Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the government continues to work on resolving the horrendous traffic situation in Metro Manila despite the lack of emergency powers the administration had requested.
He also maintained that there is no “mass transport crisis” in the country but rather a problem in traffic.
“Merong traffic crisis pero hindi transportation crisis because when you say transportation crisis, wala ka nang sinasakyan, paralyzed ang buong traffic (There is a traffic crisis but not a transportation crisis because when you say transportation crisis, that means there are no vehicles, traffic is paralyzed),” Panelo said in a media briefing.
“Infrastructure talaga ang solusyon, plus at the same time, iyong number of cars. Siguro dapat iretiro na natin iyong mga matatanda para nababawasan. Malaki talaga ang problema, but the President is doing something about it, even if he was deprived of the requested emergency powers (The solution there is infrastructure, plus at the same time, a reduction in the number of cars, specifically the old ones. The problem is really huge but the President is doing something about it, even if he was deprived of the requested emergency powers),” he said.
Panelo took the public transport from Marikina City to Malacañang on Friday morning, following a challenge posed for him to “commute to work every day for a week to experience the hellish reality of our everyday commute.”
However, even without this experience, he said the government is not oblivious to the struggle of commuters in Metro Manila’s major thoroughfares.
“You don’t even have to go through that to know that. Kahit nasa kotse ka, nakikita mo ‘yan e. Nakikita mo nakapila (Even when you’re inside a private car you’ll see it. You can see them queueing up). You don’t even have to go through that ordeal, if you can call that ordeal that I went through. We know that. I see them every day,” he said.
“Kaya ko lang tinanggap ‘yong hamon kasi nga parang pinalalabas nila kaming mga nandito sa puwesto ngayon, hindi namin kayang gawin ‘yon. Pinasinungalingan ko lang sila (The reason why I accepted the challenge was to prove critics wrong that those in government positions cannot do it. I just wanted to prove them wrong),” he added.
From his home in Quezon City, Panelo rode a jeepney going to Marikina, the eastern border of Metro Manila, where he started his commute to the Palace.
He got off in Cubao and hailed another jeepney going to LRT-2 Gilmore Station. Upon seeing the media waiting at the train station, Panelo said he decided to continue his jeepney ride until Mendiola.
He left home at 5:15 AM and was able to reach the Palace gates at 8:30 AM.
“Purposely, sinadya kong umikot iyon, para makita ko kung gaano ang tagal ng biyahe, paano iyong tao, how it will take them to ride in a jeep na puno (I did it on purpose to really see how long the trip was, how people are doing, how [long] it would take them to ride in a jampacked car),” he said.
“Ang realization, hindi na bago, kasi ganyan din ako noon. When I was with Unilab, abogado na ako, ganyan-ganyan din ang ginagawa namin noon. Takbo din kami ng jeep ni Doktora Panelo, nagta-tricycle din kami, nakikipaghabulan ka rin, ganoon eh, wala namang ipinagbago eh. Naging exaggerated lang (The realization there is that it’s not new. When I was with Unilab, I was already a lawyer then. That’s exactly how we did it. Dr. Panelo and I would also run after jeeps and tricycles. This has not changed. It only got exaggerated),” he added.
Meanwhile, he rebuffed the notion that he was insulting the riding public with his remarks that Filipinos can be “very creative” when confronted with such difficulties.
“That is what all of us are doing unless you don’t wake up early. Kumbaga pinapakita ko lang sa mga kritiko na tayong mga Pilipino, gumagawa tayo ng solusyon sa sariling nating problema habang hindi pa natutugunan ng konkreto (I was merely showing critics that we Filipinos solve our problems until concrete solutions are in place),” he said.
Panelo said the traffic problem and the Filipino commuters’ daily battle on the road cannot be permanent.
“We’re against it. Hindi dapat ganoon. Kaya nga ginagawa ng presidente lahat ng makakaya niya pero kung sumunod sila kasi sa Congress… Of course, the president lays — and he wants to be quoted — he lays the blame for the non-grant of emergency powers (We are against it. It shouldn’t be that way. That’s why the president is doing everything within his capacity. Of course, the president lays – and wants to be quoted – he lays the blame on the non-grant of emergency powers),” he said.
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