BLACK Saturday was nine months ago and the next one is a good four months away yet but don’t tell that to the people who got caught in horrible traffic in the Minglanilla-Talisay section of the national highway last Saturday. The only difference is that no one swears - at least that’s the general idea - during the Holy Week while last Saturday, if curses could only kill, there would have been a lot of wailing and weeping the following day.
Unfortunately, swearing did not and will not help solve the problem either. Besides, many of those who contributed to the “carmaggedon,” as SunStar Cebu has graphically put it, have long crossed the great divide, they who by sheer negligence or lack of foresight failed to anticipate the day when hundreds of vehicles would converge in the same stretch of the same narrow road they dared call the national highway.
The sad truth is that we’re paying the cost of decades of gross neglect. If the price was steeper last Saturday, it was because some people decided to dump on that very day their more than fair share of ineptitude and deplorable lack of concern to the pile.
The traffic enforcers were nowhere to be found when their presence was needed most. The mayor could have summoned his traffic men from their Christmas party to man their posts when it became clear that a disaster was in the offing but obviously did not.
The Talisay traffic office, which dispatched all their 60 personnel to the coastal road and the national highway as early as 1 p.m. of that day, tried calling their Minglanilla counterparts so that they could coordinate their efforts. They got no answer. Apparently, the latter were so engrossed in their joyous celebration to notice or care about the traffic gridlock occurring in their own front yard. Why does the image of Nero fiddling while Rome burned rush to mind?
Okay, they couldn’t have prevented the traffic jam from happening even if they were around anyway. There were just too many vehicles competing for every inch of space of the narrow highway. But in Nero’s name, they could have done something, impose discipline among the drivers, for example. Their mere presence would have been reassuring to the hapless travelers in that they would know that someone was doing something to extricate them from the mess that was not of their making.
Cebu 1st Distrist Rep. Samsam Gullas said he would meet with the officials of Talisay and Minglanilla to find a way to address the perennial traffic problem that hounds the two local government units, Minglanilla especially. Gov. Junjun Davide also announced through a text message that he will invite the local officials concerned, the police and other government agencies to a meeting as soon as he arrives.
Davide was in Manila for the holidays but said he was monitoring the traffic situation until it eased up at around 9 p.m. It was the governor who, through the Cebu South Bus Terminal officials, requested the highway patrol and the police regional office to assist in untangling the gridlock.
The Minglanilla experience highlighted the need for a unified and coordinated traffic plan in Cebu. If there were no territorial boundaries in traffic enforcement, the Talisay personnel could have crossed to Minglanilla and done something before bad turned to worse and worse to worst. I hope the governor and the congressman would include this in their talking points.