Press Release
October 4, 2016

EU-Philippines Business Summit 2016
04 October 2016

Magandang umaga po, Good morning everyone.

Thank you for inviting me to speak on the state of transportation in our country. As you are well aware of, in 2015, Manila was voted the worst city to drive on Earth by Waze users in their Global Driver Satisfaction Index poll. This year, it is Cebu, which is also a highly populated city. Overall, the Philippines is ranked 13th as the country with the worst road quality due to poor high-speed roads density and road issues density.

Currently, passengers in Metro Manila have the choice of taking three mass transit urban railway lines (the LRT 1, 2, or the MRT 3) and a commuter mainline railway (PNR) as an alternative to commuting by bus. However, with an average of 1.35 million passengers daily[1], and with industries expanding to areas outside those serviced by these lines, it is obvious that the country lacks a reliable mass transit system. In a 2013 study done by the Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (AGHAM), we have the least number of railways compared to six of similarly busy cities in the world - Tokyo, London, Berlin, Seoul, Beijing, and New York.

The MRT, which services around 572,000 to 600,000 passengers daily, breaks down so often that it has become a risk for commuters to ride the train.

In the same study done by AGHAM, a total of 3.48 injuries were recorded for every 100 million passenger-miles of the MRT, which is 2.78 higher than the 0.7 injuries in US trains.

During our past hearings in the Senate, we learned that Metro Manila has a land area of 636 square kilometres, and therefore, the ideal road network should be around 8,295.7 kilometers. However, our current road network is only at 5,220 kilometers. This means that we lack around 3,000 kilometers of roads, which is roughly the distance between Manila to Tokyo.

We also learned that EDSA has a capacity of 6,000 vehicles per direction per hour. But in July 27, 2016, the MMDA recorded 7,500 vehicles per direction per hour in EDSA. That amounts to an excess of 1500 vehicles per direction per hour.

The Philippines is also characterized by infrastructure underinvestment and infrastructure underspending. Our average infrastructure budget was only at 3.4% of GDP from 2011 to 2016, below the ASEAN average of 5.0%. The Philippines ranked 81st out of 140 countries in transportation infrastructure quality, last among the ASEAN countries.

Should we build more roads to accommodate cars or should we resort to smarter use of our existing road network, by lessening the volume of cars, and prioritize high capacity vehicles?

Our traffic problems are no means confined to land based transportation. We also have to deal with port congestion resulting in slower movement of goods by sea, and air traffic problems resulting in flight delays, putting a dampener on our tourism industry.

If I could describe the traffic problem in the Philippines in word it is this: Paralysis. Traffic paralyzes us. It is no wonder that we lose approximately 3 billion pesos a day, with Metro Manila residents spending 1,000 hours a year in traffic, while other countries in the world spend only 300 hours.

Our goal should be to establish a safe, reliable, affordable, and accessible transport system, where the commuter is provided with the comfort and dignity in travel that he or she deserves.

I envision this transport system to be a part of, and connect, a network of progressive, sustainable, and livable communities, that are well planned and immaculately executed.

So in one community,you have in your community a hospital, a school and a place to work

To realize this vision, our government must embark on the development of quality, appropriate, and sufficient infrastructure.

We must also maximize usage of our existing road networks through smart governance. Let us take advantage of technology and internet communications to provide us with innovative and data-driven transport solutions.

What can also help traffic is if we are allowed to work on our homes, telecommuting is not new but here in our country, while we advocate for that. But it is not possible to have that because of slow internet. That's why part of the emergency powers that we are going to propose is to have their cell sites approved in the soonest possible time. To be able to build one cell tower, we need at least 25 signatures from the local government and it takes about almost a year to facilitate one permit. If we have about 15,000 cell towers now, we need at least 45,000 cell towers so the connections will be better.

It is also imperative that we engage in comprehensive rural development in order to stem the unabated migration into Metro Manila and other urban cities. But as we generate employment and business opportunities in the countryside, we must still establish a national transport system to efficiently ferry people and goods from the provinces to the cities.

