Behind every crisis is opportunity. The economic drop that Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada caused by his citywide daytime truck ban in time could perk up the entire Mega Manila. That is, if national officials get their act together.
The truck ban was long due. For decades, dump and cargo trucks and container trailers have been wrecking city streets, clogging traffic, and dirtying the air. City hall derived no income from the haulers, while its road repair, traffic control, and public health bills mounted. Last Feb. Estrada forbade big vehicles from using his streets from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The effect was immediate. Manilans enjoyed traffic-free commuting. Road erosion, traffic, and air pollution shifted to adjacent cities’ boundaries, where truckers awaited nightly entry to Manila. And hundreds of thousand shipping containers piled up inside the seaport, since truck rollouts had been reduced to a third.
The port congestion triggered economic crisis. Perishable goods spoiled, and factories north and south of the capital idled from lack of raw materials. For, the usual two- to three-day haul-out of containers had lengthened to weeks. Food prices surged, and trade sagged. Slapped with higher demurrage fees and fines, importers and exporters began cursing Estrada. What right does the matinee idol-turned politician, President-then-plunder convict have to hold the national economy hostage, they shrieked?
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