Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo is proposing a 24-hour workday, saying it can help ease traffic woes because it will reduce the number of vehicles on the road.
Boy Santos
Panelo proposes 24-hour workday to ease traffic
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - August 14, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — How do you solve a problem like EDSA?

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo is proposing a 24-hour workday, saying it can help ease traffic woes because it will reduce the number of vehicles on the road.

“Personally, I think we should have a 24-hour activity, there will be night (shift), there will be day (shift) so it will be divided,” Panelo said in a press briefing yesterday. “Is there a system like that around the world? I think there is none. What if we give it a try?”

Panelo claimed a 24-hour workday would improve the traffic situation because only half of the vehicles are on the road during the day while the rest would go out at night.

“You will lessen (traffic) because there would be different schedules for work and school,” he said.

Panelo, who recently complained about the “horrendous” traffic in the country, said he would relay his suggestion to President Duterte.

While the government is still looking for solutions to the traffic congestion, Panelo said the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) should be allowed to implement measures to address the problem.

He said the provincial bus ban and the yellow lane policy should be given a chance.

“Let MMDA do its job. If it did not work, let’s look for other solutions,” the spokesman said.

“The EDSA problem has been there for years. No administration has solved that. And they are precisely trying to do something about it. They tried several measures but failed,” he added.

The administration, according to Panelo, is open to proposals on how to solve the traffic problem in Metro Manila, which is costing the Philippines P3.5 billion a day, according to a recent study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

“They can send it to the MMDA directly, they can send it to the (Office of the President), they can send it to me. I will send it immediately to the MMDA, and they provide an audience to those who came up with proposals,” he said.

Panelo added that there are also calls to transfer government offices to provinces to lessen road congestion.

Elevated  ‘greenways’

As this developed, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) is targeting the construction of elevated “greenways” that will crisscross Metro Manila to encourage walking instead of commuting and help reduce congestion, officials said yesterday.

At the hearing of the Senate public services committee on the “carmageddon” along EDSA, which was attributed to the MMDA provincial bus ban, Transportation Undersecretary Mark de Leon said the agency has a P7-billion budget for the greenways.

De Leon said the greenways would be well-designed and comfortable for those who opt to walk instead of commute, and can be completed in two years.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) had earlier announced it was going to extend a $100-million financing for the construction of six to seven elevated greenways, to include those that will connect the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and Light Rail Transit (LRT) systems.

Sen. Grace Poe, chairperson of the committee, and Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, however, expressed disappointment that the project was still in the feasibility study phase.

“(The feasibility study is) taking a long time for something that other countries like Singapore and other European countries easily put up,” Zubiri told De Leon, even as he recalled he made the proposal in 2016 for some portions of EDSA but the DOTr apparently did not act quickly.

“I see no clear logical reason why (the walkway project) was not implemented. Compared (with) other infrastructure projects where right-of-way issues usually cause delays, this project will not be met with much opposition since government owns the land,” he added.

The implementation of the elevated walkway project was long overdue, according to Zubiri, citing the lack of convenient interconnection of the LRT and MRT and other public utility vehicles.

He said the elevated greenways could also include bike lanes, and that the first greenway could be from Guadalupe, Makati to Ortigas.

Zubiri initially proposed the first phase of the construction of the elevated walkways from Ortigas district to the central business district in Makati, adding he would work for an initial P1-billion budget for the walkways in next year’s General Appropriations Act.

The MMDA defended its move to ban provincial buses on EDSA in the face of strong opposition from lawmakers during the hearing.

MMDA general manager Jojo Garcia fended off protests from various groups and some lawmakers during the hearing of the Senate committee on public services on the provincial bus ban and the worsening traffic congestion in Metro Manila and other parts of the country.

Poe hit Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade and MMDA chairman Danilo Lim for snubbing the inquiry, which she said, was about the welfare of commuters and motorists as well as the economy.

“Chairman Lim and Secretary Tugade, we are inviting you again to our hearing because our countrymen want to hear your plans. We don’t want to issue a subpoena to you,” Poe said, adding that being busy was not an excuse as “everyone is busy” and invitations have been sent in advance.

During the hearing, Garcia said some 6,500 buses pass through EDSA, half of which are city buses, and the rest are provincial buses. All buses must use the yellow lane throughout the 24-kilometer artery.

“If we remove the 3,250 provincial buses, imagine the improvement and relief in traffic we’ll experience along the yellow lane that would benefit our commuters, who would not wait or commute for so long,” Garcia told the panel in Filipino.

He, however, lamented that the Provincial Bus Operators Association of the Philippines managed to secure a temporary restraining order from a Quezon City court for what was only a dry-run for the MMDA’s ban.

He said the objective was to dismantle 46 private bus stations along EDSA even as the DOTr puts up permanent intermodal provincial bus terminals north and south of Metro Manila.

‘Lessen demand for cars’

Lessening the demand for cars across the National Capital Region is the feasible way to decrease traffic in areas of Metro Manila, according to Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto.

In a Facebook post, the local chief executive said nothing would happen with the traffic situation across the metropolis if new cars continue to come to the streets.

“The bottomline is that traffic in Pasig and Metro Manila will continue to worsen no matter what traffic policies we have, unless we lessen the demand for cars,” Sotto said.  – With Paolo Romero, Ralph Edwin Villanueva, Mayen Jaymalin

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