Remember: Oct. 22
I’m sorry to keep harping on this, but it’s far, far too important not to. We just can’t go on living like this.
Last Saturday evening it took me 25 minutes to traverse a few blocks in Makati instead of the usual five minutes. Why? Suzuki had blocked off a city block for some function. Who on earth gave it permission to do that? It’s as though we don’t have enough of a traffic crisis even without disruptions. Was Mayor Abigail Binay there? Did she approve it? If not, how was an underling able to? Transportation Secretary Art Tugade might want to demand answers. It’s another clear reason why we need emergency powers for the President. It made an intolerable situation even more intolerable.
There must be an overriding, consolidated, universal control over the movement of traffic throughout Manila, and Cebu. I’m pleased to see more traffic aides out there, but I think even more are needed.
Another problem in that insufferable Saturday evening was that all the alternative routes had vehicles parked on both sides, leaving on some roads a single lane. I wrote a column sometime back titled “I’m mad, mad as hell” (10/9/14). Well, I think hell may actually be a better place to travel around in than Manila and Cebu, at least at the earthly level where Cebu is ranked as the world’s worst city to travel in (Manila is at No. 16). Sorry for the residents, but those cars have to go. And if anyone has the temerity to challenge their removal in court, the judge should throw the case out.
Even ranking officials have not been spared from the hellish traffic, and some have ranted on various occasions through social media.
Sen. Legarda shared on Twitter: “Almost 4 hours from National Museum in Mla to Makati? Horrendous traffic! That’s in a private vehicle. What more for public commuters?”
Sen. JV Ejercito tweeted: “Our plane touched down at 7:50 p.m., and we are still in front of Naia Terminal 3 after an hour! Unbelievable!”
“2 hours upon touchdown, we are still in front of Naia 3! Wild!”
“Carmaggedon on a Friday night!”
“Means we do need to pass emergency powers very soon!”
It’s abundantly clear that we need and must have emergency powers to get real action. What’s comforting is that Senator Ejercito agrees that the emergency powers must be granted the President soon. Congress needs to treat the matter as an emergency, too. Quite frankly, I don’t give a damn whether Sen. Leila de Lima is implicated in drugs or not. But I sure as hell do care that I can’t get to appointments on time, and that I, and all of us, waste hours twiddling our thumbs in the traffic chaos.
President Duterte’s tirades against various personalities are not going to deter foreign investment. Not getting employees to work will.
I know I’m covering a subject I’ve covered before, and even repeating myself. But this is, as I said last Sept. 8, a crisis. The message has to be repeated again and again until resolution is achieved. Congress must act in crisis mode, I plead with Congress, both chambers, this is your priority today. An estimated 15 million people need you to act to relieve them of this daily nightmare.
No one disagrees that Congress should study the proposed law carefully. Emergency powers granted could lead to some real abuses if not carefully defined and limited. All sides need to raise their concerns and ideas for Congress to consider. But we can’t wait for normal processes to flow. Congress should act in an emergency mode: committee hearings every day, eight hours on every one of those days. Or even longer. Get the bills concluded, rationalized into one, and forwarded for the President’s signature before Congress goes on recess on Oct. 22. If the determination is there, it can be done.
Sen. Grace Poe has said the Senate can go to plenary in November. That’s too long. Rep. Cesar Sarmiento said the House will suspend review until Oct. 7 as the budget has to be finalized first. To hell with the budget; let others do it. There are 290 people in Congress. You can find a dozen to focus only on the emergency powers bill.
The other time we had emergency powers was under Fidel V. Ramos. And it worked; we got power restored in less than a year—from daily 8-12-hour blackouts under Cory Aquino. The choice was to stick to the usual bureaucratic processes and live without power, or rush it and pay a bit more for it. No power is far more expensive than any cost you pay for power. Ramos used those emergency powers intelligently and gave us electricity again. On emergency powers to solve the traffic chaos, we must do the same. Get rid of the impediments to solving this crisis.
While waiting for the approval of the emergency powers, Secretary Tugade has implemented a number of measures to help manage traffic along major roads in Metro Manila. He has ordered the Metro Manila Development Authority, the Highway Patrol Group, and the agencies attached to the Department of Transportation to solidify traffic enforcement by coming up with just one chain of command. He has ordered that Metro Manila be split into at least 10 traffic sectors, each to have a sectoral head. He has also ordered the agencies to come up with uniform penalties for traffic violations and traffic personnel to undergo joint training.
These measures will help, but they are just temporary. Emergency powers are still necessary, and must be granted immediately. No public bidding, no temporary restraining orders. Action.
Mr. Duterte can use emergency powers and get our traffic moving again. Congress must grant him those powers by Oct. 22, before the recess. Please, Congress, it’s an emergency. Think of the suffering of your constituents, of yourselves. Act now. Oct. 22.
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E-mail: [email protected] Read my previous columns: www.wallacebusinessforum.com
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