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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Cebu traffic bad but ‘not crisis’ yet

LEADERS of Cebu’s business community support efforts to solve traffic problems in Metro Cebu, even to the point of granting emergency powers to President Rodrigo Duterte.

However, they also cautioned against calling the situation a “traffic crisis.”

Businesswoman Melanie Ng, president of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI), told the House committee on transportation that reports on a “traffic crisis” in Metro Cebu have affected the business community.

She said in the congressional hearing in Mactan last Saturday that some potential foreign and domestic investors are now reluctant to invest in Metro Cebu because of such reports.

“There is indeed a major traffic problem in Cebu, and in order for us to mitigate the worsening situation, we have to act fast. There were a lot of ideas shared (during the hearing),” Ng said.

“We will gather all the details of all the suggestions and CCCI will come up with a position paper and submit it to the House committee on transportation,” Ng also said.

Among the proposals is to give President Duterte emergency powers for two years to fix traffic in Metro Cebu and Metro Manila. His proposed powers include entering into negotiated contracts for roads and other transportation infrastructure, which would avoid delays associated with public biddings.

Also included is the power to adopt remedial measures, such as a mass transport system, the transfer of public markets away from busy streets, and the transfer if transport terminals away from chokepoints.

Eight of Cebu’s 10 delegates in the House of Representatives have expressed support for granting the President emergency powers. At least two, however, also asked for limits so that those powers won’t be abused.

“The problem is multidimensional and needs to be addressed with a traffic development plan that encompasses road and transport infrastructure development, enforcement and discipline,” Ng said during the hearing.

Science, please

Rep. Raul V. Del Mar (Cebu City, north), who requested for the inclusion of Metro Cebu in the emergency powers proposal, agreed that there is no “traffic crisis” yet in Metro Cebu, as Ng stated during the hearing.

“We are suffering already a traffic problem but not of the same enormity as that of Manila. We don’t want to get there. We want to solve it now so that we will never suffer what Manila is suffering now,” del Mar said.

Businessman Gordon Alan “Dondi” Joseph, president of the Cebu Business Club (CBC), agreed with Ng that there is a major traffic problem but no crisis yet.

“We are lobbying for the re-deputation of the traffic enforcers by the (LTO (Land Transportation Office). While good and correct infrastructure is needed, the short-term solution is for the proper implementation of the traffic laws and driver discipline,” Joseph said.

Joseph said that a transport study will identify the correct solutions.

“This is a matter of science (and) not just opinion,” Joseph said.

He said that the Mega Cebu Development and Coordination Board has been pushing for the national government’s approval of the transport and traffic study funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica).

Joseph said that they are also preparing for the implementation of a traffic enforcer academy for all local government units (LGUs), and rationalization of all LGU traffic codes.

Master plan

For his part, Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) President Glenn Soco said that Cebu’s traffic is already a crisis, otherwise “we would have not sought emergency powers if it is just a problem.”

“Having been branded as the worst metro area to drive in, is already something to be alarmed of. It may be disputable but it’s out in all forms of media,” Soco said. (He referred to a recently released international survey by the firm behind the navigation app Waze, which listed Cebu as the worst urban area for drivers, even worse than Metro Manila.)

“On top of this, we do not even have an integrated road and transport master plan in sight. All of these should
have been done yesterday,” Soco said.

He mentioned an “urgent need to consolidate our efforts. If we cannot address traffic now, it will not only have internal economic losses, but also we will lose foreign investments and tourists,” Soco added.

Entrepreneur Bunny Pages has suggested the construction of jeepney loading and unloading bays in strategic locations in Metro Cebu.

Pages, a former chairman of the Cebu City Traffic Operation and Management (Citom) office, said this would help ease traffic because it would lessen interruptions of the flow of vehicles by jeepney drivers who stop wherever they please.

Pages, who serves on the CCCI Board of Trustees, also suggested for government to recapture and clear all city streets and roads that unauthorized structures, sidewalk vendors and illegally parked vehicles usually encroach on.
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