A NEOPHYTE lawmaker on Saturday stressed the need for Congress to grant the emergency powers to President Rodrigo Duterte in a bid to address the traffic woes in Metro Manila.
Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte said accelerating spending on big-ticket infrastructure projects, such as airports and seaports, has now become imperative given the urgent need to decongest Mega Manila’s crowded thoroughfares and realize the Duterte administration’s goal of dispersing wealth to the countryside.
Villafuerte said Duterte will need emergency powers to immediately implement his proposed Traffic and Congestion Crisis Act to save the Greater Metro Manila area from being almost inhabitable as a result of the worsening traffic mess on Edsa and other major roads.
“The grant of emergency powers to the President would speed up the implementation of infra projects by, among others, freeing these from red tape and the usual delays in right-of-way and land acquisitions,” Villafuerte, vice chairman of the House committee on appropriations, said.
“The Congress should back the grant of these powers to the President in dealing with the traffic crisis as it would not only decongest Mega Manila and other highly urbanized areas, but also disperse wealth to the regions once the planned seaports and airports under the Traffic Plan become operational,” Villafuerte added.
Villafuerte issued the statement in reference to a bill submitted by the Department of Transportation to Congress seeking the grant of emergency powers to the President for up to three years, along with a list of some P1.2 trillion worth of land, sea, and air projects to enable him to deal with the worsening traffic crisis in Metro Manila and other highly populated and urbanized cities in the country.
The DOTr-proposed Traffic and Congestion Crisis Act recognizes that “[t]he traffic and congestion crisis in Greater Metro Manila and other highly urbanized cities and areas in the country have assumed the nature and magnitude of a national emergency.”
Villafuerte cited a recent report by the Philippine Statistics Authority showing that the country’s population density increased further by 9.4 percent last year with about 337 persons per square kilometer.
He said these figures show that the country’s population density is growing at an alarming rate, with the number of people living in each unit of area increasing by 29 people per square kilometer in just 5 years from the 308 persons per square kilometer in 2010.
“The most densely populated is Metro Manila with close to 20,000 persons per square kilometer because people usually flock to highly urbanized areas in search of better job opportunities,” he said.
“If we can build more airports and seaports in the regions, then we can encourage more investments to relocate in the provinces,” he said. “People wouldn’t have to crowd highly populated areas like Metro Manila because the better, decent paying jobs are already within their reach in their localities.”
Villafuerte pointed to a study done by the National Economic and Development Authority showing that the country’s most populated regions—Metro Manila, Calabarzon (Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon) and Central Luzon—remain the top three economic performers, with the other regions lagging behind them.
“One other element that these top regions share is the presence of adequate infrastructure that make it easy to transport goods and link producers to markets through roads, bridges and high-speed wireless communications,” Villafuerte noted.
Villafuerte also suggested that Malacañang consider a proposal of the Japan International Cooperation Agency to transfer the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and the operations of the Manila North Harbor outside Metro Manila.
Jica’s proposal involves transferring the international airport to Cavite and harbor operations to the Batangas City port–to decongest traffic.
With domestic shipping primarily from the south of Manila, Jica said there would be savings in ship operating costs if vessels dock at the Batangas City port rather than at the Manila North Harbor.
The Jica proposal also includes the construction of a mega Manila subway system as well as reforming road-based transportation systems to ease traffic in Metro Manila.
Besides a massive infra buildup in the countryside, Villafuerte has also been pushing for the shift to a federal system of government to rev up the economy in the regions and disperse wealth.