A traffic town hall summit

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva - The Philippine Star

An inter-agency body headed by the Presidential Management Staff (PMS) is organizing the conduct this week of a traffic town hall summit of Metro Manila local government chief executives. The planned traffic town hall summit comes at the heels of the 16th full Cabinet meeting held last Wednesday at Malacañang where they tackled how to unify solutions to ease traffic congestion problems in our country.

In a press briefing a day after the Cabinet meeting, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Arsenio Balisacan disclosed President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. (PBBM) had “very long discussions on the traffic issue” with all the Department Secretaries. Ahead of attending to external problems of the Philippines, no less than the President will attend first the traffic town hall summit before he flies to his scheduled official trip to Washington for “trilateral” talks with his counterpart leaders from the United States (US) and Japan.

Among those invited to attend the traffic town hall summit is Land Transportation Office (LTO) chief, assistant secretary Vigor Mendoza. Speaking in our Kapihan sa Manila Bay news forum last Wednesday, Mendoza announced the traffic town hall meeting will bring all agencies working together under the concept of “whole-of-government” approach. Initially, they will try to come up with wholistic solutions to the worsening traffic gridlocks, especially around the busy roads and intersections in Metro Manila.

It was Department of Transportation (DOTr) assistant secretary and official spokesman Hector Villacorta who first broached the idea of a “transport summit” to address the worsening traffic problems in highly urbanized areas in the Philippines. Villacorta suggested this to tackle a “whole-of-nation” strategy, not just by “whole-of-government” approach in our Kapihan sa Manila Bay news forum a week earlier in response to the proposal of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP).

The MAP proposal was officially presented at the public hearing last March 20 called by the House committee on transportations. At the House hearing, top executives of MAP led by business leader Eddie Yap asked the government to declare a “state of traffic calamity” in Metro Manila and to appoint a “traffic czar.” They cited the estimated P3.5 billion worth of economic losses in Metro Manila alone due the congestion on roads based on the 2018 study done by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

The town hall meeting will be held this coming Wednesday (April 10) at the open-air San Juan City sports complex. All 17 Metro Manila Mayors, led by San Juan City Mayor Francis Zamora as the chairman of the Metro Manila Council, are invited to join PBBM who will preside the traffic town hall meeting.

At the Cabinet meeting, Balisacan announced the President gave instructions for all Department heads to submit recommendations on how their respective offices will address the traffic gridlock problems hobbling Metro Manila and other highly urbanized parts of the country.

Metro Manila has the worst traffic congestion in 2023, according to the traffic index of digital navigation site TomTom. It measured about 25 minutes and 30 seconds last year to travel ten kilometers in Metro Manila, 50 seconds slower than in 2022.

“What the President really wants is a comprehensive, wholistic approach to solving the traffic problem – not the piecemeal approach as has been the case all these years,” Balisacan explained. Balisacan further quoted the President’s directives “to look at intermodal transport systems and see how they operate efficiently as a whole.”

The NEDA chief enumerated government projects to expand and add expressways and building new bridges to link provinces and recently began construction of a subway system. Balisacan noted the President underscored that such projects have to be seen in the context of all other transport systems including bicycle lanes, motorcycle lanes and feeder roads as well as the location of industries and residences.

As instructed by PBBM, he added, each government agencies “will adjust and configure their work environment” in close coordination with the local government units (LGUs) that have jurisdiction on these areas.

“If there is a chokepoint in one, it affects the whole system. That’s why we really look at it as a system. And that’s the direction of the President,” Balisacan pointed out.

As instructed by DOTr Secretary Jaime Bautista, Mendoza cited the LTO is putting together all the projects and programs of his agency in consonance with the declared policy directions of the President. Aside from traffic engineering schemes, Mendoza added, there are other proposals to quicken the slow daily grind of road travel. This includes rescheduling of office hours of workers in government and the private sectors as well as school hours.

On the part of the LTO, Mendoza has lined up several on-going projects and programs of the agency, including the digitalization of all public transactions on drivers’ licensing and motor vehicle registration. Meanwhile, the LTO began the pilot-testing of contact-less apprehension of motorists illegally using the EDSA Busway lanes.

Mendoza underscored the LTO is empowered by its own Charter to enforce “contact-less” apprehensions using the existing installed video cameras of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) along EDSA to catch erring motorists.

“We have observed one of the causes of traffic is driver discipline,” the LTO chief noted.

A lawyer by profession, Mendoza clarified this LTO contact-less apprehension project does not violate the 
sub judice rule to the pending resolution of the petitions filed at the Supreme Court (SC) against the MMDA’s No Contact Apprehension Project (NCAP) adopted in several Metro Manila city governments.

To the credit of the NCAP, Mendoza noted, the project has notably increased driver’s compliance with traffic rules during its short-lived implementation. This was largely due to the very stiff fines and penalties imposed under NCAP. The 15-man High Court found enough legal and constitutional grounds to issue injunction suspending its implementation while still being resolved.

This is precisely why the Chief Executive called for this Metro Manila traffic town hall summit to synchronize all these  programs to solve, not add to the traffic woes.

vuukle comment


  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with