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

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 7)— Three Metro Manila mayors believe that closer coordination between the heads of the cities in the metropolis is key to solving its traffic and transportation woes.

Manila City Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso told CNN Philippines’ Politics as Usual that the transportation crisis would continue to “haunt” Metro Manila until its local governments "integrate".

Ang nangyari, piecemeal eh,” Moreno said Tuesday. “Gagawa kayo ng subway, hanggang dito lang sa Taguig. Then pag-akyat mo ngayon ng, halimbawa, Taguig or Makati, sakay ka ulit. Doon ka babagsak sa Lawton, trapik na naman. So it has to be integrated.”

[Translation: What happens is that it’s all piecemeal. You’ll build a subway, but it’s only up to here in Taguig. Then when you reach Taguig or Makati, you would need to get another ride. You’ll end up in Lawton again, in traffic. So, it has to be integrated.]

Taguig City Mayor Lino Cayetano and San Juan City Mayor Francis Zamora echoed Moreno’s sentiments.

“Metro Manila is one big megacity. Kahit ayusin ho natin ang isang siyudad kung kami, hindi kami magtutulungan — ang problema sa San Juan, ang basura sa San Juan, problema rin sa Taguig,” Cayetano said.

[Translation: Metro Manila is one big megacity. Even if you fix one city, if we don’t help each other — San Juan’s problems, San Juan’s trash, is also our problem in Taguig.]

“We have to really integrate all our plans and programs. We cannot plan something for just our own cities. We have to integrate everything, since Metro Manila is a megacity. The planning should be among all 17 local governments,” Zamora said.

Currently, Metro Manila’s chief executives coordinate plans through the Metro Manila Council — the policy-making body of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA).

But the MMDA's powers are limited. It cannot order the closure of roads or the implementation of uniform traffic policies, as these fall under the discretion of the local governments.

This has led some to float the idea of resurrecting the Marcos-era Metro Manila governor — which Moreno backs.

“We should elect a Metro Manila leader,” he said. “Kasi pagka nagpasya ‘yung Metro Manila Council as elected officials, walang magagawa ‘yung Maynila ‘pag ayaw ng Maynila. Walang magagawa 'yung Makati ‘pag ayaw ng Makati, kasi kailangan sundin kasi may governing individual mandated by the people.”

[Translation: We should elect a Metro Manila leader … If the Metro Manila Council, composed of elected officials, decide, Manila cannot do anything but follow even if it dislikes it. Makati cannot do anything even if it dislikes the decision, because there is a governing individual mandated by the people.]

Cayetano and Zamora, however, did not say whether they support the idea of electing a new head for the whole of Metro Manila or not, as this would surely affect the autonomy of cities.

Instead, they stressed that an integration of traffic and transportation plans is the solution to solving these woes.

Following the breakdown of two of three of Metro Manila’s major train systems, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr. has recently described the daily pains faced by commuters as a “transport crisis.”

Malacañang has refuted this, pointing out that people are still able to get a ride to their destinations. This, despite commuters saying that they need to wake up at the wee hours of the morning to get to work or school on time, and that they spend long hours on the roads daily.

President Rodrigo Duterte has previously asked Congress for emergency powers to solve the traffic crisis, but recent said he has given up on this because of continued opposition from some Senators.

CNN Philippines Digital Producer Luchi de Guzman contributed to this report.