STORM OF PROTEST SET: YOLANDA SURVIVORS, MILITANTS VOW TO SURGE AT PALACE GATES

SURVIVORS of super typhoon Yolanda plan to storm Malacañang today as they warned that President Benigno Aquino III is “criminally liable for the government’s slow and insensitive action on the rehabilitation and reconstruction of calamity-stricken areas.” Sister Edita Eslopor, chairperson of the 12,000-strong alliance of Yolanda survivors called People Surge, said they are not ruling out the possibility of filing criminal charges against the President and government officials responsible for the rehabilitation and reconstruction program. “We abhor the heartlessly callous government of Aquino who, instead of prioritizing and consulting the victims of Typhoon Yolanda on what they actually need, has appointed a blood-stained military man to take charge of its cold-hearted efforts of reconstruction that focuses on graft-ridden infrastructure for its business allies instead of social support to the farmer and urban poor who have no opportunity to get back on its feet immediately,” Eslopor added, referring to presidential assistant on rehabilitation and recovery Panfilo Lacson. In a phone interview, Lacson denied that the government had been slow in responding to the needs of the calamity survivors.

ALSO: 100 days after Yolanda, enormous need for aid remains

As the country marked 100 days yesterday since being hit by one of the most powerful typhoons on record, an enormous need for assistance remains unmet, but the government has vowed to “build back better.” The United Nations warned that millions of survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda were still without adequate shelter 100 days after the disaster. “The authorities, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations, and the Filipino people should be commended for the pace of progress, but we cannot afford to be complacent,” UN resident and humanitarian coordinator for the Philippines Luiza Carvalho said in a statement yesterday. “The need for durable shelter for millions of people whose homes were damaged or destroyed is critical,” she noted. She also said the UN has raised more than $300 million for the humanitarian effort this year that was expected to cost $788 million, and priority would go to providing durable shelters and livelihoods. Malacañang has vowed that the government would build permanent structures in the Visayas that was severely hit by Yolanda as the government prepares for the onset of the rainy season in the middle of the year.

ALSO: Hundred days after typhoon, search for bodies still on

It has been 100 days since Super Typhoon “Yolanda” struck this city, but 65-year-old Pablo Layson is still searching for his wife, Marlyn. Layson, a resident of Barangay 88 in San Jose district, remains hopeful that he will find her. “It could be true that she was among those who perished during Yolanda, but I want to find her body so I can bury her according to our Christian tradition,” Layson said. Sunday marked the 100th day since Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) plowed through Tacloban, killing 2,707 people. The city’s disaster council said 731 people remained missing since tsunami-like storm surges generated by Yolanda swept them away on Nov. 8 last year. The estimated death toll of more than 6,000 included only victims who had been identified. Uncounted were those who could not be identified and were temporarily buried in mass graves in Suhi and Basper villages in northern Tacloban. Yolanda also pummeled Panay Island where 27 victims remained missing: Antique, 15; Iloilo, 12, and Capiz, 1. The strongest typhoon to make landfall on record, Yolanda displaced more than 4.1 million people in Eastern and Central Visayas, according to the latest report by the United Nations. It destroyed or damaged 1.1 million houses in the two regions, the UN report said. On Sunday, UN resident and humanitarian coordinator for the Philippines Luiza Carvalho appealed to humanitarian groups and UN member states to continue helping the typhoon survivors.

ALSO: Monster traffic jam starts 2 Metro mega-road projects under way

Are you ready for some truly monstrous traffic jams and “bear with the short-term inconvenience,”
as Malacañang pleaded Sunday? Construction of two major government infrastructure projects starts Monday night, and it is expected to worsen metropolitan traffic throughout the remainder of the Aquino administration. The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) earlier projected that on Edsa alone, vehicular traffic could slow down to only 1 to 9 kilometers per hour. Roadwork on the six-lane expressway being built by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) connecting South Luzon Expressway from Buendia in Makati to North Luzon Expressway on Balintawak in Quezon City will start at 10 p.m. That’s on top of the project connecting the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Expressway Phase 2 of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to the seaside Entertainment City.


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Storm of protests set


100 days later. Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez (leftmost), his wife Councilor Cristina Romualdez, other city officials and representatives from various NGOs and international humanitarian groups and the interfaith sectors gather at the Tacloban Astrodome on Sunday 100 days after super Yolanda hit the Visayas.

