IMMEDIATE ACTION is needed to address Metro Manila road congestion in order to reduce the drag of heavy traffic on the economy, according to the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI).

PCCI President George T. Barcelon said during a recent general membership meeting that P3.5 billion is lost daily due to the congested Metro Manila roads. Economic losses could swell to P5.4 billion a day by 2035 if the issue is not addressed, he added, citing projections by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

“There are a lot of concerns besetting our transportation and logistics industry. These issues need a comprehensive set of measures to curb further problems and avoid more losses to the economy,” Mr. Barcelon said.

“Transportation and logistics are essential to sustaining economic gains and building on the reform measures that are aimed at making the country attractive to investments and conducive to jobs-creating activities,” he added.

Transportation expert Rene S. Santiago said there should be more public transportation for commuters and fewer vehicles overall.

Mr. Santiago added that 246 kilometers of mass transit lines and 78 kilometers of urban expressways need to be built, while pending projects should be completed like the Quezon Avenue bus rapid transit, LRT-1 Extension to Bacoor and LRT-2 East Extension, and the addition of trains to the MRT.

“Long-term (measures) would be to manage population size and distribution. The private sector can take the lead proactively through programs supporting balik-probinsya new growth centers and accelerating the shift to the Fourth Industrial Revolution work-style or hybrid work and hybrid school arrangements,” Mr. Santiago said.

“These would reduce vehicles (by) at least 250,000 cars, on the roads and one million riders of public transport. In addition, hybrid schooling would address shortage in classrooms,” he added.

Vincent Rondaris, president of the Nagkakaisang Samahan ng Nangangasiwa ng Panlalawigan ng Bus sa Pilipinas, Inc., said the government should steer away from car-centric policies.

“We should have long-term solutions including the creation of a Mega Manila Transport Authority that will be in charge of a unified traffic system and the issuance of all transport franchises for land, sea, rail, and air operating in Mega Manila; develop a credible database to determine patterns and volumes of commuters and transfer of government offices away from congested areas,” Mr. Rondaris said.  

Meanwhile, Supply Chain Management Association of the Philippines President Pierre Carlo Curay said Philippine costs as a share of sales are the highest in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations at 25%, compared to an average of 10% in developing countries.

“Transport faces a lot of challenges in terms of policies as it is one of the primary focus of penalties that slows down traffic but increases costs. Examples of these are the truck ban, single lane, and number coding scheme which adds to the cost of deliveries. If the cost of transport is high, the cost of commodities also increases,” Mr. Curay said.  

“Existing policies only allow deliveries once every two days and if you can deliver only that little, that is basically doubling your cost. The best way to have deliveries is if you can deliver thrice or thrice per day and that will significantly lower the cost,” he added.

Christian Martin R. Gonzalez, executive vice-president of the International Container Terminal Services, Inc., proposed the establishment of purpose-built infrastructure to support the movement of cargo.

“With all the consumption that is being driven out of Metro Manila, we must ensure that we plan the infrastructure as well as the services that surround it in such a way that it facilitates movement,” Mr. Gonzalez said. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave