Engineering the traffic

These days it takes close to 45 minutes to get out of Makati as the Christmas rush builds up, and it will only get worse during the remainder of the year, causing much grief to drivers and commuters alike. A recent prelude to this pandemonium was the traffic caused by the Asean Summit, which attested to the utter failure of Metro Manila’s arterial roads.

Not surprisingly, a recent survey report of the traffic-beating Waze app reveals that drivers in the Philippines are the least satisfied in the world.

Thusly, it was only fitting to have a “Tech Forum on the Traffic Situation in Metro Manila” as recently held, and the first of the “Technology-Oriented Mindset” technology forum series organized by the Foundation of Outstanding Mapuans Inc. (FOMI). This organization is a gathering of outstanding graduates of Mapua Institute of Technology, now known as Mapua University, who were awarded the distinction of their alma mater for their respective leadership and achievements in their various fields of endeavor for the service to the country and the alumni community.

With most of its members as outstanding engineering and technical graduates, it’s but intellectually productive to elicit ideas from them about the engineering and scientific solutions to the age-long traffic conundrum.

This invitation-only event was attended by the country’s top engineers, scientists, architects, businessmen and thought leaders who are also alumni of Mapua University. Further, the forum boasted four expert speakers and panelists from the private and public sectors: Sec. Gen. Alberto Suansing of the Philippine Global Road Safety Partnership, Engr. Jaime Cancio of J.F. Cancio& Associates, Ms. Solenne Cucchi of ENGIE (Services) Philippines, and Usec. Thomas Orbos of the Department of Transportation (DOTr).

Indeed, it was a great honor for me to host the event and moderate the notable panelists. It was likewise a feast to listen to the speakers and the alumni who gave their invaluable technical insights.

As the first speaker, Sec. Gen. Suansing briefed the audience about the current road network, transport facilities, and daily economic and opportunity cost of traffic in Metro Manila. His presentation on ‘How do you solve a problem like Metro Manila’ expounded on government initiatives, including road capacity improvement projects and road/rail transport projects.

Much like Sec. Gen. Suansing, Engr. Cancio took on the perspective of an engineer and talked about solutions that are anchored on improving the current infrastructure. Meanwhile, Ms. Cucchi approached the issue from a different point of view: Her discussion on ‘Improving Traffic Management with Intelligent Transport Systems Solutions’ cited decentralized solutions that are used to improve the traffic system in various parts of the world, including Paris and Brazil. For one, video surveillance networks were designed and installed in Paris to help law enforcement respond to emergencies, manage traffic, and improve road safety.

The extensive discussion led by Undersecretary Orbos on the Philippine government’s master plan for Metro Manila traffic covered both the short-term and long-term plans, namely enforcement of the law, such as anti-colorum, anti-illegal parking, and so on; policy implementation such as the PUV modernization program; and infrastructure development such as MRT and LRT modernization, various road projects, and the Metro Manila Subway System.

Worthy of consideration are the suggestions made by the alumni, mostly engineers, such as modernizing and promoting the use of Pasig River, building a highway exclusive to trucks from North to South and vice-versa, and the adoption of the toll-system for use of private vehicles on busy streets.

In the meantime, FOMI was invited by the DOTr to help the agency with a project that would put dignity back into public commuting, create an efficient public transportation system, and make Philippine roads safe once again.
It was truly a successful event, an eye-opener to everyone about solutions to the traffic problem. Kudos to the organizers, spearheaded by Program Executive Director and Second Vice President of FOMI Engr. Allyxon Cua, who is also the president and CEO of AMTI.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of FINEX. The author may be emailed at The author is president of The Engage Philippines, a digital customer engagement solutions company, and co-founder of Caucus Inc, a data privacy consulting firm. He teaches strategic management under the MBA Program of De La Salle University. He is also an adjunct faculty of the Asian Institute of Management.