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Traffic eternal

“Under the bill, organizing the entangled whorl that is the traffic management system is a priority.

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There have been too many times EDSA — that supposed highway to “heaven,” meaning (in the transport sense) that it is the quickest way to most places in Metro Manila — has been a joke.

EDSA, many now would say, is the epitome of “may forever (there is forever),” which is the modern Filipino term connoting eternal love.

Well, as motorists and commuters would tell you, there is a “forever,” and that is traffic on EDSA — the ongoing bone of contention among our leaders!

Just this week, Sen. Grace Poe has been getting thumbs-down reactions for refusing to see why emergency powers are needed for solving the problem called traffic
Transportation Secretary Art Tugade had recently made an appeal to lawmakers to pass a measure granting President Rodrigo Duterte emergency powers in order to solve traffic.

Poe, chair of the Senate Public Services Committee, immediately negated the need for such powers, saying there are other measures that can be done to solve this long-running problem.

Sen. Francis Tolentino had earlier filed a bill seeking emergency powers for the President.

Under his measure, the Transportation secretary will serve as the country’s “traffic crisis czar,” implementing the President’s orders.

For most people who endure the almost-daily hell that is traffic not just on EDSA (but in some way because of EDSA), the idea of “emergency powers” has been vague until now.

Many, like Poe, are paranoid about the words “emergency” and, most of all, “powers.”

They who have gotten used to the sub-normal situation are afraid to create a new normal.

Tolentino’s bill certainly clarifies questions on what it will entail should powers be granted to the Chief Executive.

It says, with these powers, projects under the government’s massive infrastructure program will move more quickly, and problems like “site and right-of-way acquisitions and procurement” can be dealt with more squarely.

Under the Tolentino proposal, the czar may enter into direct contracting and alternative modes of procurement for priority infrastructure projects. Reports reveal that it also “suspends the protest mechanism provided under the procurement law.”

For many this is a source of worry — and a question of trust.

Tugade, however, explained that Congress still has oversight powers to check there is no abuse of power.

The Secretary has been instrumental in making the Department of Transportation (DoTr) much more effective than before. Under his helm, the infrastructure developments needed for land, air and sea transport and movement had gotten underway and some have already been completed.

Tasking him to be the moving force behind the reform of the transportation system would be easy. The DoTr chief has proven effective and trustworthy, after all.

Also under the bill, organizing the entangled whorl that is the traffic management system is a priority. This means, with a proposed Traffic Crisis Action and Mobilization Plan, the duties of various agencies on traffic management will be made clearer. Projects will be better prioritized. A whole new traffic plan that integrates everything can be drawn up. It will take a sharp,
meticulous mind and a spine of steel. It will take vision and focus to do what it takes via legal means, of course.

Tolentino, who used to head the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, should know what it would take to finally address the road congestion problem urban denizens suffer through daily and makes the country lose P3.5 billion a day, as a Japan study revealed before.

Senator Poe may need to let some of her fears go because, as Secretary Tugade has assured, the powers needed would neither be “absolute” nor would it be “forever.”

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