Improvement is slow, but modern travel options are available in the Philippines. Even more modern travel options will soon be available. A bullet train is planned for a route from the Manila airport to the Clark airport.
The country can’t finance mass transportation or major roadways by itself. It turns to economic partners for help, usually Japan. Modern travel options require modern roadways and railways.
There aren’t many expressways in the Philippines. The ones that exist are toll roads. There are free expressways in the United States. They’re called freeways, paid for with tax dollars. I seriously doubt the Philippines will ever have any freeways.
The island of Luzon is the most heavily populated island. That’s where the expressways are. Metro Manila has a little of everything. Old travel options mixed with new travel options can be seen. A kalesa (a horse-drawn carriage) has as much right to be on the roads as any modern vehicle. By the way, I’ve never seen a kalesa in Olongapo.
I’ve lived here for more than 10 years. I’ve seen many of the improvements with my own eyes. I drove to San Fernando, Pampanga, years ago and it was nerve-wracking. I didn’t have a choice because it was before the Subic-Tarlac Expressway was completed. It took me an hour to travel 30 miles (or 50 kilometers). It still takes an hour because of the expressway route, but without all the stress.
I didn’t travel to the Clark International Airport until after that expressway was completed. It only takes 30 minutes to get there and I don’t know how far it is. Someone else drives and I don’t have to pay attention.
The airport area of Manila is crowded. Too crowded for safety. The airport was designed to handle roughly half of the air traffic it handles. Small aircraft like propeller planes and helicopters are being moved to the Clark airport.
Plans for a bullet train from Manila to Clark are in progress. When completed, it will only take 45 minutes to get from the Manila airport to the Clark airport. Using other transportation, it takes more than three hours on a good day.
President Duterte is pushing for a lot of changes. As far as I can tell, they’re good changes. An example is what he’s telling car dealers. People who can’t park their cars on their own property shouldn’t be allowed to own a car. I see plenty of examples in my area. People park their cars on the street and then walk up a hill to get to their homes.
It used to be a lot worse. Josie, my wife, has an aunt who visits from the United States every couple of years. Before the first time, she was apprehensive. Road blocks and highway robbers were common as recently as the 1980s.
These days, that kind of thing can only take place in provincial areas. There are two worlds in the Philippines and travel to and from each can be an experience in education.
While most towns and cities have modern infrastructure, the provincial areas do not. Some provincial areas are still served by dirt roads and the people still live in nipa huts.
It’s fairly safe to travel on the island of Luzon. I can’t say anything about the other islands.
By: RT Cunningham
July 21, 2016
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