Careful planning and restructuring of road-related infrastructure must also be considered to prevent the return of the pre-pandemic traffic congestion that has hurt businesses and caused stress for the public. These were the conclusions drawn in the recently held Future Festival, a 4-part series launched by the Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation (PSPC) that tackles pillars critical to the nation’s progress.

During The Future Festival’s first episode, industry leaders focused on the challenges of mobility such as the insufficient access to public transportation, weak infrastructure, and outdated policies. They also looked into urban planning, sustainability, and innovative solutions that are anchored on efficiency, public safety, thoughtful planning, and collaboration. 

The creation of change, though, must be preceded by a radical transformation in the public mindset. As pointed out by PSPC Vice President and General Manager for Mobility Randy Del Valle: “Mobility is not just about transportation. It is enabling efficient transactions to make needed products and quality services easily accessible and readily available to everyone on the move, whether it’s traffic, urbanization, the need for safer roads and public transportation, or the long-standing effects of the pandemic—we need many solutions, not just one.”

One notable effect of the pandemic was that it highlighted that a large portion of the population did not have access to transportation to reach their destinations, for work, leisure, or purchasing goods and services. At the same time, the heightened restrictions on public transportation cornered them into considering other faster, but safer options. 

One example is the continuous rapid rise in the use of bicycles as people leaned on active transportation for personal mobility. One of the first institutions that recognized this trend, PSPC launched its “Site of the Future” in Silang, Cavite which has a dedicated area for cyclists where they could rest and refresh themselves while having their bikes checked. Department of Transportation (DOTr) Asec. Mark Steven Pastor, an advocate for active transportation, said that his organization is looking to extend the country’s pre-existing 500-km “bike lane networks in metropolitan cities with the goal of increasing accessibility to key activity areas and fundamental facilities, significantly reducing carbon emission as well as promoting road safety.”

The DOTr is also exploring mobility improvement for conventional vehicles through delegated bus lanes. Asec. Pastor describes the Public Utility Vehicle Movement (PUVM) project as a “transformational, large-scale initiative of this administration that is structured, modern, well-managed, and environmentally sustainable. Drivers have stable, sufficient, and dignified livelihoods, while commuters get to their destinations safely and comfortably.”

As travel also slowly returns, the Department of Tourism-NCR Regional Director Woodrow Maquiling Jr. affirmed that “green lanes have been set in place.” With the support from the national government and more relaxed health protocols, they will allow the entry of fully vaccinated individuals into the country for business or leisure. Director Maquiling remarked that this initiative will lead to “spurring business activity and providing job opportunities, while ensuring safety against the further spread of Covid-19,” he said.

Beyond the locality, Kevin Punzalan, the Senior Policy Officer of the Embassy of the Netherlands in the Philippines, shared his insights based on the strategies and best practices of the Dutch who have pioneered some of the most “cyclable” cities in the world. “Cycling cities are better designed for people, make transportation accessible and affordable, and create a healthier and safer city.” At the same time, he noted that more government funding and policies are needed to ensure the safety and efficient mobility of cyclists and pedestrians.

Keisha Mayuga, Move As One’s Safe Cycling and Walking Agenda Transport Lead, agreed, saying that “the top three hindrances preventing people to take on active transportation are the lack of bike lanes, bike parking, and post-trip facilities in their destinations.”

Felino ‘Jun’ Palafox, Jr., the Principal Architect and Founder of Palafox Associates, also pointed out that the country’s urban planning initiatives on mobility “are a hundred years behind”. Safety is also a vital factor that mobility needs to address. “There are 100% pedestrians,” Arch. Palafox said. “Once you step out of a vehicle, you are a pedestrian.”

“The urban planning [in the country] is always looking into the supply and demand of traffic,” Arch. Palafox added. “EDSA is functioning like eight roads: major artery, minor artery, access roads and so on. That’s why the traffic [is congested].”

Fortunately, Bill Luz, the Chairman of Liveable Cities Challenge Philippines, noted that is not too late to innovate, especially for the other 149 cities in the country, saying, “There is enough time and opportunities for improvement. They can learn.” Mr. Luz and Mr. Punzalan both envision the creation of 15-minute cities where everything can be accessed within a quarter of an hour through any mode of transportation. This will entail “not only moving people from point A to point B but also goods, products, and services to improve the economy,” Mr. Luz said.

“Promoting active transportation is hard,” Mayuga acknowledged, yet “it is possible to make those changes and take active transport. LGUs can play a big role.” She added that Filipinos needed to be given more choices other than the ability to buy a vehicle. “Mobility is not just about cars,” she explained, but giving Filipinos the freedom and access “to walk, cycle, and safely take our families to the park.”

European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Director Paulo Duarte acknowledged that modern safety technology needs to be implemented. He gave a few examples: “Antilock brakes, automatic braking systems, electronic stability for 2-wheeler and 4 wheelers. We should push for tech to be mandatory in the Philippines, as these are already mandatory in other countries.”

Sustainability through technology and participation in the national energy transition are essential as the country moves forward. By 2040, there will be an estimated 300-400 million electric vehicles (EVs) on the road, according to the International Energy Agency. Asec. Pastor shared that the DOTr’s PUVM can pave the way for EVs as public transport.

As the country’s partner in mobility, PSPC leads in the powering of these vehicles of the future through effective charging stations. “We are ready. Shell has been doing this globally. We have the capabilities and expertise,” Mr. Del Valle said. However, he also said that “we need to collaborate for a sustainable way to achieve this and source power sustainably.”

Energy and its capability to create livelihoods are the topics for the next Future Festival episodes, along with the nurturing of a new generation of talents in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

Ultimately, collaboration is vital to creating, deploying, and maintaining the innovations that will shape and transform mobility for a post-pandemic era. “We need to mobilize talent to mobilize the nation,” Mr. Del Valle said. “Collaboration among like-minded individuals is important. We as a nation and a people can be stronger by enhancing each other's strengths. PSPC is committed to powering progress and moving the Philippines forward.”

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