THE Department of Transportation (DOTr) must use its consolidated powers to strictly enforce traffic and road laws while waiting for Congress to pass a proposal seeking to grant President Rodrigo Duterte emergency powers to address the worsening traffic problem in Metro Manila and other urban regions.
In advising the DOTr, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian noted that quick and effective interventions by the department under the unified traffic command system would be decisive in convincing lawmakers from both Houses of Congress to grant the requested emergency powers.
The DOTr headed by Secretary Arthur Tugade took over traffic management in Metro Manila last week, an authority that used to belong to the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA).
Under the new set-up, the MMDA, Highway Patrol Group and DOTr attached agencies such as the Land Transportation Office and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board will be all under the command of DOTr where traffic management is concerned.
“We can look at this new traffic regime as a dry run for emergency powers. If DOTr and the Inter-Agency Council for Traffic can prove their competence by producing fast results in combating the traffic nightmare, I think the legislature will respond by giving them what they are asking for, Gatchalian said in a statement over the weekend.
With its newly given authority, the senator added, the DOTr expects to go after disobedient motorists with an iron fist, especially those who cause traffic by illegally parking their vehicles along major and minor roads in Metro Manila (National Capital Region or NCR).
The DOTr is also expected to rid the streets of public utility vehicles (PUVs) that are using major and secondary thoroughfares as their garage as well as illegal PUV terminals that usually cause traffic choke points.
“This means that we have to punish all offenders equally, regardless of whether their vehicle is a passenger jeep or a Mercedes-Benz,” Gatchalian said.
The DOTr, he added, also needs to coordinate closely with the various city mayors of Metro Manila in order to utilize the resources and manpower to better enforce their plans like clearing sidewalks and overpasses of obstructions for the safety of pedestrians.
Meanwhile, Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito called on the government to give priority to long-term solutions to the traffic problem in Metro Manila and other highly urbanized areas in the Philippines.
Ejercito particularly cited the need to rehabilitate the trains, upgrade their service and operations, fix other infrastructure and facilities such as elevators, escalators and washrooms; and to provide additional wagons for the Metro Rail Transit 3, Light Rail Transit 1 and LRT 2 and the Philippine National Railways.
It is time for the government, according to the senator, to look into the railway system because it would lower the cost of the transport of goods and people.
He cited Singapore’s success with its own railway system which he said he wants to see replicated in the Philippines.
Ejercito said other alternative modes of public transportation would help ease traffic congestion such as expansion of current operations of Pasig River ferries and use of a Bus Rapid Transit or BRT, which is now common in other Southeast Asian countries.