Inclusive Mobility for Cleaner Air

“Less cars, less air pollution.” The second day session of the Clean Air Forum focused on supporting the right of the people to have access to roads via non-motorized transport. Of all the presentations delivered, one got me interested –Inclusive Mobility by the Ateneo School of Government.

So what is Inclusive Mobility? It’s about ensuring that everyone’s able to get from Point A to B, regardless.

“Kumusta ang biyahe mo kahapon?” Interestingly enough, this is how Ms. Tina Velasco of the Ateneo School of Government opened her talk on Inclusive Mobility, highlighting the hardships an ordinary Filipino commuter faces, on a daily basis, going to and from work.

She talked about “Catalyzing New Mobility in Cities: The Case of Metro Manila” as implemented by the Innovation at the Base of the Pyramid in South East Asia (iBoP-Asia) Program at the Ateneo School of Government). I believe this is so far in line with the campaign to increase the “road share” of non-motorists — and the drive to entice people to walk more, and in so doing, “air” pollute less.

The argument is that Metro Manila is far from what could be a walkable city… and that, like many of the rest of us, they envision a change that would make the metropolis as such. She then presented ten principles that would make it “walkable”, which include the following:

1. A Transport System that works for the poor and the vulnerable
2. A walkable, bikeable accessible city
3. Moving people, not vehicle (EO 774, Section 9: Those who have less in wheels must have more in roads)
4. Mobility with safety and civility (bringing back the dignity in taking public transport in the country)
5. Clean air, clean vehicles, clean streets, clean facilities
6. Planning and communicating better, and traveling less (advocate working from home, mobility with the least travel cost and time)
7. Sharing information to increase connectivity and accessibility
8. Making neighborhoods accessible to the rest of the city
9. Changing mindsets and behaviors – the authorities and ours (changing the mindset from building more space for roads so we can accommodate more people who could walk, rather than provide space for cars)
10. Mobility of all, by all, and for all (footprint on the streets)

The principles are clear and concise, and in a way, I believe, Metro Manila is already like that, with just a bit of fine tuning to be made. I feel that Manila is a “walkable” city — and it would even be more so if it would be:

1. Cleaner. It’s depressing to be walking around and seeing garbage all over the streets (especially in areas like Cubao and Recto), and walls seemingly painted with dust and mud (sighs). Let’s place high value on aesthetics and make our cities better simply by making them cleaner.
2. Greener, with ample space for trees to shade people (and make the surrounding more beautiful, hehehe).
3. Safer. People would probably walk more or bike more if they’re not fearful that their bags or whatever they have on would get snatched at any given time. I think people tend to do something bad (like snatching) when their surrounding looks bad.

In last year’s Clean Air Forum, and if there’s one thing I learned at that time, it is that our roads have become too busy contributing to air pollution, and so, there is this urgent need to control the volume of motor vehicles plying around the metro.

I can vividly remember Climate Change Presidential Adviser Secretary Bebet Gozun raising a really hard-hitting question — “Why are things not happening?” She talked about the Bus Rapid Transport System that was initiated in 2004, which has yet to meet its full adoption to date. DOTC’s Road Planning Division Head Mr. Arnel Manresa also shared that the problem is that the lines are saturated and that there’s an absence of CNG refilling stations. He mentioned that there’s only one Mother Station and then a daughter station (Batangas), which have to serve the 61 bus units we have now. He raised that having one along the Macapagal Avenue would be beneficial as it would encourage the conversion of Manila buses to CNG.

Among the other points raised werere:

– Stricter Motor Vehicle Inspection System
– Increase walkability in the city
– A Guideline on how many motor vehicles should be allowed all over the country

I’m pretty sure greening and ensuring that the cities would get cleaner and safer are on the agenda of every local government unit, so improvements are definitely on their way — little by little. Now, for us, “ordinary citizens”, we can do our share simply by not littering on the streets. Pocket your candy wrappers and my goodness, please don’t just throw them anywhere.

I think Miss Velasco’s super right on when she said, “if we live here, we should make it a point to actually care for this city, and be really helpful and not complaining people”.

Let’s all help.

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