Through Russell Louis C. Ku
SENATE’s realignment of 10.83 billion pesos from the Ministry of Transportation’s (DoTr) budget to support service outsourcing and EDSA Busway will not be enough to address the issues currently facing commuters, Move says. as One Coalition, a transportation advocacy organization.
John P. Sevilla of the Coalition, a former undersecretary of finance who headed the Customs Office (BoC), said various government agencies would have to “reorient themselves properly and their goals” to be able to provide better solutions to truck transport.
“If public transport has since been gradually restored (from the start of the pandemic), there are still not enough of them. Most transport workers have endured long stretches of no income or low income, even though commuters have difficulty getting around at peak times, ”he said in a Viber message.
He added that President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s Build, Build, Build program has long ignored commuters and active transportation users.
The Senate agreed to realign 10.83 billion pesos in its version of the 2022 national budget, which included increased funding for service contracts – paying transport workers to roam the roads and compensating them for low ridership – from 6 billion pesos to 10 billion pesos, the EDSA busway project, and active transportation projects.
The coalition is pushing for 150.48 billion pesos in next year’s budget for investments in road transport, with a focus on service contracts, active transport and infrastructure such as terminals and bus stops.
He also expressed support for cycling groups who called on Congress on November 28 to increase the budget for cycle paths from P2 billion to P14 billion.
Mr Sevilla said that although the government has started investing in bicycle lanes in response to the pandemic, there is still work to be done to ensure the protection of bikers on the road.
“Only a small fraction of cycle paths, even on the busiest roads such as C-5 and EDSA, are physically separated from motor vehicles. The quality of cycle paths has also deteriorated significantly, even over the past six years. Lots of potholes, some (some of which are) very big, and all of them definitely pose risks for cyclists, ”Sevilla said.
Realignments in funding to the Ministry of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), which has a proposed budget of 686.1 billion pesos, are also needed to improve active transportation such as high-quality sidewalks on all roads, level crossings; and escalators or elevators for the disabled and the elderly.
“The recently opened bridges at Estrella-Mandaluyong and Pasig-Bonifacio Global City are perfect examples of how DPWH ignores the needs of pedestrians and this is unacceptable,” added Mr. Sevilla.
He added that transport authorities should strengthen their capacity and fine-tune their systems to ensure smoother implementation of their programs.
“I don’t think (the) Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board and DoTr staff even know what the actual wait time is for trips in different parts of Metro Manila at different times of the day. They have to (understand them) and bring them down to reasonable levels, ”Sevilla said.
He also said transportation should also be prioritized as an issue to be addressed in the 2022 election to see which candidates “display a better understanding (on) the issues of ordinary commuters”.
Vice-President Maria Leonor G. Robredo told a forum on Nov. 18 that she plans to move away from “car-centric” projects in favor of building active transport infrastructure, to start with traffic jam areas.
Meanwhile, Senator Emmanuel D. Pacquiao said he would push for “more Skyways” in Metro Manila.