Belmonte open to proposals on traffic decongestion

The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 19 2014 03:49 AM | Updated as of Feb 19 2014 11:49 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. is open to various proposals to ease traffic in Metro Manila due to various road projects.

Speaking to reporters, Belmonte said all ways to minimize traffic jams must be exhausted before any of the proposals would be tried, including a 10-hour, four-day workweek for government employees and a four-day school week.

“I’m open to these (proposals). There’s this four-day workweek and even a four-day school week,” he said. “There are existing measures we can enforce and there are side roads that we can use (to avoid heavy traffic.”

Belmonte said local governments, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, and the Philippine National Police must strictly enforce traffic rules and regulations.

Motorists, commuters and all concerned must also exercise discipline when traveling within Metro Manila, he added.

Earlier, Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo urged the government to consider implementing a 10-hour, four-day workweek in government offices to enable workers to cope with traffic in Metro Manila.

He said he has re-filed a bill seeking to implement a Monday-to-Friday work schedule for public sector employees as traffic jams are expected to worsen as a result of the construction of the 14.8 kilometer Skyway-Stage 3 project and two other major infrastructure projects in the metropolis.

The proposed 10/4 work schedule could complement the four-day school schedule on all levels of education, he added.

Castelo said solving traffic woes must not be confined to limiting school days, but must extend to “creative approaches” to provide some comfort for the working class.

“Our workers serve as our economic backbone,” he said. “We should not close our eyes to their difficulties, especially now that major infrastructure projects are under construction.”

Castelo said the 10/4 workweek could mean weekly savings of at least 20 percent in work expenses.

It can even serve as a poverty alleviation program by itself for cash-strapped workers, he added. – Paolo Romero, Delon Porcalla, Mayen Jaymalin

Palace advises motorists

Malacañang yesterday urged motorists and commuters to adopt ways to cope with heavy traffic.

Speaking to reporters, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said these could be carpooling, company flexi-time and home office arrangements.

“We would rather focus for now on the voluntary measures because these are more effective and involve what the concerned parties want to do,” he said.

Coloma called again on the people to share in the sacrifice and bear with the short-term inconvenience.

“So we can reap the benefits of faster travel and higher productivity,” he said.

Coloma said the government had long considered several remedial measures based on advance information reaching the Department of Public Works and Highways and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority.

“This is a continuing process undertaken by the government through the MMDA, local governments and DPWH,” he said.

Coloma said the government is getting enough support from stakeholders.

“I think we should also recognize that many of our people are willing to do the necessary sacrifice that is needed and they are willing to bear with the inconvenience,” he said.

“This is not the first time we had issues involving major projects like this.”

ECOP rejects four-day workweek

The Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) rejected yesterday a proposal for a four-day workweek to ease traffic in Metro Manila.

ECOP president Edgardo Lacson said the proposal could adversely affect the country’s competitiveness and economy.

Fewer working days will further worsen the productivity of workers and lessen their earnings, he added.

The government should instead issue traffic guidelines and allow companies to make the necessary adjustments, Lacson said.

The Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) also raised concerns that the 4-day workweek could negatively affect small and medium enterprises (SMEs) nationwide.

PM spokesman Wilson Fortaleza said reducing work days will not lessen the volume of vehicles on the streets as most ordinary workers do not own vehicles.

“The proposal to cut the workers’ volume on a particular day of a week, however, is based on the plain assumption that no work would mean less vehicles on the streets, which is wishful thinking when the city is ruled by private vehicles,” he said.

Fortaleza said the productivity and survival of SMEs rely on daily sales of goods and services.

“While flexible working hours is allowed under the law, it should not likewise result to the reduction or diminution of workers’ benefits, specifically on the provision of overtime pay above the mandatory 8-hour work day,” he said.

Fortaleza said the proposal might lead to legalizing the non-payment of overtime.

“The proposal to clear off the roads might end up punishing the poor,” he said.

Fortaleza said a four-day workweek is not the solution to the traffic problem in Metro Manila.

“We are more in favor of developing mass transport systems particularly railways, rather than building more road networks that largely serve the comfort of private car owners,” he said. – Paolo Romero, Delon Porcalla, Mayen Jaymalin