One Metro Manila government

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz - The Philippine Star

The development of an integrated mass transportation is a national concern. Any urban mass transportation system should be linked to a nationwide, or at least a Luzon wide, transportation system.

But the development of an integrated traffic control program is a local concern and, ideally,  should not be the burden of the national government.

An  integrated traffic program which includes enforcement of traffic law, removal of traffic impediments like sidewalk vendors and illegally parked vehicles, and installing of modern traffic control technology surely should be left to Metro Manila.

The EDSA traffic jam is not the concern of people living outside Metro Manila which accounts for close to 90% of the Philippine population. However, in order to unclog the EDSA bottleneck, the national government had to take over. Why should the national government and even the Office of the President be forced to take over?

The answer is simple. The solution to the traffic control program requires a Metro Manila-wide effort. Those who use EDSA cross several city boundaries daily – from Caloocan through Quezon City, Pasig, Mandaluyong, Makati and Pasay City. But the traffic choke points are also caused by daily travellers on their way to from the entire 27 cities and municipality that comprise the Metro Manila region. Illegally parked cars, for example, on streets like P. Tuazon lead to traffic jams elsewhere. But car owners claim they have parking permits from their barangay  to park on the road.  Vendors selling on sidewalks or even on the streets are protected by local politicians.  This is all understandable because local officials do not care about traffic on EDSA or other main roads. The bulk of those travellers are not their constituents.

There is no Metro Manila government with the coercive powers to enforce traffic and other laws throughout the whole metropolitan area. The Metro Manila Development Authority is only  a coordinating body. There is no regional government that can override local concerns and place regional concerns as the priority.

The national government has, in effect, become the de facto Metro Manila government.

The present political boundaries of the region were the product of the Spanish colonial era when places like Malabon and San Juan were villages far from the city of Manila. The modern central business district of Makati was just a barrio and Marikina was a still mountainous. Two centuries later, urbanization and technology has changed the  landscape but the political boundaries have not changed.

The old boundaries assumed that people lived, worked and socialized essentially within their town. But let us look at the reality of today’s urban life.

Examine the life of Juan de la Cruz who lives in a subdivision in Paranaque City. He travels daily to Makati where he works but sometimes goes to Pasig  or Quezon City to attend meetings. His wife goes daily to Fort Bonifacio, Taguig where she works. They have three children . One has started working in Pasig in the Ortigas area. Another goes to a university in Manila and the youngest goes to school in Alabang, Muntinlupa. The family shops in Alabang or Makati.

The family is affected by traffic in the whole of Metro Manila. But members are also affected by floods in Manila, crime in the Ortigas area, lack of parking in Makati and the flood of illegally parked vehicles along President’s Avenue in Paranaque. The stench of pollution in Laguna de Bay has also affected the subdivision since smell does not recognize any political boundary.

Think of Robert who lives in Fairview, Quezon City and works in Manila or Annie who live in Bacoor, Cavite and works in Pasig City. Both of them spend more time, six days a week, in other cities rather in their own city.

The benefits of a metropolitan government are accountability, efficiency and simplicity. Today, Metro Manila is divided into 27 semi- independent kingdoms ruled mostly by mayors focused on local issues even though their decisions affects the entire metropolitan region. There is no accountability for metropolitan concerns. In the absence of a Metro Manila government, the public and media will now look to the national government for solutions.

Almost all the large metropolitan areas like Tokyo, Seoul, Bangkok, Jakarta, Beijing, New York City, London have metropolitan governments.

There are two ways of governing a metropolitan region. The first is through federation  where a metropolitan government shares responsibility with local governments for public services such as transportation, traffic, parks, water, sewage and economic development.

The Tokyo Metropolitan government consists of a popularly elected governor and an Assembly with 127 members elected every four years. The Metropolitan government administers 23 Special Wards, each one governed as an individual city. It also includes 26 other cities, 5 towns and 8 villages.  

The second way is by having a consolidated metropolitan government. The Seoul Metropolitan government is highly centralized with one mayor and three vice mayors. It is responsible for education, prisons, public safety, libraries, recreational facilities, sanitation, water supply, and welfare services.

When the Metro Manila Commission was dissolved, the Metro Manila Development Authority was organized as a  temporary measure pending a law by Congress that would set up a Metro Manila government. Unfortunately, political objections resulted in the MMDA being created by a law and the idea of a regional government put aside.

Unless we continue to expect the national government to continue being the de facto regional government, it is time to establish  a Metro Manila Government.

Where the Write Things Are’s Classes for Kids and Teens

Write Away! Weekend: Getting started on your comic book on September 26 (1-4pm) with popular cartoonist and writer Manix Abrera at the Canadian American School Alphaland Makati Place.

Young Writers’ Hangout every first Saturday of the month (1:30-3pm)at Fully Booked Bonifacio High Street.

For registration and fee details contact 0917-6240196 / [email protected].

Email: [email protected]

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