MANILA, FEBRUARY 17, 2014 (MANILA STANDARD) By Joyce Pangco Panares - Yolanda survivors, militants vow to surge at Palace gates.

SURVIVORS of super typhoon Yolanda plan to storm Malacañang today as they warned that President Benigno Aquino III is “criminally liable for the government’s slow and insensitive action on the rehabilitation and reconstruction of calamity-stricken areas.”

Sister Edita Eslopor, chairperson of the 12,000-strong alliance of Yolanda survivors called People Surge, said they are not ruling out the possibility of filing criminal charges against the President and government officials responsible for the rehabilitation and reconstruction program.


PHOTO FROM BULATLAT.COM

“We will surge in Metro Manila streets...The situation is getting worse for the people of Eastern Visayas,” said the Benedictine nun in a statement to mark the 100th day afer the storm.

Simultaneous protests will be staged in Mendiola, in Manila, and in Tacloban City, where the bulk of protesters will gather.

“The people need more than relief operations that will not last forever...But because they still live in uncertainty a hundred days after the storm, the Aquino government only reinforces their fears for the future,” Eslopor added. “The people are suffering, and they are seething because the government cannot assure the most basic needs such as food, livelihood, housing and social services.”

In Tacloban, Mayor Alfredo Romualdez told a crowd gathered to commemorate the 100th day since the storm that they were heroes for having survived Yolanda.

He also denied allegations that Eastern Visayas was unprepared for the storm, or rumors that the commercial hub would be transferred elsewhere.

Romualdez urged his constituents to gain strength by keeping in their hearts and minds the memories of their loved ones, and to show the whole world what they can do with the help they are getting from the international community.

“We will show them that we will be empowered and we will bring a stronger city and most of all we will build now a stronger family. We will show them the real and true image of a Taclobanon,” he said.

Eslopor said protesters would bring with them a petition signed by the survivors demanding P40,000 in financial assistance per family as well as for the lifting of the no-build zones along coastal areas that have been identified as danger zones by the government.

PHOTO: The scenes of destruction in the city and protesters (topmost) at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, slamming the poor government efforts to
help the victims.

“We abhor the heartlessly callous government of Aquino who, instead of prioritizing and consulting the victims of Typhoon Yolanda on what they actually need, has appointed a blood-stained military man to take charge of its cold-hearted efforts of reconstruction that focuses on graft-ridden infrastructure for its business allies instead of social support to the farmer and urban poor who have no opportunity to get back on its feet immediately,” Eslopor added, referring to presidential assistant on rehabilitation and recovery Panfilo Lacson.

In a phone interview, Lacson denied that the government had been slow in responding to the needs of the calamity survivors.

“If we go by the experiences of other countries that were hit by similar calamities, we are not slow. Bandah Aceh for example was hit by a deadly tsunami in December 2004. They had not started to implement their rehabilitation blueprint until after Dr. Kuntoro Mangkusubroto was appointed rehabilitation czar in April 2005,” Lacson told Manila Standard.

“(Hurricane) Katrina (in the United States), Haiti (earthquake) and other rehabilitation efforts in the other parts of the world took even longer periods to accomplish their reconstruction work. Having said that, the government is exerting all efforts to speed up the reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts by applying some out-of-the-box approaches without sacrificing the call of President Aquino to build back better,” he added.

Lacson was appointed less than a month after super typhoon Yolanda devastated 171 cities and municipalities on Nov. 8, mostly in Eastern Visayas.

“We are improvising a bottom-up approach to expedite the process of the post disaster needs assessment (PDNA) in accordance with United Nations protocol. We do this by going down to the local government units and not wait for the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council to finish the PDNA,” he said.

“Still, close consultation and coordination with the critical national line agencies will be done before implementing the LGU-prepared rehabilitation and development plans based on their individual needs assessments,” Lacson added.

Eslopor, however, insisted that Yolanda survivors have all the just reasons to criticize the Aquino government.

She said that despite the billions of pesos in donations and three months after Yolanda struck, calamity victims are still suffering.

“They have no food to eat, no shelter above their heads and no livelihood to help them survive. This government has apparently forgotten and forsaken them,” she said.

“This government has also turned the rehabilitation into a racket with substandard and overpriced infrastructures like bunk houses and tents. This is the true picture of daang matuwid (straight path),” Eslopor added.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma said the government is expediting efforts to ensure that lives of Yolanda survivors return to normal at the soonest possible time.

