New traffic strategies on EDSA 'effective' – Palace

MANILA, Philippines – Despite the monster traffic jams that stranded thousands of commuters on Tuesday night, September 8, Malacañang said the government's latest efforts to ease congestion in the Philippine capital were "effective."

In a statement on Wednesday, September 9, Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras acknowledged the "hard work and continuous efforts" of the Philippine National Police-Highway Patrol Group (PNP-HPG) and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) in trying to solve the traffic woes of the national capital region.

"The past two days are proof that the initial steps being taken to ease the traffic situation were effective, and government will continue to strive to improve our interaction and interoperability among concerned government agencies," Almendras said.

On Monday, members of the PNP-HPG began directing traffic along 6 "choke points" on the major thoroughfare EDSA – the government's latest effort to address the worsening traffic problem that experts say is costing the Philippines P2.4 billion a day in losses.

The move earned praise from some motorists, who noted smoother traffic flow on parts of the 24-km highway after sidewalk vendors and illegally parked vehicles were cleared by highway police.

But on Tuesday night, heavy rain and flash floods paralyzed metro traffic and left thousands of homebound commuters stranded for hours. Many who were unable to get rides chose to walk home instead.

Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said the sudden downpour on the HPG's second day of deployment along EDSA "greatly hindered" government's efforts to improve traffic flow.

"Government’s efforts to improve traffic flow along EDSA and major thoroughfares were greatly hindered last night by heavy rains and flash floods that were experienced during the rush hour of homeward-bound commuting. These slowed down the movement of vehicles and resulted in gridlock in flooded areas with stalled vehicles," Coloma said.

"It was only past 11 pm when the flash floods subsided and normal flow of vehicles resumed," he added.

Early Wednesday, President Benigno Aquino III also directed MMDA chairman Francis Tolentino to manage the heavy traffic.

Coloma also appealed for understanding from the thousands affected by Tuesday's traffic jams.

"We understand the plight of many who were stranded and delayed considerably in reaching their homes and destinations and we seek their kind understanding," he said.

Coloma said HPG personnel diverted traffic on flooded streets to alternate routes, while MMDA personnel were deployed past midnight to help normalize traffic flow.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is also working to clear and expand the holding capacity of drainage systems to ease flooding in the metropolis, he added.

Meanwhile, Almendras said Metro Manila's "complex" traffic problem will require the "whole of government approach."

Government agencies, such as the DPWH, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Transportation and Communication, Land Transportation Office, and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, will need to work together.

He also asked the public to do their share by following traffic rules.

"We continue to appeal to the public for their cooperation in following traffic rules and regulations that greatly impacts traffic flow and management," he said. – Rappler.com