people if he could strike the fear of God in the hearts of drivers to please obey traffic rules, share the road, comply with the code of courtesy for a smoother ride for all.

Pity the kids, whether they’re bound for kindergarten or grad school, who’ll be tortured for a total of five hours on an unlucky but perhaps typical day. They’re up before dawn, come home after the sun has set, their energies sapped and their faces long, because our system has failed them.

But straightening out traffic is not the job of MMDA alone. DPWH is just as accountable for the snarls caused by “projects” that refuse to be completed, “works” that are agonizingly slow and environmentally toxic, repairs and road widening that stall forever. Take the Blumentritt flood interceptor in Sampaloc – a monumental, colossal, stupendous production that’s been three years in the making on a 3km road, with no end in sight. Once again the season of floods is upon Sampaloc and the University Belt, once again DPWH pleads right-of-way and pilferage (of steel bars) issues – it has actually taken them three years to recognize the problem without solving it!

Everywhere in the “dead city” of Metro Manila humongous traffic jams are also caused by humongous projects. The private contractors are spoiled. They got the contract, they will not be hurried. They will not spend extra money to pay workers for ‘round-the-clock work just to speed up and race to the finish line. Mark Villar, the newly designated DPWH secretary, has his work cut out for him. Criticized from N to S and E to W for accepting the post in spite of “a clear case of conflict of interest,” president of his family’s gigantic real estate business, he is at 37 the youngest Duterte appointee, and thanks to Sal Panelo, only the second most scrutinized.

I will withhold judgment on Mr. Villar. If he can whip those unimpatient contractors in line and show them who’s boss, he has my vote. What DPWH needs is not another engineer, what it wants is a manager, and if the incoming secretary’s credentials are as impressive as they sound, let him start the ball rolling with a simple rule of management, the law of time-and-motion efficiency to produce good results.