Lawmakers should not allow themselves to be stampeded into approving House Bill (HB) 4334 or the Traffic Crisis Act of 2016 that would give emergency powers to different departments of the government to address the seemingly unsolvable traffic mess.
“Let’s go slow on this bill’s approval. This is not the solution. This would only aggravate the situation since it does not address the real cause of the traffic gridlocks in Metro Manila and other urban cities [and the real cause is]corruption,” Lito Atienza, Buhay party-list representative and senior deputy minority leader, said in a statement over the weekend.
Giving emergency powers that would suspend laws on bidding and procurement, he warned, might only open the floodgate to more corruption.
“Traffic enforcers are not enforcing the law. They are looking the other way and allowing corrupt interests to take precedence over performing their sworn task,” according to Atienza.
He cited as an example the continued proliferation of illegal bus and jeep terminals.
“On several major intersections, they [traffic enforcers]let private motorists wait for 5 to 10 minutes while they give priority to buses and jeepneys coming from the perpendicular roads. Bakit, dahil may lagay ba sa kanila [Why, are they bribed by the bus and jeepney drivers]? … why don’t we install intelligent traffic lights systems that utilize actual road conditions and allow smoother flow of traffic?” Atienza said.
He pointed out that aside from corruption, another cause of the gridlocks is the apparent refusal of authorities to clear alternate routes to alleviate congestion on major roads.
Secondary roads that can serve as alternate routes, Atienza said, are still littered with illegally parked vehicles, basketball courts, and even houses in the middle of the streets.
Aside from the continued presence of so many obstructions on these alternate routes, barangay [villages]are being allowed to put up gates within their communities, closing roads that should be open 24 hours a day to serve as alternate routes, he added.
“Our main mass transport system that serves Metro Manilans, the Metro Rail Transit 3 [MRT 3], has badly deteriorated and continues to bog down everyday, sometimes leaving thousands of commuters with only 3 to 4 working coaches at any shift instead of the needed 15 to 17. How can we expect commuters and motorists to again make sacrifices [when no train authorities have been arrested or punished]. Why has no one been punished for the purchase of 48 trains that are not fit for our rails? Neither the maintenance contractor nor the government officials responsible for this anomalous transaction have been punished. They should be languishing in jail by now. The MRT 3 is the only fast and usable mass transport system we have, it should have been protected from corruption,” Atienza said.
“Instead of asking for emergency powers, the government should do its job and exhaust all means to address the traffic mess in Manila and other urban areas. Efficient and honest-to-goodness enforcement of existing laws is what’s needed. But as long as corruption exists, there will be no solution to this problem. We reiterate our advice to our colleagues, HB 4334 is not the solution. This would only aggravate the problem. President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly said, and he is correct in saying that corruption remains one of the biggest problems of the nation,” he added.