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Major Metro projects also needed

There has been a series of welcome news lately about transportation projects in the country.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) disclosed last week that work on the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX) is right on schedule. The segment from Tarlac to Gerona was opened in 2013; from Gerona to Rosales, Pangasinan, in 2014; from Rosales to Urdaneta in 2015; and the fourth segment from Urdaneta to Binalonan, has just been opened. The final segment from Binalonan to Rosario, La Union, is expected to be finished in a few months, in the second quarter of 2017.

At the same time, Japan announced that it is financing a $2.4-billion 38-kilometer elevated rail line connecting Manila to Bulacan.

Then there is the Mindanao Railway project which, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said, will begin construction next year. Japan, China, and South Korea have all offered to finance the 2,000-kilometer project which will connect major cities in Mindanao, including Cagayan de Oro, Butuan, Surigao, Iligan, Davao, General Santos, and Zamboanga.

It is good to see various parts of the country making progress – from Luzon to Mindanao. It is especially good to see that a major rail project will soon begin in Mindanao which has not received as much attention from the national government as it is now beginning to get with the Duterte administration.

Inevitably, the developing progress in roads and railways in various parts of the country will remind Metro Manilans about their own transportation problem for which no solution is yet in sight. The traffic gridlock remains, exacting its toll on businesses, schools, government offices, and homes, as hours that could be put to good use are wasted in traffic jams.

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said the administration has asked Congress for special powers to solve the problem but, in the meanwhile, he means to take steps that can help even without the special powers, such steps as stricter enforcement of traffic rules and franchising regulations, controlling local neighborhood practices such as sidewalk vending, and parking along busy streets.

But enforcement is only one of three e’s that figure in traffic management, the other two being education and engineering. Engineering may be the ultimate solution – the construction of more avenues and highways, more railway systems, more bridges and overpasses, more factory and residential sites in surrounding provinces. This is what we are doing in Northern Luzon, in Central Luzon, in Mindanao. We need to start building more projects, on top of the ones already underway, to meet the ever growing needs of ever growing Metro Manila.