Solutions to traffic woes proposed
Prominent government and private transport groups and stakeholders are supporting a proposal to give President Duterte emergency powers to solve the traffic problem in Metro Manila.
At a recent transport forum organized by the ADR Institute and Citizen Watch in Makati City, participants had agreed that ongoing infrastructure (transport) projects to address the issue would take years to complete due to a complicated bureaucratic process.
Without emergency powers, key projects, including the proposed revival of a rail cargo project that would ease traffic in Metro Manila and solve port congestion in the ports of Manila, would remain in the back burner, they said.
The Japan International Cooperating Agency (Jica), which presented the study titled “Roadmap for Transport Infrastructure Development for Metro Manila and Surrounding Areas,” predicted that the cost of traffic in Metro Manila would increase to P6 billion a day by 2030, from P2.4 billion today, if there was no intervention.
The study warned that the metropolis’ lower-income group—the blue collar workers earning minimum wage—would be hardest hit when congestion worsened by 2030, particularly if the Duterte administration failed to institute reforms.
Senator JV Ejercito, who chairs the Senate economic affairs committee, also called on Congress to grant the Duterte administration emergency powers to tackle the country’s public transport woes, stressing during the forum the importance of having a well-thought out mass transit system in the country.
Ejercito batted for a railway solution to solve the vehicle congestion, particularly in Metro Manila. He said he believed that moving people instead of building infrastructure projects to move more vehicles, was the best idea.
MRail president Ferdinand Inacay said during the forum that government land transportation agencies must decide on what to do with public utility vehicles such as jeepneys, which had become icons of the past and no longer fit now or the future to remain on the roads.
Inacay said there was also a need to rationalize bus operations on Edsa.
“Traffic enforcers must strictly enforce loading and unloading zones; it is also timely to assess and revisit the loading and unloading locations because these current zones today may no longer be in the right locations to best serve the riding public,” he added.
Ejercito proposed plans to concentrate on the railway systems and on projects that would efficiently and conveniently move people, instead of vehicles.
Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) chair Eduardo Yap suggested during the forum the issuance of an executive order to declare that a transportation and traffic crisis existed in Metro Manila and, with the concurrence of Congress, secure emergency powers for the President.
“This way, Duterte can effectively address the crisis by mobilizing all government resources and undertaking necessary measures unhampered by appointments, procurement, budgetary and COA regulations during its presidency,” he said.
Yap also lauded the appointment of lawyer Art Tugade as transportation secretary, noting the success Tugade at the helm of Clark Development Corpl. (CDC).
Participants at the forum likewise leaned toward a rail-based solution to the congestion in Metro Manila and its environs and pointed to a Duterte campaign proposal to expand the rail systems, both for more efficient cargo transport as well as commuter relief.
They said they hoped Tugade would seriously review proposals such as that of private company MRail, which recently cooperated with ICTSI, a big port operator, to restore the rail connectivity between Manila ports to an inland container terminal facility in Laguna.
“An efficient and a modern railway system will not only solve our traffic congestion. It will spread out development, bring down the cost of living, and cost to transport goods and therefore will be the backbone of our economy,” Ejercito said.
Inacay said moving cargoes using existing PNR tracks should be revisited.
Currently, there is a significant resurgence of the country’s manufacturing and trade activity. Inacay said this was fueling a beehive operation in the ports and as result of increasing trade volumes, heavy port congestion contributed to traffic in the metropolis.
Inacay said that what MRail was proposing was to revive the rail cargo system from the south to the Port of Manila using existing PNR tracks.
“I believe it is timely to revive the operation considering the road situations today. The service can effectively alleviate traffic in the major Manila arteries,” he added.
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