How do you solve Metro Manila’s monstrous traffic problem ? President Rodrigo Duterte’s supporters think the only way is to grant him emergency powers. But looking at the larger picture, the extreme measure of granting the President emergency powers is gridlocked mentality itself.
Buhay Party List Rep. Lito Atienza believes emergency power should only be granted to the President after all alternatives have been exhausted.
“Emergency powers for the President to deal with the traffic problem in the metropolis could open avenues for corruption,” said Atienza. He said emergency powers would give an excuse for suspending the process of public bidding and procurement of equipment and services related to easing the traffic flow. He said that bottlenecks at major intersections are often caused by traffic enforcers themselves. Worse, sometimes, these traffic enforcers pull over drivers at the slightest or minor violation to fleece and extort money from them.
Citing an example, traffic on Ayala Avenue is already bumper to bumper and yet Mapsa or MMDA traffic enforcers do not have the initiative or foresight to redirect traffic to Paseo de Roxas as an alternative route for motorists going to Glorietta mall. The result is that the intersection box is clogged The computerized traffic lights can be recalibrated so the sensors can tell when to switch from red to green.
Atienza said redirecting vehicle flow on major road like Edsa to side streets is not a solution because most of these artery roads are being used by residents in the area as parking for vehicles and sometimes as basketball courts. Even the sidewalks on these side streets have been taken over by vendors and car repair shops. Again , it’s a matter of law enforcement that barangay officials do not do. Why? Because some of these vehicle owners, including jeepney operators, are their constituents and friends.
Traffic enforcers are hardly visible in nearby Hong Kong and Singapore and yet the flow of vehicles is smooth and orderly, Atienza pointed out as he raised the issue or driver discipline in these cities.
The Land Transportation Franchise Review Board, said Atienza, is also to blame for the widespread colorum buses plying city roads. He said the LTFRB keeps granting franchises to buses more than city roads can bear. The LTFRB, Atienza added, is also not enforcing the rule against provincial buses from entering Metro Manila .
The former three-term Manila mayor said provincial buses should unload their passengers at the boundaries of Metro Manila where they can transfer to city buses and public utility jeepneys. Instead, these provinces buses have been granted permits to even construct terminals right within the city. Atienza pointed to the bus terminal of Laguna bus company JAM which was allowed to have a terminal right at the corner of busy Buendia andTaft Avenue . The result is traffic backed up all the way to Osmeña Highway.
Opening up the main road in gated communities in Metro Manila is not also the solution, Atienza said. These people bought their homes in the upscale neighborhod at a high cost to have a less polluted air emitted by the sheer volume of motor vehicles in roads and streets outside their gated community. The children of the homeowners in these gated communities are also more confident their children who sometimes play on the streets would be safe from reckless public utility drivers.
The sale of motor vehicles, according to the Department of Trade, went down by 4 percent in the last quarter . This was not due to the number coding scheme of the Metro Manila Development Authority. Nor it is the hopeless Metro Rail Transport Line 3 suddenly becoming efficient overnight. The decrease in the number of vehicles sold was due to the increase in the excise tax levied on sales.
A livable city is something close to Atienza’s heart. A native Manilan, he agrees with American Chamber of Commerce president John Forbes’ observation that traffic in the country’s urban areas has become unbearable and Metro Manila consequently uninhabitable..
While Atienza appreciates the Administration’s construction of elevated highways in the metropolis, he urged that these infrastructure projects be fast forwarded from work in progress to work completed before the end of President Duterte’s term.