Senate hearing set on traffic woes

September 07, 2015 News

The Senate committee on economic affairs is set to conduct an inquiry tomorrow into the worsening traffic situation in Metro Manila in a bid to come up with solutions to the problem.

Committee chair 
Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino IV recently filed a resolution calling for the inquiry in light of the worsening traffic conditions in Metro Manila and its adverse impact on the economy.

In his resolution, Aquino noted the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), in spite of being the lead agency on traffic management, couldn’t solve the problem alone. He said the MMDA should be assisted by other agencies such as the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).

“There is a need to review the ‘Roadmap for Transport Infrastructure Development for Metro Manila and its Surrounding Areas’ that was approved last year. Needless to state, commuters as well as private vehicle owners suffer monstrous and extremely costly traffic everyday in Metro Manila,” Aquino said.

“The relevant government agencies, together with the local government units, should be able to provide effective transportation planning strategies and traffic management system in order to improve the traffic conditions in Metro Manila,” he added.

Citing a recent World Bank study, Aquino noted that the population density in the country’s urban areas, particularly Metro Manila, has been increasing significantly since 2010 with no signs of slowing down.

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A separate study conducted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) noted that without intervention, traffic costs will likely increase to P6 billion a day from the current P2.4 billion.

The preliminary analysis made by JICA showed that average low-income group households have to spend no less than 20 percent of their monthly household income for transport.

According to the study, without intervention, traffic demand will likely increase by 13 percent by 2030 and transport cost will be 2.5 times higher.

Officials from the DPWH and DOTC, along with Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) and the Land Transportation Office (LTO) are expected to attend the Senate hearing.

Also expected to the attend the hearing are representatives from the National Economic and Development Authority, the Confederation of Truckers, Philippine Institute for Development Studies, European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, the American Chamber of Commerce and Uber.

Secretary to the Cabinet Jose Rene Almendras would not be able to attend the hearing.

Almendras was tasked by President Aquino to coordinate all efforts to address all traffic concerns.

All hands on deck

Malacañang, however, assured all hands are on deck to solve the worsening traffic problems starting tomorrow.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said there might be no traffic czar designated officially but the traffic woes were being tackled at Cabinet level in coordination with all stakeholders.

Almendras, for his part, added he was tasked to coordinate inter-agency concerns as he did with respect to the port congestion issue.

Almendras said he was now in charge of harmonizing Cabinet action to ease Metro Manila traffic situation but was not given any special designation as traffic czar.

“It’s okay. Even without a title, we will work to solve the problem,” Almendras said in a text message.

Coloma said the Philippine National Police-Highway Patrol Group (HPG) tomorrow would take over the MMDA’s role and start manning traffic in various chokepoints along EDSA to improve traffic flow in the area.

MMDA chairman Francis Tolentino welcomed the move.

“I certainly welcome HPG to take the lead in managing EDSA. It’s all about cooperation among government agencies to better supervise vehicular flow on the busiest route in Metro Manila,” Tolentino said.

The DPWH, led by Secretary Rogelio Singson, has also been doing “traffic engineering” such as placing markers and concrete dividers on the roads for dedicated bus lanes or “yellow lanes.”

Coloma said the DPWH and the MMDA had also been clearing sidewalks that had been occupied by illegal vendors. He said the sidewalks must also safe for pedestrians.

He said various departments and agencies would help deal with the traffic concerns and MMDA traffic enforcers along EDSA would be deployed in Roxas Boulevard, C-3 and other major thoroughfares to ease congestion since the HPG would take over EDSA.

MMDA chairman Francis Tolentino announced enforcers from LTO and the LTFRB would assist in ensuring smooth traffic flow.

Coloma said provincial and city bus operators were also cooperating in finding solutions to traffic congestion.

Coloma said the President was giving priority to traffic concerns and Almendras was tapped because of the need for “Cabinet-level coordination and integration” like what was done when there was port congestion.

In situations involving big and complicated problems like traffic, Coloma said it would be best to have a unified action and integrated planning and execution of action plans rather than focus on “the boss.”

“The real bosses here anyway are the Filipino people that the government serves," Coloma said.

He added the consultations with various stakeholders were important, particularly civil society, business community, port users and other road users.

Almendras, along with LTFRB chairman Winston Ginez, HPG chief Director General Arnold Gunnacao and LTO Law Enforcement Service chief Roque Versoza Jr. made consultation meetings with provincial and city bus operators yesterday.

Provincial buses banned on EDSA

LTFRB board member Ariel Inton said they have discussed with the transport operators the role of the HPG, MMDA, LTO and LTFRB in the implementation of a tighter traffic scheme.

The LTFRB said provincial buses going southbound would be banned from EDSA during morning rush hour beginning tomorrow.

Inton said provincial buses bound for Batangas, Laguna, Bicol and Visayas coming from their terminals in Cubao and Kamuning will take P. Tuazon, C-5, and then proceed to the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) from 6:00 am to 9:00 from Monday to Friday, except weekends and holidays.

He said provincial buses could use EDSA from 9:00 a.m. onwards.

Inton added they would also strictly implement the yellow lanes along EDSA for passenger buses except for private vehicles turning left or right to exit.

Bus drivers, on the other hand, said it would be difficult for them to take the new route. A bus driver, who requested anonymity, admitted that the new route he will be taking is unfamiliar to him.

Inton, however, assured deputized agents of the LTO, LTFRB and MMDA would guide them accordingly to their destination.

Inton warned that a hefty P1-million penalty would be imposed on erring bus drivers defying the new traffic scheme.

He said buses who will be plying EDSA during the times they are prohibited will be considered as out-of-line or colorum.

Inton, however, clarified the P1-million penalty is only applicable if apprehending officers are the deputized agents of the LTFRB and the LTO. If the apprehending officers will use the MMDA’s ticket, the penalty would be only P6,000. 

Source: The Philippine Star