A SENATE committee heard proposals Tuesday to relocate the national government out of Metro Manila and a street parking crackdown as possible long-term solutions to road congestion.

Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III proposed to transfer national government offices outside of Metro Manila as well as a no street parking policy to decongest roads.

“Decongest Metro Manila itself by transferring government offices outside Metro Manila,” Mr. Sotto said on Tuesday during the public services committee hearing.

The committee, chaired by Senator Grace S. Poe, was tackling Senate Resolution No. 55, calling for an investigation into the provincial bus ban covering the capital’s main thoroughfare EDSA.

“At this point band-aid solution, siguro middle ground muna ang makikita nating suggestion dito (we need to seek middle-ground solutions for now). A band-aid solution would be a partial provincial ban,” he said. Mr. Sotto said a partial bus ban would open up lanes along EDSA to provincial buses from around 9 or 10 p.m. to 4 or 5 am.

Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian supported Mr. Sotto’s recommendation which he noted were similar to his proposals under Senate Bills No. 368, which sought to impose a proof of parking policy for car purchasers, and SB 876, which will transfer the seat of government to the Clark Eco Zone.

Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) General Manager Jose Arturo S. Garcia, Jr. said a 10 p.m.-4 a.m window for provincial buses to traverse EDSA was provided for under Memorandum Circular 2019-001. The implementation of the circular, issued by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, was halted by an injunction issued by a Quezon City Regional Trial Court.

Basta ang MMDA, LTFRB naka-MR kami. (We are awaiting the results of a motion for reconsideration) So we’re praying na ma-grant ‘yung motion namin (We are hoping for the motion to be granted). Bawal kami gumalaw talaga (Until that happens, we can’t move),” Mr. Garcia told reporters after the hearing.

Marami tayong solusyon, ‘yung carpooling, pag-clear ng alternate routes, ‘yung paglagay ng fence. (There are many possible solutions like car-pooling, alternate routes, fencing off lanes) Kaya lang in every policy, pa’no namin malalaman kung effective, dry run palang naka-injunction na (It’s hard to test whether policies are effective because injunctions are being issued at the dry-run stage),” he added.

Ms. Poe recommended the completion of the North Luzon Expressway-South Luzon Expressway (NLEX-SLEX) Connector Road Project and intermodal terminals like the Taguig Integrated Terminal Exchange and the North Luzon Express Terminal Exchange.

Ito ‘yung nakikita nating solusyon, unang-una, ‘yung NLEX-SLEX connector road, kung ‘yan ay matapos ng December o first quarter next year, makakatulong ‘yan. Sabi nila, about 20% ang mababawas na pagdaloy ng trapiko sa EDSA, (The potential solutions include the NLEX-SLEX connector road, which is due to be completed by December or the first quarter next year. We were told it might reduce road congestion on EDSA by 20%)” Ms. Poe told reporters Tuesday.

Pangalawa, ‘yung mga intermodal terminals sa FTI at saka sa North, dapat maumpisahan na ‘yan at matapos sa lalong madaling panahon (We also need to complete the intermodal terminals at the FTI site and in the north of the city).” She also noted the long-overdue Light Rail Transit Line 1 extension project, which serve points between Baclaran and Bacoor, Cavite.

The committee will be conducting another hearing on road congestion concerns in Metro Manila, during which Ms. Poe expects the attendance of MMDA Chair Danilo D. Lim, Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade, and Public Works Secretary Mark A. Villar.

“In the next hearing, we expect the heads of the concerned government agencies, primarily the DoTr, MMDA and DPWH Secretaries and Chairman, to attend and bring us the transport master plan for both short-, medium- and long-term. Otherwise we will assume that this country does not have a transport plan,” she said in the hearing. Mr. Lim had confirmed to attend the Tuesday hearing, but canceled at the last minute due to a scheduling conflict.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel F. Zubiri, meanwhile, proposed construction of elevated walkways and bike lanes along EDSA. “I’ll ask my colleagues to agree to a P1-billion budget for this that will connect Makati with Ortigas in the first phase. And then Ortigas to Quezon City in the second phase,” Mr. Zubiri told reporters via mobile phone message. — Charmaine A. Tadalan