Aquino asks: What caused monstrous Metro traffic jams?

MANILA, Philippines – Even the president wants to know what exactly it was that caused the monstrous traffic jams in parts of Metro Manila Friday, September 5, that affected even the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX).

On Monday, September 8, President Benigno Aquino III said he was getting raw reports, but said he no longer wants to rely on reports, and wants “to see the videos captured by the CCTV” himself, to determine what went wrong.

“When I get back this afternoon I hope to know and be briefed on exactly what caused the traffic last weekend,” he told reporters in Davao on the sidelines of the Mindanao Inclusive Agribusiness Program launch.

On Friday, NLEX tweeted that the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA)’s one-truck lane policy was to blame, but Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras, who heads the Cabinet Cluster on Port Congestion, said the real cause was a “realignment routing” in Caloocan City of truck routes.

The government has recently had to put in place special truck lanes to allow trucks to move their containers out of the congested Manila ports. The worsening problem of port congestion at the Port of Manila and the Manila International Container Port (MICP) was triggered by a daytime truck ban imposed by the city of Manila in February.

Aquino apologized to commuters for the heavy traffic, and asked them to be patient in exchange for long-term gains.

“We ask for forgiveness from the public. There is an impact of this congestion on the growth of our economy. We don’t want this thing to exacerbate problems like for instance, increase prices of food because of the difficulty in transport and logistics,” he said.

“Bear in mind that we can sacrifice somewhat here or have longer term effects that everybody will suffer from because of this phenomenon that has happened,” he added.

Aquino said Manila has been cooperative in terms of executing intermediate steps, but admitted there is more to be done.

Following the Manila truck ban, empty container vans owned by shipping lines occupied 50% of the container yards, which caused the congestion at the ports.

This led to more problems because many local and international vessels were unable to dock and unload their cargoes, prompting major shipping lines to boycott the city ports due to lack of berthing spaces.

The congestion has affected at least 20,000 workers who have had less work, and resulted in higher shipping costs of up to 5 to 10 times more; higher prices of goods which caused a spike in inflation; the loss of imports, orders and clients; difficulty in meeting company targets; and increased trucking costs, among others.

The problem is especially urgent now that it is September, which marks the beginning of the holiday season.

“Everything and anything that has been thought of that can address this congestion problem is being done,” the president vowed, citing incentives for trucks to travel on Sundays, and discounts for companies to encourage them to use the ports in Subic and Batangas instead of Manila. - Rappler.com