Press Release
August 20, 2019

Privilege Speech: Elevated Walkways
Senator Juan Miguel F. Zubiri
20 August 2019

Mr. President, I rise today on a matter of personal and collective privilege, on an issue that affects every single person who has ever had to endure traffic in Metro Manila. Particularly, traffic along EDSA, that great avenue that has been canonized in our history books. That same EDSA has now become historic for all the wrong reasons, being one of the densest urban thoroughfares in Southeast Asia, if not the world.

Mr. President, in 2016, exactly 3 years ago, I brought-up the concept of inclusive mobility in this chamber. Inclusive mobility is a people-centric framework of mobility, it ensures that all sectors of society have access to safe and efficient transport systems, meaning in solving our traffic problems, we should not only focus on vehicular traffic, but we should also consider commuter experience and other means of moving our people around our cities. Inclusive mobility is such that would increase productivity and support acceleration of economic growth. Recent studies show that the economic cost of traffic in Metro Manila ranges from 3 to 3.5 billion pesos daily and continues to rise as traffic in the metro worsens.

It was then that I raised the proposal for the construction of elevated walkways along EDSA for the use of pedestrians and bikers.Three years later, the project has gone unrealized, and traffic in the metro has worsened considerably, especially in the hellscape that is EDSA.

I stand here today to restate my case, and to stress our urgent need to reorient our urban mobility scheme to be more inclusive and people-friendly. We can try all manner of regulations to control vehicular activity on EDSA, but the truth is, there is no controlling the kind of vehicular volume that the avenue ferries every day. The only way to truly introduce change is to create alternative channels of transport, preferably ones that are more favourable to commuters, instead of motorists.

When I gave my privilege speech in 2016, the volume on EDSA was at three hundred and sixty thousand (360,000) vehicles a day. At the close of 2018, that number has rocketed up to four hundred thousand (400,000) vehicles a day--going over the daily capacity of two hundred and eighty-eight (288,000) vehicles by 40 percent.

And reading the Land Transportation Office's statistics, we can clearly see a trend of growth in the number of vehicles in the metro. In 2016, there were 2.4 million registered vehicles in theNational Capital Region. By 2017, that number had ballooned to 2.6 million, and by 2018, it had gone up to nearly 2.8 million.

Every year, more Filipinos are adding to the already packed traffic situation, and as car prices and downpayment schemes become more affordable, we can only expect the numbers to steadily climb.

Private vehicles comprise over 80 percent of the volume on EDSA. The problem, then, does not really lie in pasaway buses and jeeps--although they definitely do not help--but in the sheer number of private cars that clog EDSA every day.

The question now is how to get drivers and riders out of their cars and into a mobilization framework that prioritizes people over motor vehicles. How do we get people to leave the comforts of private transport, when commuting and navigating the sidewalks of EDSA as a pedestrian is a cumbersome, inconvenient, and often unsafe endeavour?

We need to create walkable, bike-able cities. Currently, EDSA's sidewalks, supposedly for pedestrians and PWDs, are narrow and crowded with vendors, parked vehicles, electric posts, and plant boxes--not to mention pick pockets, and other individuals of ill intent roaming about. These sidewalks are near-unnavigable and make it difficult for a pedestrian to walk home from, say, a call center shift in Ortigasto her rented apartment along Boni; or for a TNVS food delivery rider stuck whereabouts inCubao to bike home to Quezon Avenue.

An elevated walkway and bike lane along EDSA would open up a new people-centric avenue to connect Metro Manila's major business districts. We really must consider this alternative transport channel, as it will not only ease up vehicular traffic on our roads, but it will also be a pro-people project that will give citizens from all walks of life an avenue for safe and easy mobility. This walkway will not discriminate between those who can afford to endure traffic in a luxury car and those who must resort to cheap, over-capacity, open-air buses that are exposed to all the filth and smog of the city. With thiselevated walkway, everyone will be on equal footing to get where they need to be.

We have the support and cooperation of the alternative transport advocates such as ALT Mobility and the commuters group MOVE Manila in our bid to bring this elevated walkway to reality. The Filipino public has long been clamouring for positive change in the nation's traffic situation, and I fully believe that this elevated walkway is a step toward that. Let us all work together toward a future of clean, safe, and walkable cities that accommodate the needs of the commuting public.

I am prepared to work for an institutional amendment in the 2020 budget that will allot one billion pesos for Phase I of this project, and I enjoin my colleagues to support this endeavour, and support the welfare of the Filipino public. -000-

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