Magna Carta for Commuters, more inclusive urban mobility systems pushed

The enactment of the Magna Carta for Commuters will ensure the rights of the public, especially pedestrians, cyclists, and persons with disabilities, to safe, convenient, and affordable transport services and infrastructure, advocates said during #FreeToMove: Advocacy and Movement Building Workshop on Sustainable Urban Mobility held recently in Baguio City. 

The event, which was organized by The Climate Reality Project Philippines and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF) Philippines, equipped more than 45 climate and active mobility advocates with the knowledge and skills to push for and develop policies, programs, initiatives that will create an enabling environment for active transport and inclusive urban mobility across the country.

“Safe mobility is a basic human right that unfortunately a lot of people [in the country] do not experience. To exercise that right, kailangan natin ng batas na magre-require na magkaroon ng quality pedestrian and bicycle infrastructures sa lahat ng daan,” Jaramia Amarnani, Co-Founder of Pinay Bike Commuter Community and Mobility Awards Convenor, said during the event.

Addressing the gaps in the transportation sector

Ira Angelo Cruz, Director of AltMobility PH, highlighted that only 12 percent of Filipino households own private vehicles yet 80 percent of the roads in the country are allocated and designed for them. He added that the current public transportation system is difficult, unreliable, and expensive. 

“[Commuters] could not even predict the schedule [of public transport]. It’s so difficult, it’s so unreliable. It’s so expensive kasi ilang beses ka lumilipat. Anything more than two transportation is already expensive. Yung ganun ka karaming beses lumipat, it’s so unsafe, it’s so polluted,” he said. 

Citing the threats posed by the proposed Pasig River Expressway (PaREx) to the river ecosystem in the area and the inability of the expressway to holistically solve Metro Manila’s traffic problem because it will only cater to needs of the privileged while neglecting the 88% who do not even own private motorized vehicles, Cruz highlighted the need to make the country’s transportation and mobility systems more people-centered.

Amarnani agreed with Cruz, “Dito nakasentro yung efforts natin para ma-promote ang active mobility. It does not only lessen emissions and tap into the concerns of sustainability, but it also considers issues of equity and accessibility. Marami pa rin ang walang sasakyan and yet our infrastructures, especially the road system, are designed to cater to the needs of cars.” 

Five national surveys conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) from May 2020 to May 2021 found that 20 percent of Filipino households surveyed own bicycles while only five (5) percent own motorized vehicles. This affirmed that cycling is a mainstream mode of transportation for Filipinos and that there is a need to integrate bicycle infrastructure into national and local transport plans.

Active mobility for clean air and public health

Attorney Glynda Bathan-Baterina, Deputy Executive Director of Clean Air Asia, delved into the linkages between air pollution, public health, and the current state of mobility systems in the country. 

Bathan-Baterina noted a high number of deaths (ranging from 40,901 to 74,800) caused by air pollution found in Southeast Asian countries, including the Philippines, in 2019. She also warned that a child exposed to unsafe levels of pollution can face lifetime health impacts such as stunted lung growth, impaired mental and motor development, low birth weight, childhood cancers, and increase risk of heart diseases.

With 73.69 percent of air pollution coming from motor vehicles or mobile sources, Bathan-Baterina said that zero-emitting active transportation should be prioritized over polluting and fossil-fuel-based vehicles.

“Active transportation helps us achieve our national ambient air quality standards so we should really promote them,” she said.

Movement building for climate action, clean air, and active mobility

The event also highlighted the crucial role of campaigning and the arts in amplifying the linkages between inadequate mobility systems, air pollution, unreliable energy, and climate change and the need to address them simultaneously.

“As we advocate for smart mobility and sustainable urban mobility, let us bring people along. The beneficiary that we are targeting to help, let us include them in the conversations because they can really provide a lot of insights into the solution that we will work on in their communities. Let us not leave them behind,” Bathan-Baterina reminded advocates in attendance.

Following the presentations of mobility and clean air experts, the advocates participated in a campaigning workshop facilitated by Fara Manuel-Nolasco, Adviser of Daily Cycle Movement Baguio; Padmapani Perez, the Lead Strategist for Creative Collaboration of Agam Agenda; and Francis Joseph Dela Cruz, Country Convenor of AktivAsia.