By Raymond Carl Dela Cruz
MANILA—A Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) official on Thursday said emergency powers may ease the traffic situation in Metro Manila through faster processes and enforcement while a unified traffic code (UTC) may not since different areas of Metro Manila have their own traffic needs.
“Let’s say we’re seeking to open alternate routes on private roads. There will be a long process to follow. But if you have emergency powers, we can just tell owners of private roads to open their gates during rush hours. Isn’t that convenient? That’s what President Duterte is saying),” MMDA general manager Jose Arturo “Jojo” Garcia said in a press conference.
Garcia was reacting to the recent filing of Senator Francis Tolentino a bill seeking to grant President Rodrigo Duterte emergency powers to ease traffic congestion in the country.
“A UTC may be effective on national roads, ‘Mabuhay’ Lanes, and large alternate routes. But when it comes to inner roads, I don’t think even the MMDA will be effective there,” Garcia added.
He clarified that local government units (LGU) need a degree of freedom in deciding what to be done in their respective localities because they all have their unique situations.
Garcia noted that emergency powers do not necessarily include procurement powers, assuring the MMDA will not be involved in corruption.
“President Duterte has said that if there will be accusations of corruption in having emergency powers, then it should not be done. This does not only include the MMDA. But I can assure that the MMDA under the leadership of chairman [Danilo] Lim will probably receive no accusations of corruption,” Garcia said.
Meanwhile, whoever is appointed as the country’s “traffic czar”, Garcia said he or she must have the political will and practical road knowledge to effectively exercise emergency powers on traffic.
“We need a person with a political will,” Garcia said.
When asked whether the traffic czar should be an engineer, Garcia said practical knowledge is more important than technical experience since there are many different departments and agencies responsible for technical matters.
He, however, conceded that a civil engineer would have an advantage over someone in another profession because of their experience and knowledge.
On Wednesday, Tolentino filed a bill seeking to grant emergency powers to the President and his “traffic czar” to implement and complete projects under the “Build, Build, Build” program and deal with right-of-way issues, procurement, and other related problems.
Under the bill, the Secretary of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) will serve as the traffic czar and will be under direct orders from the President. (PNA)