MANILA, December 24, 2003  (STAR) The helplessness against nature’s wrath we can understand. The helplessness against holiday traffic is something else. Motorists in Metro Manila used to get stuck in traffic for hours only during floods in the monsoon season, or when a commercial plane overshoots the NAIA runway and ends up with its nose on the South Luzon Expressway.

Last Monday, traffic was at a standstill for hours from Coastal Road to Roxas Boulevard and all thoroughfares around that stretch from Cavite to Manila. One reason was the repair work on a water main that was damaged Saturday by Freysinnet workers who were undertaking a construction project for the Metro Manila Development Authority at the corner of Coastal and MIA roads in Parañaque. Another reason was an accident that ignited discarded tires on a roadside dumping station in the same city. Charcoal makers burning coconut husks carelessly were responsible for the blaze. The black fumes made visibility close to zero, forcing motorists to slow down.

Last Friday, traffic slowed to a crawl on EDSA and surrounding areas as many people held Christmas parties — including cops at the headquarters of the Philippine National Police at Camp Crame. Elsewhere in Metro Manila, traffic has been awful since the start of the month, aggravated by clueless public officials who keep staging festivals and parades on weekdays on the busiest thoroughfares.

How much productivity was lost this month as a result of traffic jams? This is no laughing matter. Getting stuck in traffic for six hours on a five-kilometer stretch is as infuriating as being forced to work in a building without air-conditioning because of constant blackouts. In the days of prolonged power outages, investors fled this country. How many visitors have sworn to stay away from the Philippines because of the monstrous traffic jams?

Public officials will have to start restoring sanity in the streets of Metro Manila. Traffic managers simply can’t throw their hands up in surrender. If they can’t do their job, the government should find others who can. Vehicular traffic is not a force of nature. And being man-made, a traffic jam can be untangled by people with some competence, imagination and will.

MMDA TRAFFIC CENTER NEWS: No number coding today, says MMDA (Star) 12/24/2003

The Unified Vehicle Volume Reduction Program (UVVRP), or the number-coding scheme, is suspended today, tomorrow, Jan. 1 and Jan. 2, a ranking Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) official said yesterday.

MMDA Traffic Operations Center Executive Director Angelito Vergel de Dios stressed that there is no number-coding on public holidays and weekends. The number coding is not suspended on special non-working holidays for government employees.

"That’s pretty easy to remember," Vergel de Dios said.

On special non-working holidays, private companies have the option to require their employees to report for work or not.

Therefore, Vergel de Dios said, there is no need to suspend the number-coding because there would still be a lot of vehicles on Metro Manila roads.

Dec. 26 is a special non-working holidays for government employees. Malacañang had declared, through Proclamation 503, Jan. 2 as a special non-working day for all in lieu of the Rizal Day holiday on Dec. 30, which shall be a regular working day.

Meanwhile, the C5/Ortigas Avenue Extension Interchange was inaugurated yesterday by MMDA chairman Bayani Fernando, formally opening the much-anticipated thoroughfare to the public.

The two-lane C-5 flyover, at the intersection of Ortigas and C-5, is expected to decongest the traffic volume on EDSA.

"This could be an alternative to EDSA, especially for those en route to Quezon City and the eastern part of Metro Manila such as Marikina City," Vergel de Dios said. — Nikko Dizon

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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