MANILA - The first week of the Philippine National Police - Highway Patrol Group's (HPG) management of traffic on Epifanio delos Santos Avenue (EDSA) is working, as far as the head of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority's (MMDA) chief is concerned.
The HPG began manning traffic on the notoriously congested thoroughfare last September 7.
''For the last five or six days, it's been working,'' Francis Tolentino, MMDA chair, told the Senate economic affairs committee on Monday.
Tolentino also said the MMDA and HPG are now working together to manage EDSA traffic. The scheme involves 150 HPG and 250 MMDA personnel.
''All MMDA personnel are now under the operational control and supervision of HPG insofar as deployment, reassignment, movement is concerned,'' he said.
Tolentino said the MMDA has implemented the HPG's recommendations to ease traffic on EDSA.
''We simply enforced the traffic laws and made some recommendations with regard to the engineering aspect of the traffic. We made some innovations. We made some adjustments with regard to U-turn slots and bus stops,'' said HPG officer-in-charge Senior Supt. Arnold Gunnacao.
''All these went fine and had better results.''
Tolentino, however, added that the number of vehicles plying EDSA is still beyond the road's capacity, hence the traffic congestion.
Stretching 23.8 kilometers, EDSA was designed for only 144,000 vehicles a day, said Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras. But some 360,00 vehicles now pass through the thoroughfare daily.
To make matters worse, car sales are up. Romel Gutierrez, president of the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines, said the Philippine automobile industry sells on average 23,000 to 25,000 cars a month and up to 310,000 units a year - 60 percent of which are in Metro Manila.
''The problem really is the volume and congestion. We really need to fast-track our infrastructure,'' said Tolentino, who has been heavily criticized for Metro Manila's worsening traffic problem.
BETTER PUBLIC TRANSPORT
Government officials said improving public transportation is a long-term priority.
''As far as EDSA is concerned, the policy decision is to encourage, address, manage, and make sure that we will increase the people throughput of EDSA, meaning the focus will be in moving people or increasing the capacity of EDSA to move people,'' Almendras said.
Transportation Secretary Jose Emilio Abaya enumerated several projects, including the extension of existing MRT and LRT lines, the building of integrated terminals for provincial buses, and the establishment of a bus rapid transit (BRT) system.
''Our goal is really not just to move vehicles but to move people,'' Abaya said. ''A mass transit system is really the medium- and long-term solution.''
Many of the projects, however, will not be completed until after several years. For instance, the proposed BRT system - which will replace city buses along EDSA - is still awaiting approval by the National Economic and Development Authority.
Meanwhile, Senator Vicente Sotto III suggested that authorities declare Metro Manila a ''no-parking zone'', instead of proposing solutions like the odd-even and carpooling schemes.
''I think you will remove a big portion of vehicles passing through EDSA if you remove parking on the city streets,'' he said.
Gunnacao supported Sotto's idea, saying the HPG has in fact started removing illegally parked vehicles along P. Tuazon Avenue, where provincial buses rerouted to C-5 road have to pass through.
Gunnacao said a law should be passed prohibiting the sale of vehicles to people who do not have parking spaces for them.