OPINION: Emergency powers will not solve Metro Manila malaise

Buddy Gomez

Posted at Dec 16 2016 12:35 AM | Updated as of Dec 16 2016 12:36 AM

The Senate Public Services Committee through Chair Sen. Grace Poe recommended, on December 14, 2016, the passage of Senate Bill No. 1284 granting the President emergency powers “to address the worsening vehicular traffic in the Philippines.” (Jointly prepared and submitted by the Committees on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes; and on Finance, with the participation of Senators Drilon, Ejercito, Cayetano, Gatchalian, Recto and Zubiri.)

The complete title of the bill is: “AN ACT COMPELLING THE GOVERNMENT TO ADDRESS THE TRANSPORTATION AND CONGESTION CRISIS THROUGH THE GRANT OF EMERGENCY POWERS TO THE PRESIDENT” or “Traffic and Congestion Crisis Act of 2016.”

In her sponsoring speech, Sen. Poe said: “The burden to solve the traffic crisis suddenly fell on the legislative branch even though the executive branch can execute some plans.” 

I find that statement a curiosity. But I will not take issue with that unnecessary remark. It is to be noted, however, that it was the Office of the President, through the Department of Transportation (DOTr)/Sec. Arturo Tugade, who asked for the empowering legislation and specifically spearheaded the initiative at the very outset of the Duterte administration. The bill will thus simply await to be signed into law.

It was a campaign claim and promise that candidate Duterte will solve the traffic problems of Metro Manila should he be elected.

Principally, the bill declares that “the State shall harmonize all traffic rules, ordinances, issuances and policies…..to achieve a comprehensive and regulatory framework for land-based traffic……..The State shall also properly plan infrastructure projects that will respond to this paradigm shift in the transportation system.”

POPULATION OVERSIGHT 

Much of the bills verbiage (32 pages) concentrates on vehicular traffic, motor vehicles, transportation infrastructure and systems and matters directly related to road/vehicular congestion--without ever addressing frontally how to decongest Metro Manila. In fact, the ‘declaration of policy’ (Sec. 2) is specifically centered upon “transportation infrastructure” and NOT population congestion which is the principal cause. In fact, population overload within finite Metro Manila geographic space is not mentioned at all.

I have consistently and repeatedly argued and advanced that there is absolutely NO SOLUTION to what is referred to as the malaise of Metro Manila, (which the Bill 1284’s Section 2 states as being in “the nature and magnitude of a public calamity”) IF IT DOES NOT HAVE for its indispensable component and linchpin: “an intelligent decongestion and population dispersal/redistribution” blue print! 

I have always argued that with the passage of time plus the advances in communications technology, as well as changes in objectives and purposes, there are now in Metro Manila occupancies (offices/entities both private and public) that no longer require a Metro Manila presence. And thus, be much better off for all concerned for these entities to relocate and seek a better quality of life elsewhere. (The bill speaks of telecommuting, teleworking, without mentioning relocation, which I find odd.)

WILL IT WORK? 

Well, here we go again! Government proposes a legislation intending a solution. I say: “It ain’t gonna work.” 

And I will dare risk a forecast. It will be a worsening situation for Metro Manila. There will be bedlam! I have read the bill and I found it too busy and intractable. It is a veritable bureaucratic pretzel! 

What's missing? 

Senate Bill No 1284 does not contain a blueprint and mandate that addresses the cause of the monumental problem sought to be alleviated, in the first place. It does not identify the cause.

The toxic strangulating malaise of Metro Manila is basically OVERLOAD! 

Loading space beyond the limits of its carrying capacity is abuse of space. That is the story of Metro Manila. The catch-all and logical antidote , therefore, ought to be UNLOAD! The creation of space! It does not require a miracle. It requires political will. The “Traffic and Congestion Crisis Act of 2016” does not address UNLOAD. 

The forthcoming law is silent on decongestion and population dispersal/redistribution/reallocation! That, we declare is Job No. 1! First, you address the cause. Tackling the effect, ensues. 

WISDOM AND SINCERITY

Senate Bill 1284, but definitely, is not without wisdom. I do not deny the sincerity of its intent and the concern it exudes. What I am saying is that there is, in the first place, a failure to identify and define Job No. 1. Without such indentification and definition, Job No.1 can not be addressed and be given its quintessential and existential priority. 

Viewed from another perspective, Job No.1 is essentially the creation of space for transportation infrastructure and systems retooling to happen, much of what the proposed Emergency Powers aims to achieve. Who is to argue that Metro Manila is not an abused space? Senate Bill 1284 takes for granted that Metro Manila is not.

By the way, there is a one-liner buried in the Bill’s text. “Section 3, paragraph 5) [“Objectives and Scope.”] It says: “e. Relocation of administration capital.” One is almost tempted to suspect that such puny mention is an attempt to hide or just downplay what would have been the jump off point for Job No. 1!

“RELOCATION……” That short line could have been truly encapsulating, as the very foundation and spirit of an Emergency Powers Law that will address the malaise and “malas” of Metro Manila in her stark reality. Decongestion and dispersal--for starters, in the least.

P.S. I continue my advocacy for the relocation of all military camps/GHQs, along with officers/enlisted men, families, social-commercial camp following services--people and payroll--to spaces that will spur the development of “new towns,” as far away from Metro Manila as possible. For starters.

And also, utilizing Pasig and Marikina rivers as venues for viaducts that will support new freeways as well as foundations for gondola-type mass transit/people movers or even new passenger railways.

Please read and discuss the following: 

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.