The traffic jams in Mega-Manila seems to be back to pre-pandemic levels as mobility restrictions have been lifted in what the world is hoping are the end days of the COVID 19 pandemic.
Commuters and road users are back to fighting their way in the streets of the metropolis to get to their destinations on time and must allow at least a 30-minute lead plus actual travel time for unpredictable delays.
We’ve seen so many attempts by the MMDA and local governments to speed up the flow of traffic with all sorts of schemes but they just manage to divert the congestion somewhere else.
The real solution of a well-integrated and highly efficient mass transportation system that would at least approximate the transport systems of the urban centers of developed countries remains to be a vision fogged by conflicting interests that seem perpetually locked in issues that seem to resist innovative technologies already in use in many countries.
The ongoing temporary restraining order against the No Contact Apprehension Program is one such issue that has been attacked by some groups with allegations of violations of privacy and excessive fines.
A charge representing the very traffic violators caught by the cameras of the NCAP system, this controversy got so much news coverage vilifying the NCAP and the LGUs implementing the program.
A petition from a transport group claims that motorists are subjected to “the constant threat of being arbitrarily apprehended remotely” and say penalties under the NCAP are “unreasonable.”
This only reveals that these criticisms are coming from habitual offenders captured in video by the NCAP who seem to prefer the toleration of bad traffic behavior.
As a consumer advocate and a road user, the TRO versus NCAP is a move being pushed to protect the interests of groups and exposes other motorists and the commuting public to safety risks.
In a Pulse Asia Survey commissioned by Stratbase, 8 out of 10 of nationwide respondents approve of the implementation of NCAP and majority of Filipinos agree that “NCAP will be effective in achieving its objective of disciplining motorists to improve road safety.”
Clearly, these data show the public does not share the sentiments of the TRO proponents.
Last week, the Supreme Court concluded the debates on the legality of NCAP.
The oral arguments raised issues on due process, the right to privacy of the traffic violators, the potential retrenchment of traffic enforcers, and also questioned the participation of the private sector in the traffic law enforcement.
Though these points may seem valid, they should not undermine the main objective of the NCAP which is to instill and enforce discipline on all motorists.
The arguments of NCAP oppositors also disregard how the technology removes the discriminating human factor prone to bribery and the reality that the manpower of traffic enforcers is limited.
The ability of NCAP to record and process each traffic violator, no matter who the person is, on a 24 by 7 basis is a transformative innovation that should actually be implemented in all urbanized areas of the country.
Also, no traffic enforcers were retrenched because of the NCAP and MMDA has even been hiring more.
The LGUs have complete control of the NCAP system with trained personnel to review and process violations and their data shows how effective the system is.
The City of Parañaque’s records from 2018 to 2022 showed an 84 percent reduction of traffic violations.
Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte stated in news reports that “The Quezon City NCAP program has significantly reduced the traffic violations in the affected areas by 75 percent.”
The MMDA’s Metro Manila Reporting and Analysis System 2021 Annual Report revealed a big drop in average daily violations per camera from 56 in December 2020 to only 3 in August 2022.
Most encouraging is the decrease in fatal and non-fatal injuries which fell by 917.
Valenzuela Mayor Wes Gatchalian said in interviews that approximately 200,000 violators were apprehended since NCAP was implemented in 2019.
These are great examples of how the public sector becomes responsive by partnering with the private sector for the right technology and expertise.
As for the high fines, TRO proponents said they are hurting a jeepney driver’s ‘boundary.’
But even before the NCAP, there were already fines for violations but rampant disregard of traffic rules, especially by jeepney and taxi drivers, persisted because they could get away with more affordable ‘kotong’ pay offs.
If they don’t want to suffer the consequences of their actions then obey the traffic rules, that’s it!
Resisting the obvious benefits of NCAP as an innovation to enforce order in our congested streets is counterproductive to the digital transformation of our country’s ecosystems.
Lifting the suspension and expanding the implementation of NCAP is consistent to our drive to become a prosperous digital economy.