"Makatarungan ang panghangad ng maayos na public transportation."
This is the sentiment of journalist Atom Araullo about his viral tweet last Dec. 9 regarding the Philippines' "broken" transportation system. In his post that day, the documentarist said that he was having a hard time finding transportation at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) after arriving from a trip abroad.
"Just arrived at the airport from an overseas trip. No coupon taxis, no metered taxis, no Grab. Wala rin tayong mga bus at tren dito. Basically kung wala kang sundo, you’re dead. It’s been an hour and counting. This is what a broken transpo system looks like," he tweeted.
An hour later, Araullo updated his followers that he was able to book a car from his ride-hailing app after almost two hours of waiting and by setting a pick-up point that was different from his initial location.
"Update: was able to book Grab after a little less than 2 hrs. Setting the pick up location to the departures area (T2) worked. Traffic nalang problema, hehe. Wawa yung mga nakapila pa sa taxi though, madalang talaga dating ng mga sasakyan. Salamat sa thoughts and prayers!" he posted.
Update: was able to book Grab after a little less than 2 hrs. Setting the pick up location to the departures area (T2) worked. Traffic nalang problema, hehe. Wawa yung mga nakapila pa sa taxi though, madalang talaga dating ng mga sasakyan. Salamat sa thoughts and prayers! 🥲 pic.twitter.com/0QNktBp51P— Atom Araullo (@atomaraullo) December 9, 2022
His initial tweet generated buzz online and has gained over 5,360 retweets, 1,450 quote tweets, and 44,500 likes as of writing.
Many of the netizens who reacted to it expressed the same disappointment with commuting from the airport. They pointed out the lack of taxis in the area, as well as their unreasonable fare hike that usually skyrockets to thousands of pesos.
Some, on the other hand, pointed their fingers at the journalist, saying that he merely lacked strategy in booking transport before arriving in Manila. They also pointed out the availability of buses that transfer travelers to Newport City, as well as the yellow metered taxis in Terminals 1 to 4.
NAIA's official Twitter account likewise replied to Araullo's tweet, explaining the inconvenience faced by the journalist was due to the "heavy traffic around the metro."
The post read, "Hi Mr. @atomaraullo, we are saddened to hear about your experience as the high demand due to rush hour combined with heavy traffic around the metro makes it difficult for any mode of public transport to get to and from the airport terminals."
Hi Mr. @atomaraullo, we are saddened to hear about your experience as the high demand due to rush hour combined with heavy traffic around the metro makes it difficult for any mode of public transport to get to and from the airport terminals.— Ninoy Aquino International Airport (@MIAAGovPH) December 9, 2022
On Dec. 13, four days after he released his viral post, Araullo discussed in a series of tweets why yearning for an efficient transportation system for Filipinos is right and fair.
"Ang thread na ito ay pinamagatang: 'makatarungan ang panghangad ng maayos na public transportation,'" the journalist tweeted.
"Una, maraming nakarelate. Matagal nang pasakit ang pag commute sa Metro Manila. Our public transportation system is...bad. Alam ito ng sinumang sumasakay ng tren, bus, jeep, atbp. The problem is so self-evident it doesn't require further elaboration. Marami na ring pagaaral dito."
Araullo proceeded to address the negative comments sent to him by some netizens, saying that some are seemingly "allergic" to the country's situation. "Kakatawa nga, malinaw naman na bunga ng ilang dekada ng kapabayaan ang problemang ito. Bakit defensive? Bato-bato sa langit? :)" he said.
Pero di na rin nakagugulat ang maanghang na reaksyon ng iba sa ibinahagi kong karanasan. May mga allergic ata sa anumang puna sa lagay ng bansa natin. Kakatawa nga, malinaw naman na bunga ng ilang dekada ng kapabayaan ang problemang ito. Bakit defensive? Bato-bato sa langit? :)— Atom Araullo (@atomaraullo) December 13, 2022
Araullo stressed that yearning for a decent transportation system for the country is not an act done by an "elitista" or one who is entitled, as "many people have no choice but to commute on a daily basis," he tweeted. "A safe, reliable, affordable, and efficient mass transpo system is good for everyone!"
"Hindi lahat, may kakayahan magpasundo. And even then, it's ultimately a waste of resources: fuel, time, energy, manpower, money," Araullo continued. "'Diskarte' is not a feature of good public transportation. Ang totoo, patunay nga yan na may problema, ginagawan lang natin ng paraan. Resilient eh."
He also touched on the idea of how foreign tourists could also experience difficulty in getting out of NAIA if they don't know anyone from Manila who could fetch them there or they don't have internet that will enable them to book a ride. "We need to provide sensible options for everyone, especially if we want to promote tourism," Araullo added.
The journalist then retorted to NAIA's response to his tweet, which attributed the lack of transportation in the area to "rush hour combined with heavy traffic around the metro" during the time of the incident.
"True, a spike in demand can overwhelm the best mass transportation system," Araullo wrote. "But certain surges are predictable, which means solutions are within reach. Christmas comes along every year, and Friday congestion happens, well, every Friday. Kasama sa pinagpa-planuhan yun."
Despite that, Araullo said that his experience does not generalize the situation at the airport and that he's also "excited" about the country's plans to develop the metro's transport system. "Kagaya ng pangakong tren na may istasyon daw sa paliparan," he cited. "Sana matuloy."
Siyempre pa, hindi naman palaging ganito ang sitwasyon sa airport. Kung hindi mo pa ito nararanasan, edi mabuti. Happy for you beh, hehe. Excited na rin ako sa mga plano, kagaya ng pangakong tren na may istasyon daw sa paliparan. Sana matuloy.— Atom Araullo (@atomaraullo) December 13, 2022
The planned Metro Manila subway was proposed to the government in 1973 as part of the Urban Transport Study in Manila Metropolitan Area conducted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and former Department of Public Works and highways (DPWH) Secretary David Consunji.
The P488-billion project is funded by the Japanese government and is designed to have 17 stations from Valenzuela City to NAIA Terminal 3. According to the Department of Transportation (DOTr), the subway will reduce the travel time from Quezon City to NAIA to 35 minutes from the current 1 hour and 10 minutes.
Its groundbreaking took place in February 2019 but construction was stalled due to the pandemic. The subway is expected to partially open in 2025 and become fully operational by 2028.
Araullo concluded his post by saying that the lack of transportation at the airport is a "now problem" that requires "immediate attention.
"And yes, it's a challenge not just for the airport, but the entire country too. A good public transportation system is pro-people, and essential for development. Pointing that out does not make you unpatriotic :)" he continued.
"Thanks for coming to my TED talk!" he jested.