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PHL economy is losing big time on traffic jam

The gridlock plaguing the streets of Metro Manila is costing the Philippine at least P2.4 billion a day, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) cited in a study it released in September 2014 in conjunction with the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA).

A year later, NEDA Director General Arsenio Balisacan estimated the economic loss from traffic jams at P3 billion a day, saying the amount is equivalent to 0.8 percent of the gross domestic product.

Without intervention, the economic cost of the daily gridlock is likely to reach P6 billion a day by 2030, JICA noted.

"The impact of traffic is horrendous. People spend so much time in getting a ride, getting to their respective offices," Dr. Rene E. Ofreneo, director of the Center for Labor Justice of the UP School of Labor and industrial Relations said in a phone interview on Friday.

The supposed 8-hour a day an employee must spend for work, rest, and socialization have now been reduced because of the gridlock, Ofreneo said.

"It's really terrible. It says a lot about the inability of the government to manage a public service," the director noted.

"We need a strong transport planning system. The government should play a big part in this," he said.



Unquantifiable ordeal

The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) mirror's the situation by saying that the length of time a worker spends on commuting has lessened productivity.

"The productivity of workers is affected, because it now takes an average of three hours for a worker in Metro Manila to travel to work and another three to four hours to travel back home," TUCP spokesperson Alan Tanjusay said in a separate interview.

"Productivity has been greatly lessened," he said.

"Since there are no dramatic changes implemented by the government to enhance the mass transport logistics and scenario in the past 14 years of the Arroyo and Aquino administrations, we can only imagine the unquantifiable ordeal workers are going through," Tanjusay noted.

As a result of the poor mass transport service, the TUCP has been calling on government and employers since 2012 to implement a flexible working time for state and private sector employees.

This includes a compressed, four-day work week, variable working hours, time banking, and work-from-home options.

Because of the gridlock, what is usually a 15-minute drive may last up to two hours, according to online financial platform

When a motorist is caught in a traffic jam and the engine is left running on idle, the car continues to consume fuel at the rate of 0.1 to 0.6 liter for every 10 minutes, MoneyMax noted, citing data from the Green Action Center.

"Fuel is one of the major costs of owning a car. If fuel costs P41 a liter, that’s at least P24.60 per hour (0.1 liters for every 10 minutes). If you multiply that by the extra 700 hours you spend in traffic in Metro Manila that translates to at least P17,220.00 wasted on fuel (and that’s if you’re only using 0.6 liters an hour)."

A long commute due to traffic makes workers less productive. Studies have shown that a strenuous commute increases the likeliness of irritability and fatigue which decreases a person’s performance on the job, MoneyMax added.

Saving P2.4B a day

A global survey by community-based traffic and navigation app Waze showed that Metro Manila has the worst of traffic jams.

The poll covered 50 million users in 32 countries and 167 metropolitan areas. The Philippines got a rating of 0.4 on a grading system of 10 (satisfying), to 1 miserable).

Citing data from the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the Philippine National Police Highway Patrol Group this week attributed the latest gridlock to the Christmas rush.

PNP-HPG Chief Supt. Arnold Gunancao said in a radio interview that the number of private vehicles plying EDSA has exceeded the 120,000 per hour capacity by three times.

Public buses traversing Metro Manila's circumferential freeway have also increased from 1,200 to at least 7,000 in both directions.

In trying to resolve the gridlock, JICA prepared a transport infrastructure roadmap for Mega Manila – the Mega Manila Dream Plan, which was approved by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) in June.

"JICA hopes to work with the government in implementing some of these ideas to help improve mobility, and the quality of life of people in Metro Manila, and its surrounding areas," JICA Philippines Senior Representative Eigo Azukizawa earlier said.

"An efficient public transport system is a pro-poor investment as it provides reasonable ways of moving. As well, it enables people to commute from suburban areas where one can afford housing in a more spacious and safer area," he added.

The dream plan is designed to help the country save P2.4 billion per day, the estimated economic and financial losses to traffic congestion.

JICA last month committed a P93-billion loan to fund the country's North-South Commuter Railway Project.

Japan said it will lend a total of ¥241.991 billion or P93.457 billion to finance the construction of the first phase of the railway project which stretches 36.7 kilometers from Malolos, Bulacan to Tutuban, Manila. – VS, GMA News