Gov't forms inter-agency body to solve Metro Manila traffic

MANILA, Philippines – While waiting for emergency powers to be granted, the Department of Transportation (DOTr), Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the Philippine National Police's Highway Patrol Group (HPG), Land Transportation Office (LTO), and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) will form an inter-agency body to act under one chain of command in addressing the Metro Manila traffic problem.

Transportation Spokesperson Cherie Mercado said the MMDA, HPG, and the DOTr's attached agencies will now be following the marching orders of Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade.

"We will formalize everything by signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) this or next week," Mercado said on the sidelines of a press briefing in Mandaluyong City on Wednesday, August 17.

HPG Chief Superintendent Antonio Gardiola said an inter-agency body will allow the government to address traffic woes faster – even without emergency powers. (READ: Drilon files bill for emergency powers)

"Kapag watak-watak tayo, mahihirapan ang mga tao on the ground (If we are disorganized, people on the ground will have a hard time). But if we will be given authority under one chain of command, we can now easily issue orders," Gardiola said during the press conference.

Plans to solve traffic

While waiting for Congress to grant the emergency powers, Mercado said the DOTr, MMDA, HPG, LTO, and LTFRB will communicate with each other by splitting Metro Manila into at least 10 traffic sectors.

Each area will have a sectoral head, informing all agencies of the traffic problems in that area.

Operating as one agency, the HPG and the MMDA will be sharing assets such as manpower and motorcyles. The HPG will also hook up with the MMDA command center for better traffic monitoring. 

"The agencies are also working on coming up with uniform penalties for traffic violations. Traffic personnel will also undergo joint training," Mercado said.

The transportation spokesperson added, however, that there is no specific timeline yet for the inter-agency body's tasks as it was just last Tuesday, August 16, when Tugade asked the MMDA, HPG, LTO, and LTFRB to work together.

"We are still finalizing what can be done. Hopefully by next week, the directives are clear," Mercado said after the briefing.

As of now, Gardiola said the HPG deploys 300 officers along EDSA.

But once an MOU is signed asking the HPG to cover the entire Metro Manila, Gardiola said his office will need "a thousand more" personnel.

Emergency powers

It was last month when Senator Franklin Drilon filed a proposed measure granting President Rodrigo Duterte emergency powers to address the traffic crisis in Metro Manila and other urban areas around the Philippines.

Having one chain of command is one of the initiatives included in granting emergency powers.

Asked how this initiative will be different should emergency powers be granted, Mercado said the DOTr will be able to get the commitment of traffic enforcement groups of all 17 local government units in Metro Manila.

"Since the department is still waiting for emergency powers, Secretary Art (Tugade) thought outside the box and asked the cooperation of the attached agencies, HPG, and MMDA to work under a chain of command," Mercado said, noting that the MOU won't be legally binding. – Rappler.com