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Traffic problem passes on to new administration

WHEN the new administration assumes office on June 30, just six days from today, the new officials will be moving quickly to effect changes in their respective areas, with law enforcement to stop crime, particularly the spread of drugs, on top of the priorities.

No less critical are problems in education, health, food production, power supply, employment, poverty, national security in rebel-held areas, and our maritime disputes in the South China Sea. One problem that has long been particularly troubling is Metro Manila’s traffic, with its tremendous economic costs and its toll on the quality of life in the nation’s capital region.

The incoming transportation officials led by Secretary Arthur Tugade have begun considering a number of steps they intend to take to solve the traffic problem. Among the proposed solutions are opening private subdivisions to traffic, keeping colorum buses off the streets, moving terminals and markets away from main highways, and improving the services of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and Light Rail Transit (LRT) to absorb more of the commuting public who would otherwise need to take buses, jeepneys, and private cars to get to work. To speed up infrastructure and other projects, the new officials are considering asking Congress for emergency powers to speed up bidding procedures.

The outgoing Aquino administration sought to solve the Metro traffic problem mostly through better enforcement of traffic regulations by the Highway Patrol Group of the Philippine National Police. There were proposals for emergency steel bridges and overpasses but the government opted to just continue with its major elevated concrete expressways which will take years to complete. Nothing was said or done about the hundreds of thousands of vehicles added each year to the already huge volume of traffic in the Metro Manila and surrounding provinces. And the problem remains unsolved to this day.

The problem now passes on to the new administration, to new officials who are more open to new ideas, who are ready to try new ways, to the extent that they are thinking of getting Congress to approve emergency powers to help them get around legal and other restrictions.

The new officials have the great advantage of not being held back by interests that stood in the way of previous officials. And they are driven by the force of the idea of change, which is what elevated President Duterte over the other candidates in the last election. With this new drive and energy of the new administration, we have great expectations that the problem of Metro traffic will soon be finally solved.