On the traffic mess
(The Philippine Star) - October 2, 2019 - 12:00am

The Department of Transportation cannot blame the Senate committee of Sen. Grace Poe for being cold to the idea of granting emergency powers to them to solve the traffic mess in Metro Manila. Senator Poe asks: what does DPWH have to show for the legislation which has been granted three years ago to ease up procurement process, including allowing some shortcuts in bidding and contract procedures of some major and specific government-negotiated contracts for rail projects, without being hampered by TROs in the lower courts? These projects are either still in the negotiating state or crawling in bureaucratic implementation. 

What we hear from DOTr are reasons for delays caused by corollary problems, but which should have been anticipated and worked out by them without the need for emergency powers, within the three-year period. At least, that’s what I caught from their discussions. It’s the public that loses in their debate. Travelling from Quezon City to Makati which used to take 90 minutes 30 years ago, now gives you the thrill of your life if you can make it in 120 minutes!

The hard facts which I see is that the traffic congestion in Metro Manila is caused by three major factors: 1) the day-time population of MM is roughly around 15 million, many of whom come from the cities around and commute daily by buses, jeeps, cars and, to a small extent, by rail; 2) the national population increase of 2% to 2.5% means invariably the density of day-time population of MM will grow by 300th to 400th annually, and 3) Huge shopping malls are creating traffic bottlenecks near the main highways; even if they have parking spaces of their own people are unloaded near the highways. They’re the places most Filipinos of all walks of life visit and congregate in. Some bring their vehicles, others travel by public transport to go there.

With the growth in population, in 5-years’ time we will have around 2 million more people, and, yes, more private vehicles on the road. No matter how many roads and byways we build, there won’t be enough for more vehicles, unless we kill the car industry, altogether. Faced with this, a reliable rail system is our only transport option which Japan, a country with high-density population in its key cities, is resolving it with ease.

I have one suggestion for government urban planners: If the reliable rails system cannot come soon enough to the rescue, why not relocate Departments and government offices that are congested daily by so many people following up papers; the Department of Labor, Land Transportation Office, DSWD, The Bureau of Census and Statistics, Department of Foreign Affairs, etc. (I can think only of these few; there may be others) to nearby provinces like Cavite in the south, which has wide and excellent roads and lots of vacant land, and Bulacan in the North, or farther? We need not recoil to think of travelling a farther distance to go to these new locations, if the alternative is getting stuck (or die in an ambulance) all day in traffic and, worse, suffocate by sheer people-congestion.

M.K. TAN, Q.C.

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