Relocation of gov’t offices
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade made a gutsy decision in transferring the main office of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) in Mandaluyong City to Clark, Pampanga.
According to the DOTr, this aims “to help decongest traffic in Metro Manila, reduce travel time and improve travel of motorists, and boost development in the peripheries of NCR.”
A study conducted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency in 2014 showed that traffic congestion in Metro Manila resulted in losses of at least P2.4 billion a day and might reach P6 billion if not solved.
The idea of decongesting Metro Manila by relocating major government offices to areas outside of the capital have been in the drawing board since the administration of then President Ramos.
The plan was to move the central offices of the departments of agriculture, agrarian reform and environment and natural resources (all based in Quezon City) to the provinces where their principal areas of responsibility are located.
It made little sense for these offices to be in Metro Manila since there are no agricultural lands and and forests in the metropolis that have to be supervised or developed.
Although these departments have regional offices, their constituents are often obliged to go to the head office for significant concerns or policy decisions.
The headquarters of the major services of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Metro Manila were also targeted for transfer to provinces that need their presence and have sufficient space to meet their service requirements.
The stockpiling of explosives and ammunition in highly urbanized areas pose a serious threat to the safety and wellbeing of their residents. Besides, the land they occupy can be put to more productive uses.
Considering the number of employees of these offices, their transfer to the provinces would have significantly contributed to the reduction of traffic volume and demand for public services in Metro Manila.
Unfortunately, for lack of political will and financial resources, the relocation plans did not materialize. The metropolis was stuck with urban congestion and decay, which have worsened through the years.
It’s fitting that the office tasked with making the movement of people and materials faster and more efficient took the initiative in decongesting or reducing traffic volume in Metro Manila.
With proper planning and preparation, it has been shown that a major government office can uproot itself from its base and transfer to a place 100 kilometers away. It may take some time before its operations can fully normalize but that’s part of the adjustment process.
Admittedly, many of the DOTr’s employees would be inconvenienced by the change in office location. But that’s how the cookie crumbles in government. Depending on the exigencies of the service, offices and employees can be transferred or detailed anywhere in the Philippines or abroad.
No government employee has a Torrens Title on his or her place of work. As long as there is no diminution in pay and employment benefits and the change in the place of assignment is based on justifiable grounds, an employee is obliged to comply with an order to relocate his or her area of service.
Besides, the DOTr employees averse to holding office in Clark, Pampanga for health or personal reasons have been given the option to transfer to any DOTr-attached agency.
For DOTr employees who have been in the service for quite some time, the transfer or detail may be stressful because it would mean making adjustments in their work assignments or relationships with the new employees they would be working with.
That may be a small price to pay if the consequence of moving to Clark would, in their belief, impair their health or wellbeing. Some hard choices may have to be made by these employees.
A precedent has been started with the transfer of the DOTr’s central office to Pampanga. Some lessons may be learned from this action by other government offices that, like the DOTr, are capable of doing their share in decongesting Metro Manila without impairing their ability to perform their duties and responsibilities.
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