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Palace: Traffic scheme working

THE morning after a heavy downpour and floods tied up traffic for more than five hours, the Palace said  Wednesday  that the police takeover of traffic management on Edsa was effective.

“The past two days are proof that the initial steps being taken to ease the traffic situation were effective, and government will continue to strive to improve our interaction and interoperability among concerned government agencies,” said Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras in a statement.

Almendras did not mention the huge traffic snarls  Tuesday  night after a heavy downpour flooded Metro Manila’s streets.

Standstill. Edsa is gridlocked in both directions in this photograph taken from a condominium unit along the metropolis’ main thoroughfare late Tuesday night. Michael Camu
Instead, Almendras acknowledged “the hard work and continuous efforts” of the Philippine National Police Highway Patrol Group and the Metro Manila Development Authority for working together to address the worsening traffic conditions in the metropolis.

Almendras said the problem was so complex that it required a “whole-of-government approach,” involving the Public Works and Highways, Interior and Local Government, Transportation and Communications departments, as

well as the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board and the Land Transportation Office.

Almendras also urged the public to follow traffic rules and regulations.

“We continue to appeal to the public for their cooperation in following traffic rules and regulations that greatly... [affect] traffic flow and management,” he said.

President Benigno Aquino III has ordered Almendras to coordinate with agencies to ease traffic congestion in Metro Manila, especially along Edsa.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., however, acknowledged that efforts to improve traffic flow along Edsa and major thoroughfares were greatly hindered by the heavy rain and flash floods  Tuesday  night.

Coloma said these slowed down the movement of vehicles and resulted in gridlock in flooded areas with stalled vehicles. It was only past 11 p.m. that the floods subsided and the normal flow of vehicles resumed, he said.

“We understand the plight of many who were stranded and delayed considerably in reaching their homes and destinations and we seek their kind understanding,” Coloma said.

Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson said his department was working to clear and expand the holding capacity of drainage systems.

Although MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino said traffic enforcers were deployed past  midnight, most motorists said they did not see any of them or the highway police during the heavy downpour.

Thousands of motorists and commuters were stranded for at least five hours and most of them—including college students and blue-collar workers arrived in their homes early  Wednesday  morning.

Along Gil Puyat Avenue from Pasong Tamo to Taft Avenue, commuters—including senior citizens—were seen walking in the middle of the knee-deep flooded streets because of the lack of public utility vehicles.

“It was pitiful to see the young students and even the elderly wading in the middle of the floodwaters. If it was hard for me, they must have had an even more difficult time. And you couldn’t see a single policeman or traffic enforcer. What kind of government do we have?” said Christian John Espiritu, a Makati-based employee and a resident of Pasay City.

Artemio Canlas of Sta. Rosa, Laguna said he arrived home at around  4 a.m.  because of the heavy traffic along Magallanes from Gil Puyat Avenue all the way to the South Luzon Expressway.

“I left Manila at  9 o’clock  and arrived home in the morning.  Grabe na talaga nangyayari sa atin. Trapik dito trapik doon, baha dito baha doon. Saan pa tayo pupulutin niyan?  (What’s happening to us is too much. Traffic is bad everywhere and there are flooded streets all around us. Where are we going to end up?)” he said.

Heavy rain also affected Bulacan, Laguna, Quezon province, Pampanga, Bataan, Cavite, Batangas and Rizal, the weather bureau said.

Floods left many roads impassable in Makati City, Mandaluyong, Quezon City, Pasay and Paranaque. At past  2 a.m.  Wednesday, motorists on their way home were still on the road across Metro Manila.

Traffic was also observed along the entire stretch of Edsa, C-5 Road, the Skyway (SLEX southbound), Osmeña Highway, South Superhighway, Elliptical Road, Commonwealth Avenue, Katipunan, Marcos Highway, and Taft Avenue.

Some commuters who were stranded waited hours and tried to board public utility vehicles but the buses and jeeps were already full.

There were also reports of road accidents along Elliptical road in Quezon City and C-5 Road, which directly contributed to the traffic gridlock.

MMDA officials said they deployed trucks and “Libreng Sakay” rescue vehicles to help stranded motorists on their way home.

“We deployed traffic enforcers aside from our Libreng Sakay team,” said Cris Saruca, MMDA Traffic Discipline Office chief.

He also denied that there were no enforcers manning the traffic. “Maybe they didn’t see them because it was raining. They were in dark blue raincoats that were newly issued,” Saruca said.

Saruca said the massive flooding caused the gridlock.

“We monitored it. If there was impassable [street], there would be congestion,” he said, noting that Santolan on the Camp Crame side was not passable by  8:30 p.m.

He added that a flood-control team was deployed in areas identified as being flood-prone.

In the wake of  Tuesday  night’s gridlock, a former traffic management official said that contrary to the government’s claim, the volume of vehicles is not the reason traffic in Metro Manila is so bad.

“It’s just an alibi and it’s ridiculous,” said Angelito Vergel de Dios, former Traffic and Transport Management Office chief of the MMDA. “The volume is not an issue but the failure to clear obstruction on the roads is,” he said.

“The street is like a tube through which water runs. If it is clogged, the flow will be disrupted,” he said. “On Edsa, this is what happens. So remove the obstacles and the traffic will flow,” he said.

De Dios said the illegal structures of bus and jeepney terminals, illegal operation of tricycles, sidewalk vending, extension of stores, the loading and unloading of bus passengers in non-designated areas and the wanton disregard of… traffic rules are the main reason there is road congestion.

He added colurum or out-of-line public utility buses and taxis also contribute to traffic congestion.

“The question is why do they tolerate it? Clear the obstruction, there will be a smooth flow of traffic even if there are one million cars. If it is really the volume, you will no longer leave the house with your car,” De Dios said.

De Dios also said there is no need for the government to find or create new roads to ease traffic.

“Why not give the roads back to the motorist? Don’t use it to become basketball courts. There are existing roads already, you don’t have to create a new one. Just remove the obstructions, the illegal terminals, illegal vendors, illegal parking, illegal loading and unloading,” he said.

Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson made the same observation in an interview last week, saying that the local government units and the police are partly to blame for the traffic mess by not clearing public places of illegal structures and obstructions.

He said the presence of vendors and other obstructions of business establishments on sidewalks along major thoroughfares caused road congestion and turned four-lane roads into only two lanes.

In 2002, the government approved a resolution authorizing the MMDA, the national police and local government units to clear sidewalks, streets, avenues, alleys, bridges, parks and other public places of all illegal structures and obstructions to effect the smooth flow of traffic in Metro Manila.

The resolution was signed by Bayani Fernando, then chairman of the MMDA.

The current chairman, Tolentino, blames the number of vehicles on the road, however, saying that Metro Manila was “way over existing roads’ carrying capacity.”

In the House, an opposition lawmaker blasted a government proposal to impose carpooling as a way to improve the flow of traffic.

Paranaque Rep. Gus Tambunting, a member of the United Nationalist Alliance, said it was too late in the day for the government to come up with “creative” solutions to the traffic problem.

The problem with the proposed car pooling scheme is that the government is passing on the burden of its failure to anticipate the growth in the number of cars on the streets, he said.

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