Experts on how to solve Metro Manila's traffic woes: Adapt, reinvent, increase funding

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 27) — As the country gradually returns to its pre-pandemic state, so does the old problem bugging Metro Manila: traffic.

Experts have pointed out some lingering issues that keep the government from solving such longstanding problem.

"There is an effort but the traditional solution of more infrastructure did not do it because the implementation is very slow and we have a backlog of necessary infrastructure not built for the last four decades," Rene Santiago, engineer and urban transport expert, told CNN Philippines' The Exchange.

"Our capacity to add infrastructure is very slow compared to the growth in traffic… We simply cannot cope with it," he added.

Santiago noted that despite the involvement of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, where he serves as a consultant in providing a masterplan for flood control and transport, the government-initiated implementation is often delayed and the components are always complete.

Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation President Butch Meily, meanwhile, stressed that not enough is allocated for public transportation as seen in the daily struggle of Filipino commuters who are catchng bus or jeepney rides when an effective subway system should have been developed.

One way to address the problem is by adapting hybrid work or education setups, which is seen to have helped alleviate the heavy traffic in the National Capital Region during strict quarantine restrictions, Santiago said.

Doing so would help reduce daily travel demand by at least 20%, which means about 4 million less trips on a daily basis, or equivalent to about four train lines in operation, he explained.

In terms of flooding, Santiago said there is no short term solution for such but a certain system may be needed to help Metro Manila residents cope with it.

For architect and urban planner Jun Palafox, there is still a need to revisit, update, and implement the urban plan formulated in the 1970s.

"It's no longer location, location, location, but connectivity, accessibility, and mobility," he said.

Moreover, the problems of Metro Manila cannot be addressed without regional development, Palafox emphasized.

The country needs 100 new cities by 2050, so planning should already start otherwise existing cities would be as bad, if not worse, than the current NCR, he pointed out.

Aside from working with the private sector, Meily said the government should also work on the environmental side of the issue, like reforesting the Marikina watershed to prevent another typhoon like Ondoy from flooding Metro Manila.