MANILA — While vehicular traffic is an offshoot of economic growth, government must address the problem by improving mass transportation and developing areas outside of the capital, socio-economic planning head Sec. Arsenio Balisacan said on Saturday.
Balisacan was asked at a media forum if traffic was a good sign for the economy, amid heavier traffic jams in Metro Manila in the holiday season, 2 years since the COVID-19 pandemic.
With increased vehicle traffic close to Christmas, commuters have also complained of many unavailable transport options to get across the metropolis.
“Usually, economic growth generates that kind of secondary problems—not secondary, but second stage, that because when people have more money they can now buy more, they can now afford vehicles, and so the trick is you must have to grow your infrastructure faster than the rate of growth of those vehicles,” he said.
“But more importantly, in successful economies, what they prioritize are and what we must prioritize is ‘yong mass transit.”
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) chief said this is already being remedied under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who mentioned developing railways in various areas in his first State of the Nation Address last July.
These include finishing the Metro Manila Subway project and opening train routes in Visayas and Mindanao.
Balisacan said these railways and other transport systems will help steer development to so-called “lagging” regions outside the National Capital Region.
“Of course we need more highways, roads, particularly those connecting the lagging regions to the leading areas of the country, kasi ‘yan ang problema natin sa Metro Manila talaga naman, kasi nagco-concentrate ka sa Manila but you never develop the infrastructure that will link the metropolis to other potential growth areas,” Balisacan added.
The Philippine Development Plan for 2023-2028, which was approved by Malacañang on Friday, will use public-private partnerships for building these infrastructure, he said.
The Department of Transportation this week said funding has been approved for project preparation studies of 3 PPP projects: the North Haul Inter-Regional Railway which will connect Metro Manila to the northern Ilocos and Cagayan Valley regions, the NCR EDSA Busway, and the Manila Bay-Pasig River-Laguna Lake Ferry.
The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority in recent months has said that traffic volume in main thoroughfare EDSA has already gone past its pre-pandemic volume, with nearly half a million vehicles traveling the main thoroughfare daily.