Walking Streets
AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman (The Philippine Star) - April 24, 2017 - 12:00am

Muñoz and Balintawak markets, Farmers Market in Cubao, Claro M. Recto, Tutuban, Avenida, Raon, Sales Street, Kalentong and Nueve de Pebrero in Mandaluyong, Baclaran in Pasay, Quirino Highway in Novaliches, Quezon City, are examples of major thoroughfares that have become “walking streets.” The people and vendors have taken over the streets, causing chaos and more havoc to an already heavy traffic infested area.

In many parts of Manila like Estrada and Singalong Streets, parts of Quezon City, in the whole metropolis for that matter, inner streets have become “playgrounds.” Cars can hardly pass. A basketball court is placed at the center of the street leaving a tiny passageway for motorists. If an accident happens, who will be at fault? Will the Barangay Chairman be ultimately responsible for everything since he or she allowed the community to use the streets without asking vehicles to make a detour?

Why aren’t local government units strictly enforcing the rule? Why are they contributing to the mess? Doesn’t every Barangay have a community park or a basketball court? Why are fish, meat and vegetable vendors occupying half of the roadway? Shouldn’t they sell food items inside a marketplace? Where does sanitation and hygiene come into play? Why do we see streets being used as funeral parlors? Talk about respect for the dead! Why are the children allowed to bathe while women wash their clothes in the sidewalk? Shouldn’t each barangay be strictly zoned to establish peace and order, safety and hygiene?

Drivers, commuters and pedestrians have gone berserk. Lawlessness has seemed to prevail. Everyone wants to do his or her own thing. They want to create their own systems in order to get to their destinations as fast as they can. Our traffic enforcers can’t seem to impose the rules anymore. Loading and unloading areas for PUVs are a thing of the past.

Clearly, many factors have contributed to the traffic mess and these are just a few examples. Last year, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) talked to barangay officials to look for ways to ease traffic. One way is to clear the roads of illegally parked cars. At that time an average of 80 cars were towed by the agency every day. From July to November, the MMDA has towed more than 5,000 illegally parked cars. Clearing operations have been conducted to remove illegally parked vehicles in the side streets. Just last week, a neighborhood was upset at the MMDA’s move on towing their illegally parked vehicles. And guess what, the car owners were all mad demanding that what the MMDA did was wrong. Sanamagan!

Local government units must follow the MMDA’s lead. Removing parked vehicles in all inner roads can help ease the traffic as they can be used as alternate routes. Barangay officials must not solely rely on the MMDA. There should be assigned parking areas or at least one-side parking only.

By the way, the barangay election was moved from October 31, 2016 to the fourth Monday of October 2017. President Duterte wants to appoint barangay officials to ensure that no drug money will be used by candidates to win the election. Let’s see what happens. It may be a good idea but it goes against our right to vote. Abangan!

Whatever it is, we must always remember that the barangay plays a crucial role in the progress of our country. So, we must demand efficient service from our barangay officials. They must also remember that our community is not their kingdom but ours to keep. Professionalism is important among the barangay leaders.

Barangay officials are mandated to maintain public order and ensure the protection of life, liberty and property. The barangay captain is the only public official in the whole country that exercises executive, legislative and judicial powers! That’s too much power. Unfortunately, many of them only have “kili-kili” power. All talk, no action, and definitely no brains. I don’t blame the President for wanting to appoint them instead. In my opinion, the rules for the barangay must change. The city mayor must be the sole leader in the community and everyone else must follow his or her lead or else we will continue to be a confused lot.

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The Duterte administration has allocated P8.2 trillion (the biggest ever in the history) to fund the so-called “golden age of infrastructure” over the next six years. Infrastructure spending will be increased to 5.2 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). Development works will be completed within a shorter period.

The infrastructure spending will focus on projects that will involve roads, bridges, ports and airports. “The best time to build projects in the country is in the first half – the dry months from January to June. The second half is kind of iffy,” Budget and Management Secretary Benjamin M. Diokno said.

In keeping with this plan, the administration unveiled last week a three-year rolling infrastructure program amounting to P3.6 trillion from 2018 to 2020. This covers infrastructure projects for transportation, water resources, sewerage and sanitation, flood management, solid waste management, maritime, social infrastructure, energy, information communications technology and others.

Metro Pacific Investments Corp. chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan has announced that the North Luzon Expressway Harbor Link Segment 10 is expected to be completed by the end of this year. This project will boost the country’s cargo transport industry with trucks having a 24/7 direct access from Manila’s port area to northern and central Luzon provinces. Segment 10 stretched from MacArthur Highway in Valenzuela City, C-3 Road in Caloocan up to Road 10 leading to Port Area in Manila. Once completed, it is said that travel time from Manila to NLEX will be reduced to just 10 minutes.

It is also expected that the NLEX Harbor Link will promote commerce between the harbor area and Central and North Luzon and help ease traffic congestion in Metro Manila through improved movement of cargo.

There is also the proposed P227-billion Mega Manila subway, a 25-kilometer underground mass transportation system connecting major business districts and government centers. Phase 1 of the project will connect Quezon City, Mandaluyong, Pasig and Taguig. When completed, travel time from Quezon City to Taguig will only take 31 minutes.

Aside from the subway, other projects in the railway sector are: the Philippine National Railways North, PNR South, Mindanao Railway and the Subic-Clark Cargo Railway.

Finally, the P1.5-billion Runway Manila pedestrian bridge that connects Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 to Newport City in Pasay was already launched. This 220-meter long pedestrian walk will be the country’s first pedestrian bridge that can accommodate up to 2,000 people. It is an enclosed, air-conditioned bridge with facilities such as a café, moving walkways and elevators for persons with disability.

I can’t wait for all these projects to be completed. I just hope that everyone involved is sincere and honest. We all know how corruption can easily set in when vested interest becomes a priority instead of service to the people. Our politicians are easy preys to temptation. But it is not too late to change. Here’s hoping for the best.

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