Crisis in the metro? Cayetano says traffic a sign of economic growth

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 17)— Amid commuter woes and traffic congestion in the metro, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Wednesday dished out a different take on the transport situation in the country.

Cayetano, in a press conference in New Clark City, pointed out an “irony” in the metro’s transport problems—as he believes traffic can also be a sign of economic growth.

“First of all, hindi lang naman sa Pilipinas may traffic. May traffic naman talaga sa buong mundo,” Cayetano told reporters.

[Translation: First of all, it’s not only in the Philippines that we have traffic. There’s also traffic in other parts of the world.]

JICA’s 2018 study revealed that the Philippines is losing ₱3.5 billion a day due to traffic congestion in the metropolis. In a later study, it noted the country is also projected to lose ₱5.4 billion to traffic daily by 2035 if no interventions are made.

“It's no excuse, but the irony kasi (is), traffic is also a product of your own success. 'Pag maganda ang ekonomiya, may pambili ng sasakyan ang mga tao (if the economy is improving, then people have the means to buy new cars),” he said, adding that a huge chunk of these private vehicles would likely be stationed in Metro Manila.

The traffic crisis was put into the spotlight following the consecutive breakdowns of major train lines in Metro Manila, worsening commuters' woes. Adding to this are transport officials and even Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo maintaining there’s no mass transportation crisis in the capital region, which drew criticisms from government critics and the general public.

How to solve the traffic problem?

Lawmakers, other government officials, private companies, and even commuters have all offered suggestions on how to solve the traffic problem in the metro.

Cayetano, for his part, hopes the development of cities like New Clark would help ease congestion in Metro Manila by generating more jobs for Filipinos. Authorities are also eyeing to allocate more funds and incentives for rural towns, so that residents won’t need to move to the city.

RJ Javellana, president of Water for All Refund Movement-United Filipino Consumers and Commuters, meanwhile suggested that the government implements a national development plan, which would also include midterm and short-term solutions for the traffic problems.

“Dapat merong national development plan, pangmatagalan, siguro 30-50 years from now, kahit sinong umupo, nakafocus doon,” Javellana told CNN Philippines’ On The Record on Thursday.

[Translation: We should have a national development plan for the long run, so that 30-50 years from now, whoever will sit as President would focus on it.]

READ: Metro Manila mayors see closer coordination as solution to transportation ‘crisis’