Malacañang on Thursday encouraged the public to take a positive view of the move of the government to field armed Highway Patrol troops to manage traffic along Epifanio delos Santos Avenue (EDSA).
”It would be better that we give positive outlook on this thing because the effect of traffic congestion is massive and serious,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in Filipino.
Police Highway Patrol troops will man vehicular traffic along EDSA, arguably the country’s busiest and most congested thoroughfare, beginning on Monday on orders from no less than President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
Aside from untangling traffic jams, the Philippine National Police (PNP) Highway Patrol Group was given marching orders to get rid of illegal vehicle terminals and apprehend undisciplined drivers.
HPG personnel will be joining Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) traffic constables at six chokepoints on Edsa–Balintawak in Caloocan City, Cubao in Quezon City, Ortigas Avenue in Pasig City, Shaw Boulevard in Mandaluyong City, Guadalupe in Makati City and Taft Avenue in Pasay City.
Coloma said the PNP through the HPG is determined to properly implement the traffic laws in partnership with the MMDA.
“If we had bad experiences in the past, these should serve as guide so that [they]will not happen again. The HPG will choose the best HPG personnel to man EDSA ,” Coloma said.
Some sectors have expressed apprehensions that the armed HPG personnel will abuse their power while implementing traffic laws.
”Let’s give them [HPG] a chance because they need arms for the effective traffic law enforcement,” Coloma said.
At present, he added, the HPG and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) has been meeting with provincial and city bus operators.
”They [operators]have an important role in the flow of traffic. There are ongoing consultations including with port users,” Coloma said.
He added that President Aquino continues to study carefully all the important guidelines on how to ease traffic in Metro Manila particularly EDSA and other major thoroughfares.
”He wanted to make sure that those actions will gain the support of our countrymen. If there is public support, the probability that it will succeed is very high,” Coloma said.
Malacañang will soon announce more schemes to ease the flow of traffic on major thoroughfares in Metro Manila, including proposals to further regulate or reduce the number of city and provincial buses and trucks plying EDSA, among others.
“Even as we speak, the consultations continue. If I’m not mistaken, Chairman [Winston] Ginez of the LTFRB is having a meeting with provincial and city bus operators because they play an important role in easing the flow of traffic,” Coloma said.
According to the Palace official, there are proposals to reroute provincial buses to lessen the “vehicle load” on EDSA.
“There are also ongoing consultations with port users pertaining to the routes of their trucks… more consultations are being conducted so that when the new steps are announced, they have gone through thorough planning because, for President Aquino, the support of the people is most important,” Coloma said.
Call cards not honored
Chief Supt. Arnold Gunnacao, director of the HPG, said they will not tolerate erring motorists who will resort to the ‘padrino [godfather]system’ to elude arrest for traffic violations.
Gunnacao told reporters that calling cards of government, police and military officials that will be flashed by traffic violators will not be honored by their personnel.
The HPG chief said they feel the pressure in maintaining traffic along EDSA, which he describes as more challenging than running after carjacking suspects.
“Of course there’s pressure. The mere fact that the issue has reached the President and he said we need [to show]results,” Gunnacao added.
THE Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) also on Thursday vowed to clear EDSA of sidewalk vendors and illegal structures.
Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson called on the vendors and owners of illegal structures like repair shops and even barangay (village) halls to voluntarily vacate and demolish the structures before the new traffic scheme is implemented.
“We are not anti-poor or anti-illegal vendor but we have to push them out of the easement of 1.5 meters so that the pedestrians and commuters can use the sidewalks and the one to two lanes of roads occupied by commuters can be used by public transport,” Singson said.
Also to be cleared, he added, are pedestrian flyovers that have been virtually taken over by illegal vendors.
Singson expressed belief that proper enforcement and traffic management would free the thousands of commuters and motorists that are trapped daily in traffic gridlock on EDSA.
He noted that because of the traffic situation, travel time along the 23-kilometer stretch of EDSA has reached two to three hours from only an hour, which decrease by half the number of trips that can be made by public transportation from six to three.
Based on a study, the DPWH chief pointed out, a faster travel time of 25 km/hour from the present 4 to 5 km/hour is possible if the two lanes allotted to buses is managed properly with 1,500 buses running in both directions.
“I don’t think we have that many buses running on EDSA during peak hours, meaning if the two lanes are managed properly, they can run at 25 kms/hour,” Singson said.
He added that, among others, the main problem is the sheer volume of private and public cars using EDSA and other parts of Metro Manila, which requires a system-wide solution.
Priority on the use of EDSA, Singson said, should be given to public buses so that they would be able to transport more passengers at a faster time.
Part of the solution, he added, is identification of choke points and opening of alternate routes that private vehicles can use other than EDSA.
According to Singson, they would also place permanent yellow delineators on EDSA to ensure that buses would stay on their lanes and prevent private vehicles from entering these lanes.
Actual clearing and demolition of illegal vendors and structures would coincide with implementation of the new traffic scheme on September 15.
Singson warned vendors that their goods would be confiscated if they are caught selling on prohibited areas along EDSA.