“The government is firmly determined to carry out massive rehabilitation efforts in all 171 municipalities and cities affected by this unprecedented calamity,” Coloma said.

“We realize that despite its best efforts, government is unable to adequately respond to all the needs of all the affected families and individuals. We continue to welcome suggestions on how we can improve our response and assistance. We will act on reports of abuse or anomaly in the provision of relief services,” he added.


A civic group, One Tacloban, laid down over 10,000 balloons along the highway in Tacloban City to
commemorate the tragedy. AFP, with Manny Palmero and LGU Tacloban Facebook

Coloma said the President has also directed members of the Cabinet to prepare a detailed roadmap for effective response to disasters before the onset of the rainy season in June.

“This will include adoption of new emergency alert protocols for storm surge, floods, and landslides; strict implementation of no-build zones along coastlines; and higher standards for disaster resiliency of buildings and infrastructure,” Coloma said.

The militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, however, said the “privatized reconstruction” in calamity-hit areas will not really address the needs of Yolanda survivors.

“Privatized reconstruction under the Aquino regime will not work for the people. The thrust of this framework is the development of business, and not the actual needs of the people, especially those in agriculture and fisheries,” Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes Jr. said.

“The entire Visayas has been subdivided among the biggest businesses in the country, supposedly for reconstruction and rehabilitation. The disturbing thing is that people’s needs are not at the center of this program. Government wants to take a back-seat and let big business take over,” he added.

The 171 cities and municipalities affected by Yolanda were divided into 24 areas of intervention and development or AID.

Eighteen AID areas have been adopted by companies such as PLDT-Smart-Metro Pacific Group, ICTSI Group, Metrobank, Injap Group, Lopez Group, Aboitiz Group, and the Engineering Equipment Inc. of the Yuchengco Group.

Based on a study conducted by the People Surge, more than 2 million farmers and fisheren in Eastern Visayas alone were affected by the typhoon.

Its own estimate is that the total damage to agriculture would reach up to P64 billion. This includes coconut production losses valued at P41.958 billion, P6.428 billion damage to the fishing industry, P5.695 billion damage to banana plantations, P3.462 billion damage to palay (unhusked rice), and P6.5 billion damage to livestock and root crops, abaca, corn and vegetables.

“Eighty percent of the population in the Eastern Visayas region rely on agriculture yet this will receive the lowest budgetary priority under the government’s reconstruction framework,” Eslopor said.

“The delay is proving deadly to the urban and rural poor who were left in dire straits. The peasants are living at the subsistence level already, with no foreseeable income, and are vulnerable to usury. Families in interior villages usually alternate root crops with rice, eating rice only one to two times a day. But with root crops heavily damaged by the typhoon, they are now consuming rice two to three times daily, thus, rapidly diminishing their rice supply. Worse, they are forced to sell their rice because their sources of cash crops have been damaged,” Eslopor said. – With Ronald O. Reyes and PNA

FROM PHILSTAR

100 days after Yolanda, enormous need for aid remains By Rainier Allan Ronda and Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 17, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - As the country marked 100 days yesterday since being hit by one of the most powerful typhoons on record, an enormous need for assistance remains unmet, but the government has vowed to “build back better.”

The United Nations warned that millions of survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda were still without adequate shelter 100 days after the disaster.

“The authorities, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations, and the Filipino people should be commended for the pace of progress, but we cannot afford to be complacent,” UN resident and humanitarian coordinator for the Philippines Luiza Carvalho said in a statement yesterday.

“The need for durable shelter for millions of people whose homes were damaged or destroyed is critical,” she noted.

She also said the UN has raised more than $300 million for the humanitarian effort this year that was expected to cost $788 million, and priority would go to providing durable shelters and livelihoods.

Malacañang has vowed that the government would build permanent structures in the Visayas that was severely hit by Yolanda as the government prepares for the onset of the rainy season in the middle of the year.

In his weekend interview aired over Radyo ng Bayan, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said that new school buildings, municipal halls, public markets and town centers would be constructed, and affected families in temporary shelters “would be provided permanent housing.”

“The government is firmly determined to carry out massive rehabilitation efforts in all 171 municipalities and cities affected by this unprecedented calamity,” Coloma said, adding that there would also be “new human settlements with facilities for livelihood activities.”

President Aquino also directed members of his Cabinet to prepare a detailed roadmap for effective response to disasters before the onset of the rainy season in June.

