THE MANILA city government’s bus ban scheme was not well-received by the commuters who were enraged by the inconvenience it caused them. Although banning buses from the south from entering the capital may be a sound measure to declog traffic, it created chaos and confusion especially in its initial days of implementation because City Hall, the MMDA and national agencies didn’t really collaborate to implement the ban; they didn’t really plan or anticipate the contingencies.

The administration of new Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada was acting on its own and hadn’t really studied the matter thoroughly along with the other agencies so as to ease its effects on the commuting public. As a result, even the national government is confronting a suit from the bus operators who claim that the ban violates the franchise given them by government which allows their buses to enter Manila.

Manila should have learned by the now its lesson, but by coming up with another harebrained scheme—installing Wifis in bus stops—it appears not.

The WiFi routers in waiting sheds were supposed to encourage more people to use bus stops. But on the ground, they may only make commuters a prey to criminals.

So why, then, would the local government even think of encouraging people to use bus stops by allowing them to use their mobile phones?

According to the local government, the “state of the art” waiting sheds were designed so that commuters would be able to bear the boredom of having to wait in bus stops. Thus, the logic is: it’s better to be maimed and perhaps killed than be bored.

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This is, after all, Manila, which Dan Brown described as “the gates of hell” in his latest potboiler. The city reeks of crime so much that I use my backpack as a “frontpack” whenever I walk in any street of Manila. Even then I won’t be safe from a person who won’t hesitate to take my life for my belongings—or even my chastity.

To be fair to the city government, it must also be mentioned that along with the routers, closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras were also installed. But it is as if those cameras would be able to save one’s life if a snatcher decided to stab one for one’s phone or notebook. The CCTV would only be useful after the commission of the crime. Even then, could the notoriously inept police use CCTV images to catch criminals?

Installing the Wifis in waiting sheds may have benefits, but clearly the cons outweigh the pros. They are an incentive to criminality. As for the CCTV’s, heck, they may be stolen by petty thieves themselves, just as street signs, manholes, and even tall electric lamp-posts have been stolen even in broad daylight!

As the country’s capital, Manila should not solve urban problems with idiotic projects such as WiFi-enabled bus stops; otherwise, Dan Brown’s depiction of Manila may not be fiction but prophecy nearing full realization.

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