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Auto group urges Senate to avoid open-ended emergency powers for Duterte

MANILA – As they support government’s efforts in improving road and promoting better mobility and safety, the Automobile Association of the Philippines (AAP), urged Senate to give President Rodrigo Duterte not-open ended emergency powers to solve traffic woes.

In his testimony before the Senate public works committee, chaired by Senator Grace Poe, Augusto C. Lagman, president of the Automobile Association of the Philippines (AAP) said that most, if not all, their recommendations does not require emergency powers for the central government.

“However, if it ever becomes necessary – for example, to speed up bidding processes — such powers should be specific and not open-ended. It should also have a fixed period of effectivity,” Lagman, former election commissioner, said.

Lagman said that traffic is where changes will count the most — higher productivity and much less stress for a great number of people.

“(The) AAP is most willing to assist in whatever way we can in addressing the problem of traffic,” Lagman said.

In line with this, AAP is recommending the following solutions to mitigate the alarming traffic situation, most especially in Metro-Manila.

1. Strict enforcement of traffic rules — This is probably the one change that will impact traffic the most, yet won’t require a tremendous amount of investment. If all motorists, especially public utility drivers, could be trained to follow the rules, there would be less choke points and traffic would flow more smoothly. Enforcement is key to making this happen.

2. Parking buildings – Because car owners who don’t have garages park on the streets, traffic build-up usually results in those areas. (There’s a pending bill at the Senate that will require proof of a garage before one can buy a car.) A possible solution would be for government to invest, or to encourage investment, in parking buildings. A combination might even work better: government to provide long-term leases on vacant properties, then the private sector to invest in the construction and operation of the parking buildings. Parking slots can be offered for long- or short-term leases. Or allow usage on a per-hour basis.

3. Subway system – This is the ultimate solution to traffic congestion. Let’s think “moving people” instead of “moving vehicles”. Subway lines within Metro-Manila can move a bigger number of commuters than any other transportation system. With a good subway system, many car owners would even opt to take that, rather than use their cars. This, in combination with an on-ground railway system going north and going south of Metro-Manila, would be ideal. Some might say, “but it would take more than five years to build just one line!” Well, the more reason to start NOW. All big metropolises in the world operate subway systems … because it’s the best solution to moving large volumes of people.

4. Bus Rapid Transit System (BRT) — In the meantime, we should implement the BRT system (or some similar variation) that has proven successful in several South American countries. To increase the chances of success, a suggestion from a transportation consultant, is to have motorcycle-riding cops escort and clear the way for each group of buses.

5. While we’re on the subject of mass transport systems, we hope that we would NOT entertain the idea of elevated cable cars. Elevated transport systems make the environment ugly. Just look at what happened to what used to be a tree-lined Taft Avenue. The same with Rizal Avenue. Besides, they won’t carry too many people.

6. Rationalizing our public transport system – In many countries, bus companies are either run by the government or by a monopoly. In our country, there are far too many companies competing against each other. Mergers should be encouraged and exclusive lines or routes, bid out. Poor performance should mean loss of franchise.

7. Relocate terminals outside – Terminals of most provincial buses are located inside Metro-Manila. Obviously, this situation results in the build-up of traffic in the areas where they are located.

8. Malls along main roads – LGUs (Local Government Units) should not allow the construction of malls along main thoroughfares because they are one of the major causes of heavy traffic. We see them in many places around Metro-Manila, along EDSA, for example. Mall operators might say that they won’t be profitable if they don’t locate themselves along the main roads. That’s not exactly true. Just look at the very successful Mall of Asia (MOA). Malls along main roads, almost always, create choke points.