A member of the majority bloc in the House of Representatives has urged officials in Malacanang to create a government super body that will impose a unified traffic scheme in Metro Manila.
Valenzuela City Congressman Sherwin “Win” Gatchalian issued the statement in the wake of a nine-kilometer gridlock at the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), where he got stuck while on his way back to Quezon City from Valenzuela City office, last Friday.
“Clearly, no one was in-charge when the gridlock happened. What happened next was the usual blame game among local government units and national agencies and no less than the President made a public apology for all the motorists and commuters who were affected by the monster traffic jam,” Gatchalian said.
The brutal traffic linked to the number of trucks going to the Philippine Ports Authority left the Palace, the MMDA, some local government units, as well as the NLEX management wrangling among themselves.
A vice chair of House Committee on Metro Manila Development, Gatchalian explained the super body must be headed by a “traffic czar,” who will have operational control over several agencies like:
- Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA)
- Land Transportation Office (LTO)
- Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB)
- Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in National Capital Region
The lawmaker added that traffic czar’s agency will also be the clearing house of all activities on the road, including road works by DPWH and the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS).
Overall, the traffic czar is in-charge of the planning for public transportation.
“It is imperative that road projects of the DPWH are coordinated first with the super body so that MMDA traffic enforcers will know what alternate routes motorists can use to prevent traffic jams,” Gatchalian said.
“The traffic czar will have the authority to decide if a road project will be put on hold to protect the interest of motorists and commuters,” he added.
In the case of the LTO and LTFRB, the traffic czar can make policy recommendations on these agencies like the retirement from Metro Manila roads of motor vehicles more than 20 years old and no longer road worthy.
Gatchalian argued that a single authority whose policy will have to be followed in all cities is needed to avert another monster gridlock.
Business groups have blamed the lack of accountability among both national and local government leaders for the chaotic traffic situation on one of the major gateways connecting the NCR to the provinces in Central Luzon.
They also warned that frequent monstrous traffic jams will ultimately kill economic activity in Metro Manila and result in higher prices of basic goods.
“Cities in the Metro Manila implement different, incongruous policies to manage the vehicular flow in their neck of the woods, but this only worsens the overall traffic in the region. There should be a traffic czar whose well-coordinated traffic plan will be followed in all cities,” Gatchalian said.
“The MMDA cannot impose a single traffic scheme as it is only a mere coordinating body between local chief executives and some offices,” explained the lawmaker, who was mayor of Valenzuela City for three consecutive terms.
Gatchalian said congestion linked to conflicting traffic policies cause losses in time and money to businessmen and ordinary folks alike, and in turn hurt the economic as a whole.
He recalled a study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) showing that the economy can face productivity losses skyrocketing to P6 billion a day by 2030 from the current P2.4 billion if no government intervention is made. (Monica Cantilero)