Panelo rates PH public transport at 7 out of 10

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As it is, Panelo said public transport remains safe and reliable, but definitely not efficient.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 14) — Presidential Spokesman Sal Panelo rated public transportation in the Philippines at seven on a 10-point scale, with 10 being the worst.

Panelo's rating came after he had a taste of daily commuter life as he spent more than three hours in four jeepneys from Quezon City, Marikina, and to Manila as he was heading to Malacañang last Friday morning. He was on the road from 5:15 to 8:46 a.m., with his last leg taken care of by a motorcycle rider who took him straight to the Palace.

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However, Panelo maintained that the country is only facing a traffic crisis rather than a transportation crisis, insisting that there are still available commuting options despite the longer hours which Filipinos have to spend on the road.

Panelo said he purposely took a long route and tried to board jeepneys in known congested areas just to shut down critics who say he couldn't sympathize with ordinary workers and students. Had he taken a jeep straight from his neighborhood in New Manila, Quezon City to the Malacañang Complex along San Miguel in Manila, he said the trip would have been just about 20 minutes.

"The challenge is kailangang ipakita mo na kaya mong mag-suffer ng parehong suffering... Alam mo, kahit nakasakay ka sa kotse, you will see them lining up at nakikipagbunuan sa pagsakay. Kaya ko lang tinanggap kasi parang pinalalabas nila na itong mga nasa gobyerno ngayon, hindi kayang gawin 'to," Panelo told CNN Philippines' The Source. "Nagkamali sila ng hinamon. I grew up riding buses, jeepneys, and tricycles, lahat kami sa Cabinet."

[Translation: The challenge is to show that you can live through the same suffering... You know, even if you're inside a car, you will see people lining up and boxing each other out just to board a ride. The only reason I accepted this is because critics wanted to show that current government officials can't do this. They were wrong to challenge me. I grew up riding buses, jeepneys, and tricycles, as did all of us in the Cabinet.]

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He went to defend his unsolicited advice for Filipinos to "be creative" in commuting, saying he actually meant it as a compliment. He did see the viral video of people entering buses through the windows as a useful but dangerous hack.

Asked to spell out tips, Panelo only gave one.

"Give yourself an allowance of two to three hours. ‘Yun lang. That’s being creative," Panelo said. "Alam mo namang male-late ka, alam mo namang mahihirapan kang sumakay. Kahit na may sarili kang sasakyan, alam mo namang mata-traffic ka pa rin, 'di ba. Isa lang, 'yun lang ang kailangan mo talaga."

[Translation: You know you're going to be late and that you'll have a hard time finding a ride. Even if you have your own car, you know you'll sit through traffic. That's the only thing you'll need (to do).]

Panelo said he's willing to commute more often, but without any media personnel trailing him. He went on to compare that taking public transport was just as challenging 30 years ago when he was a student.

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He said the long-term fix is for politicians, especially presidents, not to be "selfish" and instead pursue the programs of their predecessors: "I want to change the attitude of politicians. When they reach the acme of power, they should not change the achievements, programs of previous administration. They have to pursue it."

As it is, Panelo said public transport remains safe and reliable, but definitely not efficient.