getting better public transit in metro manila (part 3)

Mobilizing the political will
to improve public transit in Metro Manila
Part 3: Building a winning coalition

This is part three of a series on how to improve public transit in Metro Manila.

To review where we have been:

Step One is to change the frame. Improving public transit is not about decongesting traffic. It is about social justice.

Step Two is to show an alternative vision. Discussing what is wrong about the status quo will not bring change by itself. We have to show what is possible.
This brings us to:

Step Three: We need to build a winning political coalition

Politics often carries a negative connotation but at its root, politics is about the art and science of influencing and shaping public policy and changing policy is about shepherding the proposed changes through the political and policy formation process. It requires the shaping of public opinion, mobilizing that opinion into a political force and then bringing the appropriate political forces to bear at the right points in the process.

Effecting policy changes are often long slogs with victory going to those who can cobble, stable and effective coalitions. Miracle moments (something I'm afraid we have become addicted to) are rare and when they do occur, it usually just results in changes in leadership rather than substantive changes in policy. The change will rarely be lead by policy wonks or elected officials -rather, organized groups must bring political pressure to bear to get the policy wonks to rethink policy and the elected officials to support the change.

Mobilizing the political will to improve public transit in Metro Manila means building and mobilizing a winning coalition.

Who should be in the coalition?

The following groups should be natural core members of this coalition:

1) URBAN POOR: Ideally there should be a commuters union organized and powered by users of public transport. Since there is none, then the urban poor groups should take their place. The urban poor is the sector most dependent on public transit to function in the city and because improving public transit is a social justice issue, then this should be on top of the agenda of advocates for the poor.

2) THE CHURCH/FAITH-BASED GROUPS: Because it is a social justice issue, then the religious groups should also be in the coalition and should be working actively to address that inequity

3) LABOR UNIONS: Workers should also have a dog in the race if inefficient public transit is a bane to families of laborers.

The following groups should be strongly supportive:

4) EMPLOYERS CONFEDERATION and CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE: as inefficient public transit directly effects worker productivity. It also affects the marketability of the city as an investment destination. - More efficient public transit increases productivity and reduces the stress on workers. (These groups can also line up behind the social justice banner.)

I can think of many more groups that can have a natural affinity to this coalition, but i'll stay with this list for now. I'll take any suggestions you might have.

The operational word, of course, is "winning" and it will not be enough to cobble this coalition. The coalition must also effectively neutralize the opposition. And that will be the topic of my next post:

Part 3: Dividing and conquering the opposition

Image credit: Drivers wanted by davefitch

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