This early, incoming Secretary Mark Villar of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has started coordinating with key officials of both the DPWH and the Department of Transportation and Communication (DoTC) on a plan to significantly reduce traffic congestion in Metro Manila.
Metro traffic, it may be recalled, became a major problem last year when it stranded cargo at the Manila port, drastically reducing manufacturing activities, caused the loss of countless man-hours in offices and schools, and caused a big part of life in Metro Manila to come to a virtual standstill during the morning and evening rush hours.
Malacañang stepped in with Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras taking a direct hand in instituting steps to solve the problem, including assigning the Highway Patrol Group (HPG) of the Philippine National Police to take over traffic enforcement. Many streets were cleared of illegally parked vehicles. Alternate routes were drawn up to draw traffic from major arteries. Many U-turns were removed. But after all the many traffic changes, travelling in Metro Manila’s streets remains a problem to this day.
Incoming Secretary Villar said that in addition to ongoing Aquino administration infrastructure projects, they are considering new ones, including more bridges and flyovers and road widening. The national government has allocated P401 billion for the DPWH this year, higher than last year’s P303 billion. The new administration must see to it that it does not fall into the folly of underspending that marked the performance of the outgoing administration.
But infrastructure or engineering is only one of the pillars of traffic management. In last year’s campaign, the HPG carried out traffic enforcement, another pillar, to a higher level. That leaves a third major factor – the sheer volume of vehicles using Metro Manila’s streets. In 2015 alone, 320,000 vehicles were sold, according to the country’s vehicle manufacturers, and for 2016, some 350,000 are projected to be sold. This January-to-May period alone, vehicle sales already totaled 134,328 units, 25 percent more than in the same period last year.
The public works program on which incoming Secretary Villar has started meeting with other officials will help considerably but many other issues need to be studied and considered for a truly comprehensive plan to solve the traffic problem in Metro Manila and the rest of the country.