Coloma said this would include “adoption of new emergency alert protocols for storm surges, floods and landslides; strict implementation of no-build zones along coastlines; and higher standards for disaster resiliency of buildings and infrastructure.”

Moreover, the Aquino administration has prioritized the setting up of an all-weather communications system, including satellite phones and mobile communications kits, to “ensure uninterrupted connectivity despite power service interruption.”

“The Philippines and other disaster-prone countries must break the cycle of prediction, devastation and rehabilitation by adopting the principle of build-back-better and being more productive,” Coloma noted.

“In order to build back better, reconstruction and rehabilitation must be needs-based and grounded on concrete realities at the grassroots level... For this reason, (rehabilitation czar) Panfilo Lacson has prioritized local government units that have done their homework in preparing a post-disaster needs assessment analysis and corresponding rehabilitation plan,” he added.

Yolanda tore across the Visayas on Nov. 8 last year, killing 6,200 people and leaving nearly 2,000 others missing. It also destroyed or severely damaged 1.1 million houses, leaving more than four million people homeless.

Carvalho said millions of jobs were also destroyed or impaired after Yolanda tore down or damaged 33 million coconut trees, flooded fields with salt water, and swept away or wrecked 30,000 fishing vessels.

Apart from addressing food and health needs, the international aid effort provided tents and tarpaulin shelters to half a million families, while emergency employment programs pumped money into the devastated local economies, the UN said.

Many of the devastated areas rely on subsistence fishing and farming and are on the path of most of the 20 or so typhoons and storms that strike the country each year.

“As the Philippines marks 100 days since the devastating super typhoon struck, our thoughts are very much with the survivors who mourn the loss of so many friends and loved ones,” Carvalho said.

“We are supporting the authorities to help survivors find closure and ensure that the affected regions build back better and safer so that the next massive storm does not bring the terrible levels of devastation that we saw,” she added.

FROM THE INQUIRER

Hundred days after typhoon, search for bodies still on By Joey A. Gabieta Inquirer Visayas 1:18 am | Monday, February 17th, 2014


http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/files/2014/02/tacloban-0217.jpg
MARKING 100TH. A child attends Mass commemorating the 100th day after Super Typhoon “Yolanda” at Tacloban City Convention Center. Local government officials, residents and humanitarian volunteers joined the Mass.

TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines—It has been 100 days since Super Typhoon “Yolanda” struck this city, but 65-year-old Pablo Layson is still searching for his wife, Marlyn.

Layson, a resident of Barangay 88 in San Jose district, remains hopeful that he will find her.

“It could be true that she was among those who perished during Yolanda, but I want to find her body so I can bury her according to our Christian tradition,” Layson said.

Sunday marked the 100th day since Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) plowed through Tacloban, killing 2,707 people.
The city’s disaster council said 731 people remained missing since tsunami-like storm surges generated by Yolanda swept them away on Nov. 8 last year.

The estimated death toll of more than 6,000 included only victims who had been identified. Uncounted were those who could not be identified and were temporarily buried in mass graves in Suhi and Basper villages in northern Tacloban.

Yolanda also pummeled Panay Island where 27 victims remained missing: Antique, 15; Iloilo, 12, and Capiz, 1.

The strongest typhoon to make landfall on record, Yolanda displaced more than 4.1 million people in Eastern and Central Visayas, according to the latest report by the United Nations.

It destroyed or damaged 1.1 million houses in the two regions, the UN report said.

On Sunday, UN resident and humanitarian coordinator for the Philippines Luiza Carvalho appealed to humanitarian groups and UN member states to continue helping the typhoon survivors.

“The authorities, UN agencies and nongovernmental organizations, and the Filipino people should be commended for the pace of progress that we have seen in the first 100 days,” Carvalho said in a statement. “But we cannot afford to be complacent.”
Basic needs
Carvalho said that among the basic needs of the survivors that should be immediately dealt with was durable shelter.
“The typhoon affected 14 million people and destroyed or severely damaged more than a million homes,” she said.

Carvalho reported that the United Nations distributed tents and tarpaulins to 500,000 families to give them temporary shelter.

She said millions of people needed livelihood assistance, as the typhoon “damaged an estimated 33 million coconut trees, flooded fields with saltwater and took away or wrecked 30,000 fishing vessels.”

