SENATE Minority Leader Ralph Recto yesterday suggested to include projects that will prevent monstrous gridlocks during rainy days in a traffic plan authorized by emergency powers.
With 144 days of rain in a year, Recto stressed that it is not enough to build or widen new roads to ease traffic in Metro Manila, “existing roads must be made flood-proof too.”
Government agencies have identified 85 flood-prone areas in the National Capital Region (NCR), some of which cover portions of major roads, including five intersections in EDSA.
Recto said the average 32-kilometer per hour crawl of cars during good weather in NCR roads further slows down during rainy days, or even at the slightest drizzle.
“So yung P2.6 billion a day economic losses to traffic ay kung maaraw lang. Di hamak na mas malaki, abot ng P3 bilyon, kung maulan as the resulting longer commute time or absences cuts worker productivity,” Recto said.
Recto urged Malacañang to pump more funds into flood control projects so that light downpours will no longer be a major inconvenience to 14.5 million NCR residents.
He said Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) was only given P504 million this year to repair and construct 66 flood and drainage structures, citing a Budget department briefer, “the proverbial drop in a bucket of needs.
Despite its meager funds, the MMDA has been given a performance target “of creating a system in which floodwaters fully subside within 25 minutes in some areas.”
Recto said Metro Manila’s “abundant annual rainfall of 81 inches plus the fact that many of its areas are sinking” should be factored in to the transportation blueprint that Malacañang plans to implement once President Duterte is granted emergency powers by Congress.
“Kung dahil ito sa nagbabagong panahon, then such a plan must be climate smart, too,” Recto said.
In the previous Congress, Recto sought a probe into the status of the P351-billion overall master plan on flood management in NCR which is, by far, the most ambitious and expensive flood control program ever crafted by the national government.
Twenty-two years in the making, the plan was approved in late 2012 and Recto is reiterating his calls for consistent congressional oversight to measure its progress.
The long-term plan, the senator said, would cover the infrastructure needs of 11 flood-prone areas in Metro Manila and nearby provinces and, if funded regularly, would see completion by 2035.
Recto urged government to look “into doable things and not just big-ticket items in solving flooding in the capital region.
Another scheme to prevent waterways from being clogged with trash is to enroll families living near them under the Conditional Cash Transfer program in exchange for serving as Bantay Esteros, Recto said.
Recto said Malacañang should also support moves that would allow Road User’s Tax collections to be used to buy canal dredging equipment, “and suction pumps that can be installed in flood-prone intersections or underpasses.”
The Road User’s Tax, or officially the Motor Vehicle User’s Charge, refers to car registration fees. This year, collections are expected to climb to P14.4 billion from last year’s projected P13 billion.
Last month, Recto introduced bills which would allow MVUC collections to be spent for mass transit and some road safety activities.