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Metro traffic woes to ease in 2-3 years

Incoming DPWH chief: Rollout of infra projects is key

The administration of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte has placed Metro Manila’s traffic woes in its crosshairs with a plan to rapidly deploy infrastructure projects aimed at dramatically cutting road congestion in two to three years.

Incoming Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar said late Monday that Metro Manila was among the priority targets. Projects here would form part of an “ambitious” infrastructure program the Duterte administration would launch after it takes over next month.

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The capital district, the center of the country’s economic influence and home to more than 10 million people, has made global headlines with its multihour traffic jams. Its clogged roads and an aging mass transit railway network now strained to the hilt have been the subject of congressional inquiries.

“The directive is to hit the ground running,” Villar told reporters in his first interview since being named the next DPWH chief.

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Villar, whose family owns listed property giant Vista Land and Lifescapes Inc., said they were crafting a “comprehensive” plan together with the Department of Transportation and Communications.

Villar takes the helm of a department credited with undertaking wide reforms under outgoing Secretary Rogelio Singson.

While declining to give too many details, Villar said much of the focus would be placed on rolling out projects whose feasibility studies have been completed, yet were not implemented by earlier administrations.

The comprehensive plan, as he put it, would also address disaster management, flood control, tourism and the efficient transportation of agricultural goods.

“There are many plans. At this stage, we are talking about implementation,” Villar said. “Definitely, there will be a major change in two to three years.”

He cited the Edsa-Taft and Katipunan flyovers, the widening of the C-5 road and a proposed bridge that would link Bonifacio Global City and Kapitolyo in Pasig that was challenged by Pasig-based residents since it would worsen traffic conditions.

Villar gave no guarantees that road congestion would be eliminated by the end of Duterte’s six-year term, but he said they were taking “big steps” in resolving this.

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“We are planning on increasing our spending, doing pump-priming, on infrastructure so we can somehow catch up,” Villar said.

“Our traffic is a function of of underspending on infrastructure, so now that our infrastructure [spending] will go up, we would be able to start minimizing traffic problems,” he said, noting that infrastructure spending would account for about 5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

A perennial issue hampering big infrastructure projects like new roads and railway lines is right of way. Villar said this was currently being addressed. Moreover, President Aquino last March signed a law on how right of way would be acquired for large state-led infrastructure projects.

The law covers, among other items, how private land owners will be compensated. This can be done with the help of an independent, government-accredited property appraiser. The law stated that the government can begin expropriation proceedings if a property owner does not accept the government’s offer within a 30-day window.

A 2012 study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency showed that productivity losses due to traffic in Metro Manila amounted to P2.4 billion a day. Left unchecked, that figure would balloon to P6 billion daily by 2030, Jica said.

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TAGS: Business, Department of Public Works and Highways, DPWH, economy, Metro Manila, News, President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, Secretary Mark Villar, traffic
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