The Duterte administration is facing an uphill battle to ease traffic congestion along major thoroughfares and at the main airport as more Filipinos can now afford to buy cars and travel by air.
President Rodrigo Duterte is seeking emergency powers from Congress to resolve the worsening traffic situation in Metro Manila and other major urban centers.
“You want to address traffic situation, give us special power,” Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said.
The Transportation Department submitted documents containing the list of priority projects and a draft bill to justify the emergency powers for Duterte to reduce traffic congestion.
Under the draft bill, the department proposed to unify the rules on traffic management which is currently handled by various agencies such as Land Transportation Office, Land Transportation, Franchising and Regulatory Board, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and the local government units.
Single traffic authority
“Different rules for the same thing would bring confusion on the street. The DOTr has nothing to do with traffic management… Traffic is handled by MMDA, Highway Patrol Group and LGUs,” he said.
Tugade said a single authority for traffic management would address the traffic congestion.
He said emergency powers were needed at this point because of the economic and health issues related to the traffic problem.
“The average Filipinos spend more time waiting for their transportation going to office and waiting for transpiration going home. That is not the family life in Filipino way. If you don’t call that crisis, what is,” Tugade said.
He cited a study by Japan International Cooperation Agency, which estimated the cost of traffic at P2.4 billion a day. Without intervention, Jica estimated that traffic costs would increase to P6 billion a day.
According to the online database Numbeo, the Philippines was the 10th country in the world with the worst traffic conditions as of mid-2016.
The Philippines had a traffic index score of 199.66 based on Numbeo’s Traffic Index for Country 2016 Mid-Year report.
Traffic index is a composite index of time consumed in traffic due to job commute, estimation of time consumption dissatisfaction, carbon dioxide consumption estimation in traffic and overall inefficiencies in the traffic system.
The time index in the Philippines—or the average one way time needed to transport before people reach their destination—was about 44.55 minutes.
Egypt topped the worst traffic list with an index of 247.12, followed by Iran (226.58), Jordan (220.72), Indonesia (214.58), Turkey (213.00), South Africa (209.62),Thailand (203.96) Brazil (203.93) and Russia (202.93).
Tugade said the special powers would be subject to certain conditions where they could not be abused.
“It is not good forever. It’s only good for two years,” he said.
Tugade said special powers “would address unified traffic scheme or unified traffic rules, right of way and takeover of properties if needed for transportation requirements.”
“We do not intend to be arbitrary, capricious or whimsical or confiscatory. They will be asked for and negotiated for in the interest of common good following certain procedural matters to assure the public that it is not confiscatory,” he said.
Tugade said general aviation at Ninoy Aquino International Airport would be removed to increase the capacity of the terminal and transfer some of the domestic flights of airlines to Clark International Airport.
“When I remove general aviation, you will have an additional space of between 18 percent and 21 percent,” Tugade said.
Japan International Cooperation Agency said Naia was expected to exceed its maximum handling capacity this year, when the airport would handle 37.78 million passengers. Its maximum handling capacity stands at 35 million passengers a year.
Tugade said general aviation would be transferred to Sangley Point in Cavite.
The Duterte administration also proposed to build a cable car and a subway to address traffic congestion at Edsa.
Eduardo Yap, governor-in-charge for Management Association of the Philippines’s traffic, transportation and infrastructure committee, said the group was supporting the government’s plan to build a subway starting from North Ave. in Quezon City to Makati City.
Yap said a subway would provide the most efficient mass transit to complement Metro Rail Transit Line 3 on Edsa—the densest traffic corridor of Metro Manila—without causing disturbance to the above-ground environment.
“At the same time, it will afford the opportunity for government planners to follow progressive green and more pedestrian-friendly urban development practices abroad,” Yap said.
“This long and major Edsa road artery, currently noisy, heavily polluted and chaotic, can be transformed into a model that our country and people can be proud of and enjoy,” he said.
Jica Philippines senior representative Eigo Azukizawa said that efficient public transport system was a pro-poor investment as it provides reasonable ways of moving.
“As well, it enables people to commute from suburban areas where one can afford housing in a more spacious and safer area,” said Azukizawa.
One of the innovations proposed in the “Roadmap for Transport Infrastructure Development for Metro Manila and Its Surrounding Areas,” was implementing a so-called “Intelligent Transport System” or ITS to maximize the city’s existing road capacity.
ITS, according to the study, includes better traffic engineering and management that requires geometric improvements, pedestrian facilities, traffic surveillance, accident prevention, traffic safety education and traffic enforcement.
ITS requires a signal control system, travel time prediction, road maintenance, intelligent parking, incident detection and bus scheduling assistance among others.
By putting modern technology and discipline into traffic management, the Jica study said the Philippines could make better use of available infrastructure.
In terms of social impact, the study said that with interventions, the average transport fare of P42 by a commuter today would be reduced to P24 due because of improved connectivity and common fare. Travel time is also likely to be reduced from 80 minutes per trip to 31 minutes.
“By alleviating traffic, the Philippines can have more space for dynamic business and investment growth, and encourage economic activities in other areas outside Metro Manila in a sustainable way,” said Azukizawa.
New flyover projects
Meanwhile, Public Works Secretary Mark Villar said the agency is prioritizing the construction of the P3.03-billion Edsa-Taft flyover, which was put on hold in 2013. The planned flyover would span 1.2 kilometers with two lanes in both directions on Edsa from Malibay Bridge in Makati City to F.B. Harrison Street in Pasay City.
The Public Works Department is also pursuing the construction of a bridge that would cross Pasig River to connect Bonifacio Global City in the Taguig-Makati area and Ortigas Center in Pasig.
Phase one will connect Sta. Monica Street in Kapitolyo, Pasig City to Lawton Avenue in Makati, while the second phase will run from Lawton to the Bonifacio Global City viaduct, then from Shaw Boulevard to the Sta. Monica viaduct.
Other projects are the C5 Road to Julia Vargas Flyover in Pasig City; Katipunan to C5 Road Flyover and Miriam to Gate 3 of Ateneo de Manila University flyover.
“These are major flyovers, so that the traffic problems will be resolved,” Villar said.
The department has a total budget of P363.54 billion this year, higher by 33 percent than last year’s P273.91 billion.
Of the total budget, the agency will spend P204.12 billion for highways, P64.20 billion for flood control and P95.23 billion for other projects.
The bulk of the budget would be distributed in Mindanao amounting to P100.99 billion. Northern Luzon will get P73.14 billion; Southern Luzon, P62.53 billion; the Visayas, P59.13 billion; and Metro Manila, P23.63 billion.