Silay City, my birthplace and place of residence, has recently instituted a no-parking/tow-away rule on most of its roads which means all types of vehicles can no longer park on most public roads.
The newly implemented rule is apparently in compliance with the decree of the president for the country’s towns and cities to clear their roads of illegally-parked vehicles and illegal vendors. The city’s leaders don’t really know why they are doing it but parking is now prohibited because the president says so.
As usual, there will be different reactions to the newly implemented rule.
Business owners, whose establishments are in the heart of the city and their customers, will not like it. Motorists, who used to think the ability to park anywhere they please is an absolute right, will have to adjust to a life where some rules are implemented. Homeowners, who have been frustrated by the Filipino’s park-anywhere culture, will be quite pleased to see the public space outside of their homes finally cleared of illegal parking.
Everybody will be complying in the next few weeks, as the business owners have already been informed and temporary barricades with matching signs already erected in areas commonly used for parking.
The outside of my home, which is just a block from the highway, is commonly used for parking because of its proximity to commercial establishments and the shade provided by the trees. If I must be honest, I am quite pleased that parking is now prohibited outside my home.
On the other hand, there are many establishments in the city’s tourism and commercial center whose businesses will be negatively affected by the parking ban. This is what happens when business owners assume that the road outside their establishments can be used for free parking, anytime.
For now, the parking ban in Silay City seems to be absolute. Because there are no exemptions, those businesses who counted on the availability of public roads near their establishments as parking areas might have to suffer unless they can find a solution. Most are willing to weather the storm for now because everyone expects this initiative to be forgotten after a couple of months or a change of administration. Others are counting on the magical power of the hazard lights to use as a convenient loophole and help them survive this round of enforcement of a basic law.
It may suck for many, but if you come to think of it, parking on public roads, especially along and near major thoroughfares, should be prohibited forever. Indiscriminate parking in general shouldn’t be allowed on secondary roads, unless certain areas are designated by city officials for parking, whether it be free or paid.
In the case of Silay’s current campaign against illegal parking, the long term solution, if city officials are truly serious, is to coordinate with the city’s businesses and residents to designate parking areas. These parking areas can be chosen in conjunction with business owners, residents, and an urban planner to ensure the safety of pedestrians, a smooth flow of traffic, and benefit everyone. In a city like Silay, properly thought out and designated can even encourage tourism when parking locations force people to walk. Of course, this will also mean that the city’s streets will have to be as walkable as possible in terms of safety and convenience.
If making parking legal is going to be a long term strategy of a city, it may even be time to consider pay parking in premium areas/time slots.
Filipinos are a spoiled bunch. We can do anything on our roads because basic rules are generally ignored. Pedestrians cross anywhere. Motorists park anywhere. We can blame the people for being ignorant and hard headed, but it is ultimately the city that should get the blame because if it only enforced laws consistently, a sense of order would be maintained.
The sooner Filipinos are taught that the road does not belong to them and that hazard lights are not an excuse for doing anything, the better things can be for the next generation. The problem is that some laws are sometimes enforced for short bursts and unknown reasons while most of the time, neither laws nor enforcement exist.
It would be nice to see what is currently happening in Silay’s parking scene as the beginning of real change and not just another lackluster and half-hearted attempt at compliance.*