Malacañang on Monday assured businessmen that the government is already addressing the traffic mess in Metro Manila or National Capital Region (NCR) by coming up with concrete solutions.
The assurance came after some business groups warned that Metro Manila may become “uninhabitable” within four years if current traffic problems in the region are not solved immediately.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said while immediate measures are already in place, implementation of long-term programs is also underway as part of the government’s transport roadmap.
“Determinado ang pamahalaan na gawin ang nararapat upang tumugon sa pangangailangan ng mga mamamayang naninirahan at naghahanapbuhay sa NCR at kanugnog na rehiyon [The government is determined to respond to the needs of the people living and working in NCR and neighboring regions],” Coloma added in a statement.
As early as 2014, Coloma noted that the National Economic and Development Authority Board, headed by President Benigno Aquino 3rd, approved a study conducted by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) aimed at reducing traffic congestion in Metro Manila and neighboring provinces.
JICA’s study, which was done with the help of the Department of Transportation and Communications, Department of Public Works and Highways, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and other relevant agencies, cited strategies to reduce traffic congestion significantly before it impacts the lower-income group, which will be hit the hardest when the congestion is expected to worsen by 2030.
Among the recommendations in the “Roadmap for Transport Infrastructure Development for Metro Manila and Its Surrounding Areas” is implementation of a modern, affordable and well-coordinated and integrated transport system by that year for the so-called Mega Manila, which forms JICA’s “dream plan.”
The roadmap also recommends urban expansion to adjoining provinces through an integrated public transport, affordable housing for low-income groups, retrofitting of existing urban areas in integration with public transport, expanding multi-modal public transport network and strengthening traffic management systems.
John Forbes, senior adviser of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, was quoted as saying that if roads and other infrastructure are not upgraded immediately, the traffic mess in NCR would likely worsen on the back of the country’s fast-developing automotive industry.
“Metro Manila is at risk of becoming uninhabitable as annual new car growth increases to 500,000 by 2020,” Forbes said.
“While roads are being improved throughout the country, [NCR] urgently needs more limited access roads, especially skyways, and rail,” he added.
The Philippines is seen as an important automotive market growth area in the region as the volume of vehicles sold is expected to surge.
Domestic vehicle sales in 2020 would account for between eight and 10 percent of the projected total sales of five to six million units within member economies of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
From 168,000 units sold in 2010, vehicle sales in the country reached 269,000 units in 2014 and are expected to surpass industry target of 310,000 units in 2015, according to the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines Inc. (Campi).
This year, Campi sees vehicle sales reaching a new high of 350,000 units, on its way to 500,000 units by 2020.
Metro Manila is composed of the cities of Manila, Quezon, Pasay, Paranaque, Las Pinas, Taguig, Makati, Muntinlupa, Mandaluyong, Pasig, San Juan, Navotas, Malabon, Valenzuela, Caloocan and Marikina and the town of Pateros.