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Plan seeks to untangle gridlock

Posted on September 03, 2014

THE GOOD NEWS is that there is still hope to substantially ease worsening traffic, urban congestion and impact of natural disasters on Metro Manila -- but it will cost trillions of pesos and about 16 years to show considerable results, according to a Japanese study that was approved in June by no less than President Benigno S. C. Aquino III himself.

A train runs past pedestrians walking among vendor stalls in Pasay City in this photo taken yesterday. -- Aileen Camille B. Dimatatac
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board, headed by Mr. Aquino, approved last June 19 the Road map for Transport Infrastructure Development for Metro Manila and its Surrounding Areas that was prepared by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Communications Secretary Herminio B. Coloma, Jr. said in a text message yesterday.

“[The road map] was approved last June 19, 2014 by the NEDA Board,” Mr. Coloma said.

“As this is a ‘Dream Plan’, actual implementation will be coursed anew through NEDA Board and initiated by the implementing agencies,” he added.

A summary of the road map study, conducted March 2013 to last March, that was attached to a JICA statement and e-mailed to media yesterday outlined a “dream plan towards 2030” for sustainable development for Metro Manila, Central Luzon (Region III) and the Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon (Region IV-A).

Maps provided in the summary showed that bulk of Metro Manila’s roads would have traffic volume way beyond designed capacity “if nothing is done by 2030” -- by which year economic cost of traffic will balloon to P6 billion a day from P2.4 billion currently -- as well as a surge in households in areas prone to earthquake, floods or landslides.

“Preliminary analysis in the study showed that the average low-income group households have to spend no less than 20% of their monthly... income on transport,” the JICA statement read.

“Without intervention, traffic demand will likely increase by 13% by 2030 and transport cost will be 2.5 times higher.

The summary cited the need to resolve worsening congestion in the country’s capital, noting the three adjacent regions combined account for 37% of the nation’s population and 62% of gross domestic product (GDP), with Metro Manila alone contributing 36% to GDP.

“Metro Manila’s problems can no longer be solved within Metro Manila,” the summary read. “Region III and Region IV-A must work out effective ways to... contribute to mitigate Metro Manila’s problems.”

“The study shows possible ideas, technologies and strategies that can help the Philippines address traffic congestion and air pollution in Metro Manila,” a JICA statement quoted Eigo Azukizawa, senior representative of the agency, as saying.

The road map used case studies of Hong Kong, Tokyo, Yokohama, New York and Singapore.

The plan -- consisting of various projects -- aimed at addressing Metro Manila’s congestion woes will require P2.61 trillion ($65.3 bilion) in investment and a budget of P4.756 trillion from 2014 to 2030.

It also outlined a P520.44-billion short-term program for 2014-2016 consisting of: P305.465 million worth of expressways and roads; P178.823 billion worth of railways; P12.085 billion worth of sea ports; P11.368 billion worth of airports; 8.340-billion bus systems; and P4.359-billion traffic management projects.

The strategy consists, among others, of spreading economic activities further outside Metro Manila; balancing development of agriculture, manufacturing and services; protecting prime agricultural areas for food security; avoiding urban sprawl in hazardous areas; promoting growth of regional centers; as well as strengthening connectivity, logistics and public transport services.

The road map also emphasizes the need to establish better north-south connectivity; a hierarchy of various transportation modes (i.e., roads, railways and mass transit systems); planned and guided urban expansion to adjoining provinces through integrated public transport, affordable housing for low-income groups; expanding multi-modal public transport networks; and strengthening traffic management systems.

“Many of the identified short-term road components we are already implementing, including PPP (public-private partnership) road projects,” Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio L. Singson said in a telephone interview yesterday. “We’re still following the respective timelines...”

Rolando G. Tungpalan, NEDA deputy director general for investment programming, said the next step will be up to specific national government offices like the Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Transportation and Communications, as well as the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority that will oversee specific projects in the road map.

“Specific projects will be submitted for ICC (NEDA Investment Coordination Committee)/NEDA Board approval based on the time frame and upon the completion of feasibility studies,” Mr. Tungpalan said in a text message. -- C. J. V. Dela Paz