The Quiapo underpass is a showcase of incompetent public service in Manila. This first underground pedestrian passageway in the country built 50 years ago should be giving people unobstructed movement but instead is now a mini mall with food and dry goods stalls blocking paths to entry and exit points. Even crazier was that Mayor Joseph Estrada and the “bright boys” behind the underpass mall were so proud in transforming the tunnel and inconveniencing pedestrians!
The mayor is not the only one to blame for the sufferings of pedestrians in Quiapo. Other mayors of Manila failed to clear the underpass of vendors in the past. Before it was renamed “Victory Lacson Underpass,” pedestrians struggle on a couple of feet of space left for them to walk on as vendors occupied the floor with their merchandise. Passing was like playing piko or dancing tinikling as pedestrians had to avoid stepping on vendors and their merchandise.
This time around, pedestrians have to avoid fixed stalls. When you enter the Hidalgo Street door, downstairs is a jeans stall blocking the way. And the vendor is so proud of being an obstruction.
Before it was turned into a mall, the underpass was open 24 hours. Now, you cannot pass through from midnight and beyond as there are glass doors and they are locked during those times. So if you disembark from a jeepney in front of the Quiapo Church and need to cross Quezon Boulevard going to Hidalgo Street on the other side, you need to walk all the way to Ilalim or under the Quezon Bridge or cross the overpass.
Some wise guys at City Hall may have profitted or may be profiting from this sickening urban transformation project as stall owners pay rent on the floor space they occupy and it was bid out to contractors.
There are hundreds of thousands of pedestrians in Quiapo day in and day out and every crossing–the underpass and overpass–must be obstruction-free for faster flow of foot traffic. Underpasses should be like those in Makati Central Business District, unobstructed, so pedestrians are not inconvenienced.
So the next thing to do? Restore Quiapo underpass to pedestrians by clearing it from stalls and opening it 24 hours. No business should be operating there because it will cause crowding that impedes pedestrian flow and gives corrupt officials at City Hall a source of “commission.” This way, you ensure convenience to the public and prevent corruption. Don’t wait for Alfredo Lim to become mayor again and dismantle the mall in the underpass and other crazy ideas inconsistent with the duty of city leaders to ensure public convenience.