Promises, Promises? Duterte Government Vows to Solve Manila Traffic Gridlock

Manila is probably most famous these days for its terrifying traffic jams. Hours are everyday spent in cars for commuters trying to move around Philippines capital city. Decades of under-investment in public infrastructure left a heavy burden over the country’s economy and over citizens’ quality of life. The situation has been acknowledged by all successive Filipino governments but infrastructure improvement has been rather slow and is always tracking behind the rapid rise in motorization in the capital.

Philippines Department of Public Works and Highways newly appointed chief Mark Villar did not escape the tradition set for any new government coming into power. The new Duterte appointed Chief promised to solve traffic gridlock in Metro Manila in the next two to three years.

The announcement was done at the Financial Times-First Metro Investments Corp. (FMIC) Summit on Tuesday, reported Philippines newspaper Inquirer. Villar acknowledged that poor infrastructure was one of the challenges faced by the Philippine economy. The administration of President Duterte has a goal to hike infrastructure spending to 7% of GDP, starting next year with an increase to 5% of GDP, the minimum acceptable level of spending based on global benchmarks.

“Congestion in Metro Manila is a problem that we believe we can solve in maybe two or three years and I’m not being too ambitious,” Villar said. DPWH Chief said that all the current expressway and major road projects will have priority to be achieved as quick as possible. This includes  the North Luzon Express Expressway (NLEx)-South Luzon Expressway (SLEx) projects, the Harbor Link project, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Expressway that will connect all three NAIA terminals via elevated tollways and the Skyway extension project. Three other roads are being now marked to widening with more flyovers and overpasses to be developed.

Villar also backed plans to implement a 24/7 work schedule in the metropolis alongside improvements in project approvals, procurement and implementing fast-track projects procedures. To increase transparency and curb corruption , Villar also plans to create an independent infrastructure monitoring activities with both public and private appointed members.

As flooding is also a major cause of traffic gridlock, Villar said the over PHP20 billion (US$5 billion) flooding management program approved by the government’s Investment Coordination Committee (ICC) should also help to ease traffic flows. Villar’s goodwill is there, acts should now follow…