To address the public's needs we cannot rely on one mode of transport alone. Our transport system should be intermodal so that all forms of transportation, from trains, to cars, to jeepneys and tricycles, will be used to complement one another and service the public in a rational manner.

Mobility must be inclusive, giving particular attention to sectors with special needs.

We must promote cheaper forms of mobility by building pedestrian walkways and safe bicycle lanes.

A sound transportation system must be situated within a more comprehensive long term economic development strategy. The private sector and various transport sectors must be able to participate in this plan's formulation.

The Executive branch, through the DOTr, is now proposing that Congress grant them emergency powers to expedite the implementation of a mass public transportation plan in heavily urbanized areas. The Senate Committee on Public Services, which I chair, has conducted three hearings and one TWG already on the proposed bills. Like our kababayans, I too, wish to experience an improved transportation system within my lifetime, such that it will not take me an hour or more everyday from my house in Quezon City to the Senate.

In the previous administration, infrastructure agencies have failed to spend programmed budgets on-time. Between 2011 and 2014, the government failed to spend the budget for infrastructure by an average of Php 50 billion per year.

To make full use of its budget, there must be enough technical staff on hand to properly plan and execute vital projects. Government agencies should be fixing themselves without delay, emergency powers or not.

While I agree on the urgency to pass a transport emergency powers legislation, I have some reservations as to the list of projects DOTr presented during the hearings. In the interest of transparency, and as requested by the Minority Leader, I will be conducting a fourth hearing to give the DOTr an opportunity to present in detail how they plan to implement certain projects and an opportunity to explain why some of their projects, which apparently have nothing to do with traffic decongestion, are included in their proposals.

For example, they seek emergency powers to procure license plates and establish a national emission-testing center. Do they need to wait for an emergency powers law before they can accomplish this?

How do they intend to implement the BRT line project along EDSA? If they construct a BRT line there, will this not create a bottleneck as it reaches Shaw boulevard, because there are only two lanes for vehicles on each side? Will the BRT use existing city buses or will they require a new type of bus for this project?

The list of projects submitted by the DOTr also provides for port decongestion in Manila, but does not include any proposed project for Subic and Batangas ports.

We cannot simply grant emergency powers and say, "bahala na" or "it is up to you." It is incumbent upon us to supply strict public scrutiny on how the power granted to them will be used.

But beyond any set of details, timetables, and other project particulars, what we need more than ever is visionary leadership. We need someone to stay the course.

We also need someone with great political will to execute these plans.

USec. Gavieta spoke about the inter-modal transport system. The Southwest Bus Terminal was awarded to Megawide, a reputable construction company but our stakeholders weren't consulted about it. At least those we talked to, the ones that own provincial buses. This is supposed to be an intermodal transport system but did they talk to the bus companies to ask how many buses are actually parked there at a given hour? Did they actually talk to jeepney drivers to discuss how many of them will be parked there? As you know, some of our farmers will be coming from the south and the cannot carry their goods in a city bus so we need some jeepneys and UV Express.

These are the things that we have reservations on that we need for them to explain how interconnected will this really be? Will we have a train line in these terminals?

I recall when I inspected the temporary Southwest Integrated Bus Terminal a few months ago and reported its dismal state. It was filthy; there were piles of trash everywhere. The restrooms weren't decent. The waiting area was locked because the airconditioning system didn't work. It was poorly lit and of course we reported this to the MMDA.

In the next few weeks, I was pleasantly surprised that the MMDA leadership under Chairman Orbos acted upon this report and improved the situation at the terminal. You don't need emergency powers to be able to fix some things that are already there. We need it for certain issues like permit processes, we also need it to prevent unnecessary lawsuits. Certain things can be done quickly.

Programs, projects, and activities will take on a life of their own if they are bound together and driven with greater meaning, foresight, and imagined outcomes. Outcomes will turn into legacies, and legacies into a restoration of public trust in our agencies and in the people who run them.

Thank you.

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