DOTr to Senators: Emergency powers needed to ease traffic

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — As Metro Manila commuters and motorists continue struggling through horrendous traffic, Senators question the need for emergency powers to untangle the whole mess.

At the resumption of Senate hearings on Thursday, Senators met with stakeholders, members of the academe, urban planners and government officials to discuss the proposed emergency powers for President Rodrigo Duterte to solve the traffic problem.

In her opening statement, Sen. Grace Poe, Committee on Public chair emphasised the need to involve those who would be greatly affected in the decision-making process. She noted “most often, transport plans fail, not because they are not good enough, but they suffer from the fatal handicap of not consulting people on the ground.”

In an almost five-hour hearing, they identified problems and proposed solutions such as a comprehensive zoning master plan; out of the box engineering solutions like the construction of pontoon bridges, steel flyovers, a subway system; disallowing on-street parking and the sale of vehicles to those who don’t have garages; the installation of a traffic czar with the power to override local ordinances; disallowing the building of malls along main roads; and the building of inter-modal terminals to name a few.

Also read: Metro Manila traffic to improve in next 100 days – Palace

Transport officials said most of these proposals were already under study while some were in their implementation phase, like the inter-modal transportation terminals. These 3 terminals, which would integrate different modes of public transport in one location, are seen to eliminate over 8,000 provincial buses from Metro Manila roads. The South and Southwest terminals are scheduled for completion in 2018. The remaining North Terminal is still in its feasibility stage despite the project having been ordered over two years ago.

The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) chief, Sec. Ernesto Pernia, had also earlier announced the prioritization of several projects including the Bonifacio Global City to Ortigas link bridge, and the early resolution of the common station for the MRT 3, LRT1, and MRT 7.

Also read: Freight line between Manila and Laguna proposed

Anne Lontoc, Undersecretary for Roads and Infrastructure, said emergency powers were still needed to speed up these projects as past experiences show “lagi nade-delay and projects dahli sa procurement [projects are often delayed because of procurement].”

Relaxing the strict procurement law would enable them to fast track traffic-alleviation projects, although some believe this could lead to abuse and corruption.

Sen. Poe said, though, that measures could be put in place to prevent this. She suggested a strict time frame, an oversight committee, and giving Congress the power to revoke the emergency powers should they be granted.

Sen. Manny Pacquiao, meanwhile, asked officials what guarantee could the public have that emergency powers would work in easing Metro Manila’s traffic mess.

Transport Undersecretary Lontoc replied, “Mahirap po ang katanungan niyo… pero ma solusyonan natin yan, ika nga, sa tamang panahon.”

[Translation: That’s a tough question… but we will find a solution at the right time.]

When pressed, Lontoc promised the public would feel the change by 2018 or 2019.