" I am usually an optimist, but...."
In order to solve the worsening traffic in Metro Manila, the Department of Transportation and the Metro Manila Development Authority are pushing that President Duterte be granted emergency powers to solve the problem. To both, there appears to be no other way to solve the worsening traffic situation.
The House of Representatives is all for it but there seems to be some reluctance on the part of the Senate unless the DOTr comes up with a sort of a strategy on what programs will be undertaken in the short, medium and long term. This thing about the grant of emergency powers to the President has been on the table since 2016. The DOTr feels very strongly about it. It wants to avoid such things as temporary restraining orders by the courts.
The question that has to be asked is whether there is really a need for the grant of emergency powers. Are the current powers of the president not enough to solve the traffic, that we have to resort to emergency powers to tackle what is basically a municipal problem?
The answer to this question depends to a certain degree on one’s overall knowledge and understanding of the relationship between land use and transport, the consequence of which is the horrendous traffic that is giving the public so much misery. Some qualified traffic practitioners may not believe that emergency powers are needed if one really knows what needs to be done and knows how to go about doing them.
One of several solutions being mentioned by emergency believers that can mitigate traffic congestion is to force the opening of private subdivision roads, mostly located in Makati, to the public. So far, this has not happened. The subdivisions say they will file suits.
The grant of emergency powers, they believe, will eliminate this problem.
Another solution is the prohibition of heavy vehicle tints. This should make it easier for traffic enforcers to impose the single occupancy policy.
Still another area being thought of is what to do with buses, jeepneys and tricycles. These three land transport modes are causing a major part of the traffic gridlock due to the way these vehicles are operated.
Some are also suggesting the reduction of the number of bus companies to about ten by converting them into transport cooperatives like the way it was done during the Martial Law period. This way, bus operations can be supervised more efficiently.
The jeepneys and tricycles will eventually have to be phased out in a few years unless the jeepneys will adopt modern designs and manage their operations more efficiently.
There are certainly some merits to these ideas but it could also be argued that these things could be accomplished without the need for emergency powers.
I am not fully convinced of the need for emergency powers but if that is what it takes for the government to make decisive policy decisions, maybe Congress should just agree to the grant of emergency powers for a limited period. Senator Grace Poe, the chair of the Senate Public Services Committee, has been asking MMDA and the DOTr to submit a plan of action as a basis for the committee to draft a law but up to now, the DOTr has failed to submit one. We do not know why. The request is not unreasonable so it should be easy to draft some kind of a plan covering the short-, medium- and long-term programs that the government wants to implement.
I cannot believe that these two agencies do not have qualified people that can come together to simply write up a simple plan. There must be another reason for the failure to submit one and let us hope that it has nothing to do with politics.
A few weeks ago, the President, during a speech, was quoted as saying “let EDSA just rot” in reference to Congress resisting the grant of emergency powers and perhaps due to plain exasperation. He also mentioned a certain politician whom he described as “intrimitida” and many believe that this politician is Senator Grace Poe because of her insistence on a plan. The success of any program to decongest traffic is for travel time from origin to destination to improve. This means that if it takes two hours for a bus to get from Monumento to Taft Avenue, a successful program should reduce the two hours to maybe an hour and fifteen minutes or shorter.
Granting the President emergency powers does not mean that traffic will improve the next day. But hopefully, we will begin to see a well thought of plan of action that will eventually result in a much improved travel time for all motorists. Currently, the concentration of the government effort is on one road that is EDSA. But traffic is bad everywhere and the public also wants a solution on the other road networks in and not only on EDSA.
Although usually an optimistic person, I witnessed a traffic incident the other day that made me wonder whether even the grant of emergency powers can do the trick. A van with a number seven plate with lights blinking entered and used the opposite lane because the vehicle queue on his lane was very long and the very important passenger of the van cannot wait like everyone else. With such kind of behavior, why do we really even bother? Congress should simply grant what Secretary Tugade and MMDA Chairman Lim are asking. Both gentlemen may still have a trick or two up their sleeves that we do not know about and besides, what else could they do to make the traffic worse?