P2.4-BILLION TRAFFIC Congested streets and traffic jams cost the country as much as P2.4 billion a day in lost productivity and potential income, according to a study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency. Jica has been tapped by the government to come up with a transportation development road map for the Philippines. JOAN BONDOC

MANILA, July 8, 2013 (INQUIRER) By Michelle V. Remo - Neda chief cites Jica study for dev’t road map.

If time is money, then the Philippines is losing P2.4 billion a day in potential income due to traffic congestion that eats up time that could have been used for productive pursuits, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said.

Balisacan, National Economic Development Authority (Neda) chief, was quoting a study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) that the government has tapped to help come up with a transportation development road map for the country.

“It’s a no-brainer that we need to boost infrastructure. We have a huge backlog in almost all types of infrastructure,” Balisacan said, adding that the government intends to invest in more roads, bridges, railways, airports, and sea ports during the remainder of President Benigno Aquino III’s term.

Compared with neighboring countries, the Philippines spends significantly less on public infrastructure at only 2.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2012, against the 5 percent average spending in other Southeast Asian countries.

Balisacan said that the Aquino administration wants to boost public infrastructure spending to at least 5 percent of GDP by 2016 to compete with other countries for foreign investments.

Earlier this week, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said the government intends to increase its budget for infrastructure from about P400 billion last year to at least P800 billion in 2016, to reach the target of 5-percent infra spending to GDP ratio.

Fast-track projects

Abad said the government has embarked on an infrastructure rationalization plan under which government processes are streamlined to fast-track infrastructure projects.

“We are accelerating our infrastructure spending and adjusting procedures to ensure (the) timely implementation of infrastructure projects and to improve the absorptive capacity of government agencies,” Abad told the Inquirer.

Absorptive capacity refers to the capability of government agencies to spend allocated funds on time.

One administrative reform that the budget secretary cited is the adoption of the advance procurement system that would allow line agencies to start procuring goods and services needed for infrastructure projects scheduled for 2014.

Payment processes

Another reform, Abad said, is the streamlining of payment processes to help government agencies settle their obligations to contractors and suppliers within a shorter period of time.

The budget chief also said that the President has instructed the Department of Public Works and Highways to take over the supervision of infrastructure projects of other government agencies—such as health facilities under the Department of Health—to help complete them within a shorter time frame.

“There is a huge room for increased infrastructure spending, and we want to maximize it,” Abad said.

The Department of Budget and Management on Friday reported that public infrastructure spending rose year on year by 35.6 percent to reach P104.6 billion from January to May this year. The amount was equivalent to 2.6 percent of estimated GDP for the period.

Palace: We’re fixing traffic; Problem is implementation of the solutions By Michael Lim Ubac and Jaymee T. Gamil Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:25 am | Sunday, July 7th, 2013

MORE TRAFFIC Repairing roads is never fun to both workers and commuters. Shoveling concrete for the reblocking of Edsa at Boni-Southbound in Mandaluyong City on Saturday gets a heap of cursing in cyberspace for DPWH and MMDA for doing the work at daytime and on a weekend, too, causing bumper-to-bumper traffic on Metro Manila’s main thoroughfare. ANDREW TADALAN

MANILA - Malacañang is not running out of solutions to the perennial traffic congestion in Metro Manila, which, according to a Japanese study, results in potential income losses of P2.4 billion a day.

But the problem is the implementation of those solutions, compounded by the lack of political will among government officials.

To decongest the main roads, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said on Saturday, the government is seriously considering banning provincial buses from the belt highway Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (Edsa), pushing through with the widening of secondary roads, and enforcing traffic rules more strictly.

The government, however, appears to be in no rush to carry out those measures, as Valte gave no timetable for their implementation.

Valte spoke as motorists on the southbound stretch of Edsa, from Quezon City to Makati City, cursed the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) for slowing traffic down to a crawl by repairing the road at daytime.

The MMDA announced on Friday that the DPWH would be reblocking five points on Edsa located in Quezon, Mandaluyong and Caloocan cities and one on Commonwealth Avenue, also in Quezon City, over the weekend.

The reblocking started at 10 p.m. on Friday.

The MMDA said on its Twitter account that the reblocking in the Boni area will affect two southbound lanes on Edsa.

The result was horrendous traffic congestion on the belt highway.


Twitter user @jeibijoves tweeted the MMDA on Saturday: “Magsara kayo ng kalsada pag madaling araw para walang kotse!! Kung kelan weekend saka nyo gagawin edsa??? TATANGA NYO!!! (Close the road before dawn when there is no traffic! It’s weekend and you’re repairing Edsa? You idiots!)”

Facebook user Joseph Anthony Jalandoon said: “Kung kailan may pasok na, tag ulan at tag baha, dun pa lang gagalaw at mag aayos… Haaay! Goodjob talaga kayo. (School is back, the rains and floods are here and it’s only now that you’re moving. Sigh! You’re really good).”

On the southbound stretch of Edsa, the DPWH is reblocking from Kaingin Road to Dario Bridge in Quezon City, from Boni Avenue to Mayon Street in Mandaluyong City, and from the A. de Jesus U-Turn to J. Mariano Street in Caloocan City until Monday.

On the northbound side, repairs will be done on the stretch of the highway from Fema Road to the Kaingin Footbridge in Quezon City and on the stretch from G. de Jesus Street to Malvar Street in Caloocan City.

The MMDA said most of the repaired blocks were already “curing”—the concrete was drying—as of yesterday afternoon.

The closed lanes of the highway were expected to be reopened Sunday, the MMDA said.

Citing a study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica), Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said on Friday that P2.4 billion in potential income is lost daily due to gridlock in Metro Manila.

Huge loss

Speaking on state-run dzRB radio, Valte acknowledged that the loss is “huge” and said the government was giving priority to the decongestion of Edsa, where 3,600 city buses carry hundreds of thousands of people to their jobs and schools every day.

The 3,600 city buses have franchises, but thousands more without franchises and provincial buses bring the number of buses plying the Edsa route to 12,000 every day.

To ease traffic on Edsa, Valte said the government was going after unfranchised buses and limiting the number of buses on Edsa at certain hours of the day.

But the long-term solution, Valte said, is the creation of “transport hubs” on the fringes of Metro Manila, a plan that will remove provincial buses from Edsa and other congested roads in the metropolis.

Provincial buses will load and unload passengers at the hubs, reducing the number of large vehicles on metropolitan roads.

Valte said “north and south terminals” were being built. The south terminal, located in Parañaque City, is about to be finished, she said.

She mentioned “various infrastructure projects” under way to improve traffic in the metropolis, including road maintenance and flood mitigation works.

Valte said the DPWH wanted to finish paving all national roads by 2015 or 2016.

She said she wasn’t aware of any new traffic plan such as further limiting the number of cars on the road.

MMDA can’t do it alone

Valte said that the MMDA cannot solve the traffic problem alone.

The agency has to deal with 17 local governments for coordinated enforcement of traffic rules, she said.

But the cities do not seem to see gridlock as an economic problem and the Palace, dependent on local governments for political support, seems not to have the will to whip local officials into finding solutions to the traffic problems in their own cities.

Asked about that, Valte said, “That’s one of the things being discussed on the Metro Manila Council.”

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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