So far, Carvalho said, food, medicine, water and sanitation and hygiene assistance had been provided by humanitarian and aid groups, local governments, UN member states and the national government.

“We ensured that vulnerable people had access to protection services and farmers were able to go back to their fields in time to plant. The United Nations and partners helped remove more than 500,000 cubic meters of debris from Tacloban alone,” she said.

But the survivors need a sort of closure to be able to move on, Carvalho said.

And she called on the government to step up its disaster preparedness plans to avoid similar losses and damage should another storm as powerful as Yolanda strike the Philippines.

Search for missing

In Tacloban, the city government said it was giving priority to the search for the missing to give the families a sense of closure.

Ten dogs provided by the Makati City government will help in the retrieval of bodies that may be trapped under typhoon debris, local officials said.

People from the Bureau of Fire and Protection are undertaking the search for bodies. Most of the bodies they have recovered have been found in the San Jose and Anibong areas, the worst-hit parts of the city.

“We want all the missing people to be found and retrieved so that there will be closure and they can be given [proper burial],” Councilor Cristina Romualdez said during ceremonies marking the 100th day after Yolanda.

The event was held at the Tacloban City Convention Center where more than 400 families, many of them residents of Barangay 88, remain living in makeshift tents.

For Layson, only finding the body of his wife could give him closure.

He recalled that he and Marlyn were already at the convention center a day before the expected landfall of Yolanda.

“But in the morning of Nov. 8, she returned to our house to retrieve some important documents. I begged her not to leave because the typhoon was already approaching but she did not listen to me,” Layson said.

He said he did not know whether Marlyn died on her way to their house or perished in their house in Barangay 88, about 7 kilometers away from the convention center.

Unlike in Tacloban, the search for the 27 missing people in Panay has long stopped, according to Rosario Cabrera, Office of Civil Defense in Western Visayas.

Cabrera said there would be no declaration of death until the bodies had been found. But a death declaration could be made if there was confirmation of death, like an eyewitness account of drowning, she said.

Among the missing were eight fishermen, all residents of Batbatan Island, off Culasi town, Antique province.

Culasi, 90 km north of the capital town of San Jose, was among the northern Antique towns severely affected by the typhoon.

The Western Visayas civil defense office reported that 273 people died and 3,924 others were injured when the typhoon swept through the region.

Recovery has been slow in coming for the areas affected by typhoon.

Better city

But Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez, husband of Councilor Romualdez, said he remained positive that the city would recover and become “a better city.”

Romualdez thanked all the international aid groups that came to the assistance of the typhoon-ravaged city.

“We will show to the world that we will be a stronger city and stronger families and the real and true spirit of being a Taclobanon,” he said.

Romualdez said those who survived Yolanda should be considered heroes, as they survived the typhoon’s power.

He said his administration, with the help of various organizations, had been discussing a master plan for building a better and stronger Tacloban.

Businessman Jack Uy said so much remained to be done in Tacloban to enable the city to fully recover.

“Only 20 percent of our businessmen are now doing business here in Tacloban,” said Uy, president of the Tacloban Chinese-Filipino Chamber of Commerce.

There were 15,000 business establishments operating in Tacloban before Yolanda struck. So far, about 600 have renewed their business permits.

Mayor Romualdez urged the national government to speed up assistance to the city government to enable Tacloban to recover faster.

For one, most of Tacloban is still without power.

Because of lack of power, several businesses have to shorten their business hours, as they rely mainly on generator sets.—With a report from Shiena M. Barrameda, Inquirer Southern Luzon

Monster traffic jam starts 2 Metro mega-road projects under way By Christian V. Esguerra Philippine Daily Inquirer 2:28 am | Monday, February 17th, 2014



http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/files/2014/02/skyway-0217.jpg
OMINOUS SIGN. Looking more like a warning to motorists, a traffic advisory for the construction of the Skyway Stage 3 project starting on Monday night is displayed along Osmeña Highway in Manila. RICHARD A. REYES

MANILA, Philippines—Are you ready for some truly monstrous traffic jams and “bear with the short-term inconvenience,” as Malacañang pleaded Sunday?

Construction of two major government infrastructure projects starts Monday night, and it is expected to worsen metropolitan traffic throughout the remainder of the Aquino administration.

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) earlier projected that on Edsa alone, vehicular traffic could slow down to only 1 to 9 kilometers per hour.

