Senatorial aspirants see decentralization, mass transit as long-term solutions to traffic woes

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 2) — Some of the possible senatorial candidates in next year's midterm polls are echoing the administration's decentralization and infrastructure initiatives as long-term solutions to the perennial problem of traffic congestion in the country's capital.

During CNN Philippines' #TheFilipinoVotes: Senatorial Forum on Sunday, Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano  proposed the transfer of the seat of government to areas outside Metro Manila.

"Government transactions alone dito sa NCR napakarami na po (There are already a lot of government transactions here in NCR). We have to move our seat of government outside of NCR, but of course we should develop economic hubs para ma-disperse ang economic opportunities dito sa ating bayan (to disperse economic opportunities in our country)," Alejano said.

Former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, meanwhile, said the government should build "economic centers" outside Metro Manila to "pull out employment," on top of other infrastructure initiatives such as road widening.

"The problem of Manila is it's too congested. All the developments are being done in the core territory of the Philippines, which is very dangerous from a security view point and many other things," Enrile said.

For former senator Sergio Osmeña III Osmena, motorists should be provided with more route options by connecting network of roads in Metro Manila and opening roads within gated communities.

"We need to open up all the roads so we can go through any other roads. We have to redo this whole thing so we can open up at least part of the gated communities will have to be open up," Osmena said.

Presidential political adviser Francis Tolentino, who once headed the Metro Manila Development Authority, meanwhile laid out three solutions such as the enactment of the proposed National Land Use Act, systemized urbanization, and more investments on railway system development.

"'Yang traffic po hindi po mare-resolve overnight 'yan (traffic congestion can't be resolved overnight), it's been there ever since," Tolentino said. "Kailangan ma-plano po natin ang (we have to plan) urbanization because of the density and the sheer volume of people inside an urban center. It's about time we invest in railway system. We really have to plan our cities, our growth areas."

Should he get reelected, Senator JV Ejercito said he will push for the establishment of more railway systems connecting Metro Manila to other parts of the country, which he believes should have been started by the government 30 years ago.

"If we are able to lay down the tracks from the PNR going all the way to north to La Union and Ilocandia and all the way to the south, to Bicol and the Mindanao railway system, all the railway stations, all the povinces that will have railway stations will be a potential growth development area and that is the only way that we can decongest Manila," Ejercito said.

Former Philippine National Police and Bureau of Corrections chief Ronald Bato dela Rosa, meanwhile, said he will prioritize traffic law enforcement and proposed that the government adapt Hong Kong's system of traffic management.

"Gusto ko sana gayahin yung ginagawa ng Hong Kong about traffic enforcement wherein 'yung isang driver binibigyan lang ng 15 points na consumable within two years. 'Yung 15 points na yan kapag nag-violate ka ng traffic flow, babawasan," he said. "Kaya makita mo sa Hong Kong walang ka-traffic trafiic kahit na Hong Kong is considered as one of the most dense, populated countries in the world."

[Translation: I want to adapt Hong Kong's way of traffic enforcement where they give drivers 15 points that can be consumed in two years. Those 15 points are deducted when drivers violate traffic law. That's why you see there's no traffic in Hong Kong even though it's considered as one of the most dense, populated countries in the world.]

Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno, founding dean of the De La Salle University College of Law, said the government should consider pushing for "carless cities" just like in other countries.

"In other countries they are already thinking about establishing carless cities where we travel inside our cities by bicycle, on foot that provide clean air that make us healthier. Palagay ko panahon na rin na pag-isipan natin yan dahil sa sobra na nga ang sasakyan sa atin ang dala dala pa nila ay polusyon, hindi naman maganda yun," Diokno said.

(I think it’s time to think about that option because of the sheer number of vehicles and the pollution this also causes, Diokno said)

"We have to approach this from a different angle. We have to look at this as a problem of moving people, not moving vehicles," he also said.