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What does it take?

/ 12:22 AM December 15, 2016

Congress doesn’t seem to have gotten the message; yet it’s an abundantly clear message, not just here but worldwide. People have had enough, they don’t want business as usual, they want real action on real issues that can improve their daily lives. Donald Trump and all the others I mentioned last week, and more emerging, show a clamor for change.

The public is furious at the last administration for the traffic mess it left through nonaction and wrong decisions (try giving MRT3 maintenance to someone with no known experience as a start). President Duterte through Art Tugade sought emergency powers to bypass the hopeless bureaucratic roadblocks and get to work on solving the traffic chaos. That was about five months ago. Congress is not acting in the emergency mode that the issue demands.

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It had a point: The administration’s draft bill needed more “meat” and “actionable points.” For instance, the transportation secretary’s power over the transport agencies should perhaps be better specified. In the proposed bill, the powers of the LTO, LTFRB, MMDA and local government units to manage Metro Manila traffic will be abolished. The Department of Transportation led by Tugade will have the central authority to manage Metro Manila traffic. The bill should also identify projects in other urban areas, such as Cebu and Pampanga, that are also experiencing traffic gridlock. But these are exactly the sort of details Congress should be rushing to resolve with the administration, to give the DOTr the authority to move fast and fix the disaster we’ve all been experiencing daily.

The Road Users Protection Advocates (Rupa), a group I’ve never heard of before, wants Tugade out. It isn’t calling for change and coming up with ideas on which to demand action. It’s calling for the person’s head. That’s not responsible, thoughtful opposition; that’s mindless attack. I know Tugade quite well, and am impressed at what he has achieved in what, quite simply, is a hopeless situation.

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The Air Carriers Association of the Philippines said it well, and it should know, when it said: “The state of local civil aviation has displayed marked improvement under the leadership of Secretary Art Tugade and Undersecretary Roberto  Lim. On-time performance is 78 percent from 55 percent (my recent flights were all on time-PW), there’s less red tape, terminal facilities are actually being properly rehabilitated and domestic airports upgraded.” Now, isn’t this action?

On the roads, what can Tugade do without those emergency powers? For instance, the proliferation of buses on Edsa—he can stop it now, and face innumerable court suits and TROs. Or he can appeal to Congress to pass an Emergency Powers Act that gives him lawful right to cancel excessive franchises, and doesn’t allow TROs to prevent him from doing it. Parked cars have to be removed from side streets and villages opened. The inconvenience of a few must be subsumed to the welfare of the many. And much more that has been well detailed but can’t be done. Congress is the block here. What he can do he has done. There are now traffic aides at most intersections. But selfish drivers still block them.

The ultimate solution—and it will eventually sink in—is to move the capital to the Subic-Clark corridor.

In the meantime, focus on the public transport sector. Give the LRT/MRT lines to efficient, well-experienced (with proven track records) operators. Introduce the Bus Rapid Transport Scheme on Edsa’s center lane and on LRT2, and elsewhere once proven effective. The Point-to-Point (P2P) bus system is working well; there should be more of it. Improve public transport systems to get more people out of cars. A successful city is one where public transport is the preferred choice.

These are schemes Tugade is examining. Jun Abaya didn’t even know they existed. Does Rupa want him back? I never heard it complaining of his poor performance, questionable decisions and lack of action. I challenge Rupa to answer this column with thoughtful ideas on what to do. Then demand that Tugade do them—if they make sense. After that, it can judge.

What does it take to get Congress to act fast?

E-mail: [email protected] Read my previous columns: www.wallacebusinessforum.com

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TAGS: congress, LRT, maintenance, MRT, opinion, traffic, Transportation
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