We have not heard much about what the government plans to do about the traffic problem along Epifanio de los Santos Ave. (EDSA) and elsewhere in Metro Manila. We thus welcomed one positive report – the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) announced that it is allocating P100 billion of its P450-billion budget for 2017 to projects to decongest Metro Manila traffic.
Secretary Mark Villar said the plans include the construction of 128 bypass roads. New bridges will be built across the Pasig River. Several ongoing projects will be stepped up, including the expressway connecting the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) and the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX).
This is not the first time we have heard about most of these projects but it seems they have not been pursued as seriously as they should have been, possibly for lack of sufficient funds. The previous administration was noted for underspending, even cancelling already contracted projects.
We hope the new Duterte administration will be more decisive in its public works program. The many ongoing projects must be pursued more vigorously. Hundreds of huge concrete pillars, for example, have been standing for months along the route of the NLEX-SLEX connecting skyway, with no ongoing construction work in evidence.
It has been said that there are three important “E’s” in traffic management – engineering, enforcement, and education. The DPWH will be attending to the engineering part of the equation. We hope to hear more about enforcement, including plans for certain problem intersections, illegal parking on streets, and the continued operation of colorum buses. The education part of the three “E’s” may take longer but we have to make a beginning.
For now, our greatest expectations are focused on the new infrastructures that the DPWH has promised to build with its 2017 budget. Even without the emergency powers sought by the Department of Transportation from Congress, these DPWH projects can be launched immediately and pursued more relentlessly than in the past.
The Duterte administration won largely because of its promise of change that the people grasped at. We have already seen the change in many areas of government, notably in police enforcement of the anti-drugs campaign. We look forward to change in other areas, including the long-awaited improvement in Metro Manila’s hopeless traffic.