Amid the pestilential rains, floods and traffic that overwhelmed thousands of motorists and commuters in Metro Manila last week, there were a few notable areas where operatives of the Highway Patrol Group (HPG) under the Philippine National Police were able to score some brownie points.
Passing through Balintawak was a breeze after sidewalk vendors who used to occupy at least two lanes on Edsa were told by uniformed police to pack to their wares and go inside the wet markets to ply their goods.
Vehicles carrying vegetables and fruits from the provinces up north were also not allowed to park along the street. Same with buyers from Metro Manila who normally just leave their cars on the road to haggle with tradesmen for wholesale prices on their merchandise.
For the first time in many years, the greater portion of the Balintawak-Edsa road was the sole domain of motor vehicles. Traffic was green and go!
This was the same pleasant situation that greeted me in Pasay Taft Rotonda. The kilometer-long stretch of northbound traffic that used to extend all the way to Heritage Hotel at the corner of Edsa Extension and Roxas Boulevard had vanished overnight.
HPG operatives merely enforced the law and forbade jeepney and bus drivers from dropping off and picking up passengers at the corner of Pasay Taft and Edsa. These annoying public-utility vehicles used to block this major intersection, and it was such a relief to zip through this stretch of Edsa in a matter of minutes!
I understand that the HPG still has a long way to go in untangling the monstrous traffic jams in other parts of Metro Manila, but I am heartened by these few areas of success in the formidable task of traffic management.
Puny as it may sound to the countless miserable souls who braved the rains and floods last week and walked home in their soggy shoes due to standstill traffic, the accomplishments of the HPG is a morale-booster of sorts and is proof positive that the situation is not hopeless.
Other choke points on Edsa are proving to be more challenging, such as the stretch along Kamuning, Cubao to Santolan; Ortigas, Shaw and Guadalupe and elsewhere, but we have seen with our own eyes that something can be done if only the government gets its act together.
What the HPG has accomplished draws in sharp contrast with the incompetent handling of traffic snafus by Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Francis Tolentino and his minions, as well as Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista and Pasay City Mayor Antonino Calixto.
It only proves that when sidewalk vendors and jeepney and pedicab drivers are allowed to run amuck on our streets, there is somebody making a profit from all the anarchy and mayhem.
Bautista should have cracked the proverbial whip a long time ago in order to instill some sense of order and discipline in the area fronting the Balintawak market, but he has done nothing. He has allowed the stink and filth to propagate in all these years.
In fact, we hardly hear anything from this former showbiz denizen; his name only crops up in the news as a romantic foil to the President’s sister, Kris Aquino. Is this any way to run one of the most premier cities in the country?
It took enforcers of the HPG to rekindle our belief that the government is finally doing something to solve the horrendous traffic problem in Metro Manila. But the HPG obviously cannot do this gargantuan task alone. The LGUs, MMDA, LTO, LTFRB and DPWH all have to work together to alleviate the hardships of our long-suffering motorists and commuters.
Tolentino, who is believed to be aspiring for higher office next year, should watch it. He just might be in for a rude awakening.