Emergency powers to keep Cebu traffic from reaching NCR levels


CEBU CITY, Philippines – The traffic situation in Metro Cebu is better than in Metro Manila but it still merits inclusion in the scope of proposed emergency powers for President Rodrigo Duterte, the chairman of the House committee on transportation said on Saturday, October 8.

The committee chairman, Catanduanes Representative Cesar Sarmiento, made the statement after personally checking the traffic situation in Metro Cebu. He held a public hearing on the proposed emergency powers in Cebu City on Saturday.

‪"Even if the traffic here is still not as bad as Metro Manila, we will still push for emergency powers to stop Cebu from getting to that level," Sarmiento said in a media interview after the hearing.‬

Cebu City 1st District Representative Raul Del Mar asked for the public hearing to be held in Cebu.

During the hearing, Sarmiento said the traffic condition in Metro Cebu is "better" than in the National Capital Region except that the former's roads are smaller.

Several bills seeking to grant emergency powers to the President to address the traffic problem were filed in both houses of Congress earlier this year. 

The proposed Traffic and Congestion Crisis Act of 2016 seeks to allow the President to fast-track procurement of right-of-way for various infrastructure and transportation projects. It seeks to include not only Metro Manila but also other urban areas such as Metro Cebu.

Data show that P3 billion a day is lost in terms of economic productivity due to traffic.  In Metro Cebu, the National Economic and Development Authority said that P145 million a day is lost on average due to traffic.

Sarmiento had been in Cebu since Wednesday to assess the traffic situation. 

Metro Cebu, home to about 2.8 million people, has 7 cities and 6 municipalities. It has almost twice the land area of Metro Manila, which is home to almost 15 million people in 17 cities. 

On July 1, commuters in Metro Cebu experienced being stuck in traffic for more than 4 hours of gridlock brought about by heavy rains. According to Waze, in Metro Manila, 3 to 4 hours is the average time spent in traffic during peak hours.

Scope of the crisis

"We are now certain that there is no traffic crisis in our ports and airport in Cebu but only in the roads supporting them. Being clear on the scope of the crisis will help us come up with clear solutions and can even remind us if the solutions are already at hand," Sarmiento said at the hearing.

Cebu's congressional representatives, local executives from across the Metro, and other government agencies attended the hearing. 

In a September survey conducted by Waze, Cebu was named the worst place to drive in the world. 

"We don't want to be known as the worst place in the world to drive. It may be bad, but I don't believe it's the worst," said Melanie Ng, president of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce.

"We should do something now so we're not known as the worst place to drive. We need to be known as a destination," Ng added.

Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino said that emergency powers were crucial in preventing Cebu from becoming the next Metro Manila. "We cannot solve the problem here without it," he said. 

Plans proposed included the construction of a light rail transit system, implementing the planned Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, limiting cars on the road, among others. 

The proposed emergency powers for the President would be in effect  for two to 3 years.

After Cebu City, the transportation committee plans to hold a consultation with stakeholders in the Metro Davao area. – Rappler.com

Ryan Macasero

Ryan covers Cebu and the Visayas for Rappler. He covers all news in the region, but is particularly interested in people stories, development issues and local policy making.

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