Solutions to Metro Manila traffic 'coming along,' NEDA exec says

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Solutions to Metro Manila traffic 'coming along,' NEDA exec says
This undated photo shows a traffic standstill on EDSA.
The STAR / Boy Santos, File

MANILA, Philippines — Solutions to heavy traffic in the nation's capital are coming despite budgetary and logistical issues, a National Economic and Development Authority official said Wednesday. 

Roderick Planta, NEDA assistant secretary for Infrastructure Development, speaking at the Future Cities Forum 2019 organized by the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, said the scale of the "Build, Build, Build" program—the Duterte administration's plan for a "golden age of infrastructure"—is a challenge. 

Asked by Philstar.com what Manila's commuters have to look forward to in the short term, Planta explained that "a bit of the challenge is how we are positioned to deliver, and the challenge of the bigger budget [and] coordinating our infra team."  

"If you want to move it faster, you'd have to [take on] additional costs," he added. "So kumbaga, it will get worse before it gets better, yun talaga. This is where we are, and the solutions are just coming along."

Limited infrastructure, limited government capacity

Planta pointed to the country’s population density outpacing the government's capacity to provide services, and the limited infrastructure in Metro Manila as the main culprits behind congestion.

RELATED: Metro Manila worst to drive in, according to Waze ranking

However, he said the government is working to raise capacity through, for example, the Department of Public Works and Highways hiring more engineers. 

"[I]f you compare the magnitude of the infra being done right now compared to previous administrations, obviously, the same number of people is doing more work right now, so obviously that strains the capacity," he said.

"There is also the aspect of implementing that [and] it should be done on the proper timing. The phase of reform could be hastened."

Planta also added the challenge for NEDA has been maintaining continuity in the projects, pointing out that "top-level officials come and go, but the technocrats provide continuity."

Asked if passenger and motorist behavior could be shaped by the infrastructure, Planta said, “It’s a series of events. What’s important is the continuity and inclusivity of programs.” 

Among the listed infrastructure priorities he outlined under the roadmap were road transport, mass transit networks, and traffic management and intelligent transport sudden, investment funding, sector governance, preparatory studies and new town development.

A worsening crisis

Angeline Tham, CEO of motorcycle taxi service Angkas, spoke about the links between enhanced mobility and commuters’ quality of life. 

"There is a consensus of what defines Metro Manila that everyone agrees on: traffic and congestion. It takes an average of five minutes to drive one kilometer," she said. "There’s a traffic epidemic that plagues us here. It affects our choices, freedom, and mental health. What about the regular commuter and his options?"

Progressive groups in early October labelled the traffic situation a mass transportation crisis after LRT-1, LRT-2 and MRT-3 all experienced technical difficulties in the same week. 

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo responded by saying that the situation only involved a certain degree of traffic. He suggested commuters simply leave their homes earlier if they wanted to reach their destinations on time, something that many commuters have already been doing. 

The MMDA has advised the public to expect heavier traffic in the coming days due to the nearing Christmas season and the upcoming SEA Games.

Sen. Franklin Drilon on Tuesday called the "Build, Build, Build" program a “dismal failure” because only nine out of the 75 flagship infrastructure projects under it have began construction. Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said this criticism was "baseless" but did not dispute Drilon's figures.

Presidential flagship project adviser Vince Dizon said at an economic briefing on Wednesday that 35 of 100 projects on the government's list are ongoing construction.

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