What we once knew as the Transportation Crisis Act has become the Traffic Crisis Act, and it has been approved by the House Committee on Transportation. This means the whole of Congress will deliberate on the bill, and propose amendments if need be.
However, perhaps the most important amendment has already been made on the committee level: the bill will no longer bestow emergency powers on the government.
This is a good move. For one, the idea of emergency powers still leave Filipinos iffy. That always opens the possibility of abuses of said powers. While we concede that the situation is urgent, you don’t solve it rashly. You don’t burn your entire face to get rid of a pimple.
More importantly, however, solving traffic does not take a short time. As I have written before (and am repeating again), where we are is a result of many decades of short-sighted planning and disjointed policies.
The new version of the bill will now seek to harmonize traffic-related policies —with a particular focus on land transportation—that are imposed by the national government and local government units. (Perhaps this opens the possibility for the law not just covering urban areas, but the rest of the country, too.) Among other proposed amendments include provisions on how projects deemed to be important to solving the “crisis” will be put into place, and how those affected will be addressed.
Around the same time, the administration unveiled its list of projects that will usher in what it calls the “Golden Age of Infrastructure”. Apart from planned expansions for airports, seaports and existing roads, the projects include three Bus Rapid Transit systems, two of which will serve Metro Manila, and one set in Cebu City.
These are encouraging signs that this government will not just solve the traffic “crisis” by ticking a few boxes and proclaiming the crisis is over. Of course, some of the projects in the pipeline have undergone long periods of planning, and have only now gotten to a point when they can be constructed. But at least that’s chugging along. And some proposals—common-sense ones which should have been considered long ago—are now being explored, like permanent stops for jeepneys the MMDA is looking to implement along Commonwealth Avenue.
However, I should reiterate again that solving our traffic woes does not just take infrastructure projects, but sound policies, too. It should not just consider private citizens driving to work, but also those taking public transportation, as well as businesses to whom the roads are a lifeline—farmers, manufacturers, retailers, the prime movers of our consumption-based economy.
All approaches should be holistic. (After all, Manila’s traffic woes is also in part because of a lack of reliable public transportation options—and addressing it with more roads isn’t exactly the best way.) And holistic approaches take time, effort and lots of coordination, so don’t go around saying problems will be served by one administration alone.
For example, local governments in and out of Metro Manila—provinces, towns, even barangays—are now implementing their own number coding schemes, which are sometimes in conflict with wider rules, and in most cases, just prevent people from moving at all. I live in a subdivision where number coding applies the moment I exit its gates—the only routes to national highways. What, are we supposed to leave at five in the morning now, just to get to work? I hope these are addressed and resolved.
Supply Chain Outlook: I would like to invite you all to SCMAP’s first General Membership Meeting of 2017, Supply Chain Outlook, on February 7, 3pm-7pm, at the EDSA Shangri-la Manila. This will feature an economic briefing from Dr. Bernardo Villegas of UA&P; a discussion on the government’s infrastructure plans from Dr. Henry Basilio of USAID-COMPETE; and an exploration of the end of “endo” from DOLE undersecretary Bernard Olalia, former PMAP president Jesse Rebustillo and labor law expert Atty. Pol Sangalang. For more information, visit our website, www.scmap.org.
Henrik Batallones is the marketing and communications executive of SCMAP. A former board director, he is also editor-in-chief of the organization’s official publication, Supply Chain Philippines.