An MMDA employee monitoring vehicles on the HOV lanes from MMDA Metro Base in Makati City.
Edd Gumban
MMDA suspends full implementation of HOV scheme
Robertzon Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - August 18, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has suspended the full implementation of its ban on driver-only vehicles on EDSA, a few days after it received the Senate resolution urging the recall of the scheme. 

MMDA general manager Jose Arturo Garcia Jr. said the scheduled Aug. 23 implementation of the high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane policy on EDSA would be put on hold, as they needed to discuss whether to push through with the traffic reduction measure. 

If it pushes through, violators will be fined P1,000 for each infraction.

Garcia said the MMDA would meet with Metro Manila mayors in a Metro Manila Council (MMC) meeting next week, following the Senate resolution calling for the lifting of the ban. 

“The full implementation will be suspended for the meantime until the MMC convenes,” Garcia told reporters in a press conference yesterday. 

The MMC, composed of 16 city mayors and one municipal mayor, is the policymaking body of the MMDA, which requires the latter to get approval of the former in implementing any traffic scheme. 

In an interview last Thursday, Special Assistant to the President Christopher Go said MMDA chairman Danilo Lim has confirmed to him that feedback from the public on the scheme would be reviewed by the MMC.

Go said he trusted that members of MMC would be able to arrive at an acceptable decision on the driver-only ban.

“If it will help solve the traffic problem in Metro Manila, then it is okay. That is why we’re having a dry run. We’ll see first if it will really help, if it would ease traffic. If not, then we can improve it,” Go said in Filipino. 

Go added that that MMDA is seeking an audience with the President to present their plans on how to solve the traffic situation in Metro Manila. He reiterated that the government was taking the matter seriously and the convenience and welfare of the public was of utmost importance. 

Garcia confirmed Go’s statement on the dry run, which started last Aug. 15, saying it would continue until such time that the MMC will come up with its decision. 

During the dry run, Garcia said the MMDA would not apprehend motorists. The dry run is effective on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.   

“The fact (that there’s a) Senate resolution, we respect that,” he said. 

Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista told The STAR that the traffic scheme was doomed. 

“(For traffic schemes), there must be a scientific reason,” Bautista said. 

Over the last three days, MMDA has monitored 6,745 violators of the ban since the dry run started. 

Garcia claimed that the traffic in EDSA has eased during the first dry run.

The ban on solo riders in EDSA was first introduced during the time of former MMDA chairman Francis Tolentino and was also implemented by former MMDA officer-in-charge Thomas Orbos. 

The measure was set aside after the MMDA had failed to address the problem on heavily tinted vehicles and for fear that it might promote the operation of colorum (unregistered) vehicles. 

As this developed, Senate President Vicente Sotto III welcomed MMDA’s decision.

Sotto, who along with other leaders of the Senate introduced a resolution urging the MMDA to suspend the traffic scheme, said the MMDA should “solve the (problem of) illegally parked vehicles in Metro Manila and they will not need any other decongestants.”

He noted that there are so many roads in Metro Manila that have longstanding illegal parking issues that contribute to traffic problems.

Sen. Grace Poe, chairperson of the Senate committee on public services, said it is time for the MMDA to go back to the drawing board, “to think hard what can be done to solve our traffic woes.” 

“Policies should always be practical, implementable and in line with public interest. The MMDA should think hard, so there will be more ‘hits’ than ‘misses’ in its campaigns,” Poe said.

According to Poe, what is needed to address the traffic problems of Metro Manila is not new policies, but the strict implementation of existing laws and regulations. 

She also advised the MMDA to conduct public consultations before implementing any traffic scheme in order to get feedback from all stakeholders. 

For his part, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, who sponsored the resolution, said the suspension of the scheme was the “right and proper thing to do.”

“That policy needs further study and public consultations must be made, which the MMDA and the Metro Manila authorities had failed to do in the first place,” Drilon said. 

“The traffic in Metro Manila is a major concern but we must avoid band aid solutions such as the (HOV) policy and the ‘driver-only’ car scheme that have zero chance of success and are very discriminatory against those who cannot afford to hire a driver,” he added. 

He notes how in countries such as Indonesia, the US and Canada, where HOV lanes have been implemented, the scheme has been criticized as ineffective and counterproductive in addressing traffic congestion.

“Hence, the MMDA and Metro Manila authorities should look for real solutions to traffic congestion, but it should be done without violating due process of law enshrined and protected under the Constitution,” Drilon said. 

The Senate transmitted to the MMDA a copy of Senate Resolution 123, which was unanimously adopted by the senators last Wednesday. 

Apart from calling for the suspension of the traffic scheme, the resolution also urged the MMC to conduct public consultations, further study of the driver-only ban and provide real solutions to the traffic congestion.– With Marvin Sy

HIGH OCCUPANCY VEHICLE METRO MANILA COUNCIL METROPOLITAN MANILA DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY
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