President Rodrigo Duterte meant it when he said that travel time between Cubao and Makati would be reduced from over an hour to a seemingly impossible five minutes, since Mr. Duterte has a plan “up his sleeves,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said.
While Panelo did not give specifics on the plan, he insisted that Mr. Duterte has it tucked under his belt.
Mr. Duterte, during a guesting in a morning interview of a religious assembly in Davao City last 7 June, promised to ease traffic between Cubao and Makati.
“Surprise! He has something up his sleeves,” said Panelo, who said he would ask the President to elaborate on his pronouncement during the Cabinet meeting on Monday night.
“I’ll ask him tonight” said Panelo during a regular Palace press briefing.
Even the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) is skeptical that it can be done, since covering the stretch from Cubao to Makati, which is 12.8 kilometers long, in five minutes would need a vehicle to drive at a speed of 155 kilometers per hour with no obstruction from traffic.
Emergency powers bill eyed
Asked if Duterte’s statement was an expression of confidence that an emergency powers bill will be passed in the next Congress, where majority of senators are allies of the President, Panelo said he needed to ask him.
“I’ll ask if he is that confident. Congress knows what is the problem, so it should know what to do to respond to a situation,” said the Palace official.
“After all, they’re there, just like the President, to serve the Filipino people. And that includes putting the riding public in a convenient situation,” he added.
Panelo, however, expressed hope that the 18th Congress will consider Duterte’s request for emergency powers to ease Metro Manila’s traffic woes.
On Friday, Duterte said traffic from Cubao to Makati would improve before the end of the year.
Watch and learn
“You just wait. I don’t want to preempt, but things will improve maybe, God willing, by December it will be smooth sailing. You don’t have to worry about traffic. Cubao and Makati is just about five minutes away,” Duterte said.
Mr. Duterte has been asking Congress to grant him emergency powers to solve Metro Manila’s traffic woes. However, the Senate has been hesitant to pass the measure amid corruption concerns.
Former Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs and Senator-elect Francis Tolentino earlier said he is going to push for the passage of emergency powers in the Senate to solve Metro Manila traffic woes.
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade assured that there will be no corruption on the implementation of transportation projects once the proposed emergency powers is passed into law.
Task force formed
The MMDA said it has recently created an inter-agency task force to solve perennial traffic jams to and from Cubao, Quezon City and Makati. Under the task force, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) would introduce “engineering interventions” to ease traffic.
MMDA Special Operations Group head Bong Nebrija also noted that these interventions would be reblocked every weekend to give way to repairs along EDSA.
He added that the MMDA, police Highway Patrol Group, Land Transportation Office and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) would also jointly man traffic from Cubao to Makati.
“We recently created Task Force CubMa ahead of the President’s pronouncement,” said Nebrija. “All the pronouncements of the President, it becomes a directive and a mandate not only to MMDA, but to all government agencies.”
The MMDA official also said various stakeholders, such as the government, motorists and passengers, must work together to ease the traffic situation in Metro Manila.
“Everybody should be on board not only the government agencies, but also the people as the President has already spoken. Discipline is a very big thing,” Nebrija said.
The MMDA and the LTFRB have implemented various measures to ease traffic flow in the metropolis, such as limiting the operations of the UV Express on a terminal-to-terminal basis, enforcement of the no-loading and unloading policy of provincial buses along EDSA and the removal of provincial bus terminals.
Meanwhile, the DPWH said major infrastructure are underway to help decongest traffic in the metropolis, among them the Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3 (MMSS3) and North and South Luzon Expressways connector road project.
The MMSS3 is a 17.38-kilometer elevated expressway from Gil Puyat Avenue in Makati City to North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) in Balintawak, Quezon City.
The MMSS3 viaduct will connect the South Luzon Expressway and the NLEX and intends to decongest main thoroughfares in the central Metro Manila area, particularly EDSA, by as many as 50,000 cars.