Senate bets' transportation fixes: Decongest Manila, improve mass transit

MANILA, Philippines – Six senatorial bets laid out their suggestions for easing the worsening congestion problem in the Philippine capital region, which has been plagued by paralyzing traffic jams that cost the country billions in productivity losses.

At the Rappler senatorial debate on Friday, April 15, the candidates highlighted the need to improve public transportation, with two bets – Valenzuela Representative Sherwin Gatchalian and former Akbayan party list representative Walden Bello – specifically citing the bus rapid transit (BRT) system.

"It's cheap, fast to implement, and fit for our demographics and metropolitan area," Gatchalian said, adding that the buses, which will run on their own dedicated lane, can carry from 200 to 250 passengers.

Bello also agreed with this and added that a BRT line is needed for the major thoroughfare EDSA. Currently, the Philippines' first BRT line will be set up in Cebu City, while plans for BRT lines in Metro Manila have recently been approved by the National Economic and Development Authority board.

Bello added that the government should regulate the number of new cars crowding limited road space. He also pushed for an "accelerated phaseout" of old vehicles that contribute to air pollution.

Meanwhile, former senator Richard Gordon and former justice secretary Leila de Lima said Metro Manila has to be decongested.

Gordon said new highways and infrastructure should be built outside Metro Manila to invite development and provide employment opportunities.

For her part, former Akbayan party-list representative Risa Hontiveros said jobs should also be dispersed outside Metro Manila.

Hontiveros also said that the bus system needs to be fixed – drivers should be paid fixed wages instead of operating on the current commission basis. ormer Armed Forces chief of staff Dionisio Santiago also raised this proposal. –