Traffic has gotten worse, with no apparent immediate doable solution in sight.
President Duterte anchored his election campaign on the eradication of drugs and alleviating the traffic situation, even pillorying the previous administration for doing nothing to solve these problems.
People believed that he would deliver, and he handily earned the nod of 16 million Filipinos who catapulted him to the presidency.
It turned out that he needed more muscle to slay the traffic dragon. He had asked for emergency powers and more time to finally end the “carmageddon.”
But even the extra powers he asked could not yet be accommodated due to the failure of his traffic managers to get their act together.
The chairman of the House transportation committee, Catanduanes Rep. Cesar V. Sarmiento, after a series of hearings and consultations, even castigated the Department of Transportation (DOTr) “for submitting an ‘incomplete’ report and failing to define the scope of the traffic crisis, and for its apparent confusion on which projects were covered by the measure,” adding that the DOTr seemed to “be confused on the specific powers it needs.”
It turned out that the DOTr has already the power to effect changes in the transportation sector, and most of the powers it wants are either included in its existing mandate or already addressed by existing laws.
Sarmiento also chided the DOTr for having no reorganization plan and no proposed negotiation procedure for the projects that should be exempted from public bidding. Neither was the department prepared with a list of projects that it wished to be protected from temporary restraining orders or preliminary injunctions issued by the courts, except by the Supreme Court.
In the meantime, the car population continues to boom, even as the roads on which vehicles are to traverse get narrower by the day. The sheer number of vehicles competing for road space is constricting the economy.
John Forbes, senior advisor of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, pointed out recently that the rate at which the traffic situation is getting worse may make Metro Manila “uninhabitable within four years.”
Such scenario becomes even more frightening when one considers how the traffic menace seems to be getting less attention from the current dispensation, which is wasting valuable time in creating enemies with our traditional allies who have expressed concern about the way President Duterte is executing his war on drugs.
Forbes said that if roads and other infrastructure are not upgraded immediately, the traffic mess in the metropolis would likely worsen on the back of the country’s fast-developing automotive industry.
“Metro Manila is at risk of becoming uninhabitable as annual new car growth increases to 500,000 by 2020,” he said, adding that “while roads are being improved throughout the country, the National Capital Region urgently needs more limited access roads, especially skyways, and rail.”
Consider these: Domestic vehicle sales in 2020 would account for about 8 percent to 10 percent of the projected total sales of 5 million to 6 million units within member-economies of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. From 168,000 units sold in 2010, vehicle sales in the country reached 269,000 units in 2014, and were expected to surpass (if they have not already exceeded) industry target of 310,000 units in 2015, according to the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines Inc. (Campi). This year, Campi sees vehicle sales reaching a new high of 350,000 units, on its way to 500,000 units by 2020!
To top it all, the gridlock plaguing the streets of Metro Manila is costing the Philippines at least P2.4 billion a day, as cited in recent studies conducted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency in conjunction with the National Economic and Development Authority.
I’m not a traffic-management expert, but I have been a motorist for more than half of my life. Based on my experience, the traffic nightmare is not just because of limited road space. What really gets my goat are the unruly, undisciplined public-transport drivers, the unnecessary U-turn slots along Edsa, and the token action being taken by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and the Philippine National Police-Highway Patrol Group to enforce traffic laws.
Maybe it’s worth pondering for the authorities to take over the operations of the public transport system to have better control of the traffic situation. Discipline can easily be enforced if the government itself would own these public utility vehicles.
But, more than that, the Duterte administration has to buckle down to work to address pressing problems other than drugs. Duterte himself should rein in his mouth and work well with our traditional allies to chart the country’s future to prosperity. Only then can he proclaim that change indeed has come!
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