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Finding MMDA

Manila, Philippines – Has Metro Manila finally found a manager – his title is chairman – who understands what drivers, commuters, and pedestrians want?

I never thought I’d say it, but MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino seems to have gotten over his learning curve – he’s actually solving or has solved a lot of problems. Those of us who use the longest urban highway, the one and only EDSA, the boulevards and avenues, the streets and sidestreets of the megapolis cannot help but notice the refreshing changes that have come to pass, almost without fanfare.

Traffic islands have been greened and now, living plants cover the concrete walls of the tunnel under the overpass in Cubao – a sight for sore eyes, certainly. The improvement of traffic on EDSA, no matter how slightly, did not happen overnight, even if that’s what it looks like, simply by banishing colorum busses or at least reducing their numbers. More dramatically, MMDA is keeping cargo trucks from clogging up EDSA during this mad and merry season by the simple expedient of banning them until late evening, until Jan. 7, 2013.

Techies silently praise MMDA for its traffic advisories on their screens, and are surprised that when they pose an urgent question, it is answered, almost immediately.

Has MMDA found the political will to say no to the intransigent, the stubborn and the obtuse? It is not easy to get along with 17 mayors, each of whom has his own agenda, all of whom think they are right to look down on a chairman who was not elected but “merely” appointed by the President. Especially not a chairman who enjoys Cabinet rank but came from a little weekend town up in the hills.

Well, my sources hinted it was the President who persuaded the chairman to forget about leaving MMDA just so he could head back to Tagaytay to run for mayor again next year.