Roadwork on the six-lane expressway being built by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) connecting South Luzon Expressway from Buendia in Makati to North Luzon Expressway on Balintawak in Quezon City will start at 10 p.m.

That’s on top of the project connecting the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Expressway Phase 2 of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to the seaside Entertainment City.

Malacañang spokesman Herminio Coloma on Sunday sought understanding from the public, citing in particular the traffic congestion that would be caused by the construction of the 14.8-kilometer Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3 project.

“We call on our people to share in the burden of sacrifice and bear with the short-term inconvenience so we can build better roads that will ensure faster travel and more productive living in our highly congested National Capital Region,” Coloma said on Radyo ng Bayan.

“For the benefit of the people and to avoid adding to the traffic problem on Edsa,” the main rites marking the 28th anniversary of the Edsa People Power Revolution would be held at the Palace grounds—not on the historic thoroughfare—on Feb. 25, he said.

Preparation
But has the government, particularly the MMDA, sufficiently prepared for the heavy traffic?

Quoting MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino, Coloma cited the two-day Metro Traffic Management Summit at the Asian Institute of Management in Makati that closed on Friday—just three days before all hell is expected to break loose.

The summit involved “all stakeholders” and was “well-covered by trimedia,” Tolentino said in a text message forwarded by Coloma.

MMDA website

As of Sunday afternoon, the website that the MMDA put up to update the public on the status of all 15 infrastructure projects to be implemented this year went kaput.

Launched during the traffic summit, the website (www.mmroadway.com) was supposed to provide traffic situation in areas to be affected by the projects.

In the agency’s official website (www.mmda.gov.ph), there’s a Jan. 23 press release wherein Tolentino asked the public “to make adjustments in their work and travel schedules and personal lifestyles to cope with the expected traffic congestion in Metro Manila to be brought about by the impending construction of Skyway Stage 3 project.”

“What we need is extra huge-amount of patience and understanding and cooperation but once Skyway 3 is completed, it will result in faster and more convenient travel within the metropolis,” he said.

Traffic advisory

Also contained in the website was its latest “traffic advisory” dated Oct. 24 last year. It was about the “road reblocking and repair” to be done by the DPWH from Oct. 26 to 29, 2013.

Another traffic advisory, dated Oct. 7, 2013, was about the closing of three U-turn slots in Quezon City.

The MMDA supposedly has a separate “traffic navigator” showing real-time traffic situation in 10 major thoroughfares.
Last week, the MMDA went on a last-minute brainstorming.

It raised the possibility of a four-day school week to help minimize traffic congestion, especially since the Skyway project would affect 23 schools. This was roundly nixed by private schools. Another suggestion was to hold classes on campuses outside of Metro Manila.

Flexitime

On the MMDA website, Tolentino asked private companies to adopt a flexible work schedule—“flexitime”—“for their employees, especially those located along the route of the construction projects.”

And yet another bright idea popped up: Resume operation of the Pasig ferry boat.

All of these measures were announced a few days before the expected massive gridlock, indicating that the MMDA was totally unprepared to deal with the problem that, according to a study conducted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, was causing losses amounting to P2.4 billion a day in potential income.

Enforcing rules

Tolentino said nothing about getting “colorum buses” off the roads, enforcing strictly traffic rules, especially on yellow blocks in key intersections, loading and unloading zones, conducting an honest-to-goodness examination of car license applicants and preventing morons on the loose in the streets, and expanding the capacity of the woefully crammed mass transit systems.

“It’s a no brainer that we need to boost infrastructure,” said Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan in July 2013. “We have a huge backlog in almost all types of infrastructure.”

In what officials themselves describes as the “last two minutes” of the Aquino administration, the government intends to build more roads, bridges, railways, airports and seaports.

That the DOTC and the DPWH announced that work would be done “24/7” nevertheless elated Tolentino.

Unified plan

He also talked about participants in the summit last week—representatives of the DPWH and the DOTC, local government units, and stakeholders from the academe, transport and business sectors—agreeing to map out “a unified traffic management plan” for Metro Manila, in preparation for the 15 projects some of which could take up to 2018 to complete.

Also discussed were other traffic alleviation measures such as the revival of the Pasig ferry service and additional bike lanes; Tolentino’s proposed four-day work and schools weeks, the lifting of window hours for the number-coding scheme, and “car-less” days at least once a week on Edsa.

When the unified traffic management plan will be unveiled to the public remained unclear on the eve of the expected start of gridlock.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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