Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Presidential road rage

Genalyn Kabiling
Manila Bulletin

It was supposed to be a fast joy ride showcasing the modern roads built in Urban Luzon Beltway (ULB) during her administration until the bus tour encountered traffic congestion.

President Arroyo displayed her famous temper Tuesday when the road trip along South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) in Laguna to C-5 in Quezon City veered off course and encountered traffic, delaying the hour-long bus ride by more than 45 minutes.

The President’s road trip started on a high note in Calamba City, Laguna, shortly after she visited Real Elementary School where she announced the signing of the 2010 national budget.

At 10:30 a.m. in Calamba, the President boarded an airconditioned Victory Liner bus and joined the several journalists and government officials for a motorcade along SLEX to C5 as part of the ULB tour.

Mrs. Arroyo, on a week-long tour in ULB, also wanted to show the media the planned interconnection of C5 to North Luzon Expressway towards the end of the motorcade.

At first, the President, seated in the middle of the bus, was all too giddy about the growth of the Urban Luzon Beltway, praising the 99 percent completion of the SLEX that has paved the way for faster transportation of goods and people.

The SLEX, according to South Luzon Tollway Corp president Isaac David, would be fully operational by April when the toll plaza system is established.

The presidential motorcade then made its first stop along the construction of the STAR-SLEX (Southern Tagalog Arterial Road-South Luzon Expressway) interconnection.

The President and her entourage went down the bus to inspect the construction, which she ordered should be completed by end of March.

Back on the bus, the President took pride of the modern road network in the Urban Luzon Beltway, saying people could look forward to quick travel when they tour the southern provinces during summer season.

Along the way, Mrs. Arroyo also hailed the brisk business activities particularly information technology and business process outsourcing companies in Laguna, which she hailed as the country’s Detroit and Silicon Valley.

An hour into the bus ride, the President’s mood turned sour when she noticed the traffic jam along Katipunan Avenue. The traffic jam was apparently caused by the vehicles coming out from the schools along Katipunan road.

She insisted that the Katipunan road should have no intersection since it is an expressway connected to C-5 highway and immediately directed public works officials to find a solution to the traffic congestion.

A few minutes later, the President blew her top when she found out the inspection of new interconnection project between C-5 and North Luzon Expressway, the last stop of the bus tour, would be held at the end of the road project.

Mrs. Arroyo insisted that the inspection of the road project should have taken place at the start of the construction along Tandang Sora and not in Mindanao Avenue in Novaliches, Quezon City.

As a result, the President's motorcade went through traffic jams while traversing Congressional Avenue and then Mindanao Avenue. The President said the government was building the interconnection from C5 to NLEX precisely to skip the heavy traffic gridlock along Quezon City.

"We are going to waste our time in things we should not see. We should have stopped at the place where the connection begins. The construction begins there," she said, referring to the road somewhere in Tandang Sora.

"We are going to spend so much traffic in the place," she added, while her close aides aboard the bus appeared frantic over the President's latest tirade.

Half an hour later, the President's motorcade ended near the inspection site of the underpass construction along Mindanao Avenue. But the President and her entourage had to walk some 50 meters to the briefing area since the bus was stuck in the mud.

Mrs. Arroyo was then heard reprimanding her protocol staff to arrange another briefing of the interconnection of C5 and NLEX in Tandang Sora on Wednesday.

In previous years, the President also took journalists on train rides and tours on the nautical highway in an effort to project her infrastructure transportation projects. But Tuesday’s bus ride was a new tactic to attract media attention to her government’s accomplishments in the Urban Luzon Beltway.

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