By PressONE.PH Business

A traffic crisis, not mass transportation crisis.

This was the latest characterization of the Department of Transportation of the long-standing traffic gridlock in Metro Manila, which was put on the spotlight anew after the breakdown of three mass railway systems traversing the capital last week.

“Let us clarify: mass transportation crisis is different from a traffic crisis. But of course, traffic and mass transport are interrelated,” Transport Assistant Secretary Goddes Hope Libiran told PressONE.PH in a phone interview.

In essence, Libiran said Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade was not contradicting himself when he rejected descriptions by Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes of a mass transportation crisis in Manila.

Tugade had appealed to Congress for emergency powers, a prerequisite to which would be a declaration of a traffic crisis.

Reyes made the statement after the Light Rail Transit Authority announced last week it was shutting down three stations, in Anonas, Katipunan and Santolan of LRT-2, for nine months after the train line caught fire last week. The incident came on top of another breakdown suffered by the Metro Rail Transit-3 (MRT-3) line running on EDSA.

Since 2016, Tugade have claimed that emergency powers would allow faster government fix to the metropolis’s incessant traffic woes, on which the Duterte campaign capitalized to win the elections.

But the Senate public services committee remained unconvinced that skirting procurement rules, which would be allowed under emergency circumstances, would do the trick.

This prompted President Rodrigo Duterte and Tugade to drop the bid for emergency powers.

“Sinabi kasi ni Renato Reyes, mass transport crisis kasi dahil sa pag-bog down ng mga riles last week. Pero noong nakaraang taon naman, hindi naman niya sinasabi na may transport crisis, e mas madalas ang sira noon,” Libiran explained.

“We acknowledge the fact that there is a huge problem… [but] when you say there is a mass transportation crisis, it’s like saying there’s no hope. It does not help manage public anxiety,” she added.

Libiran claimed train breakdowns were more limited under Duterte.

She also said heavy traffic on main roads was a consequence of simultaneous construction activities of delayed infrastructure, including extension projects of LRT-1 to Cavite and LRT-2 to Antipolo, as well as MRT-7 that would run on Commonwealth Avenue.

Apart from projects in Metro Manila, a Skyway extension project is expected to be completed in 18 months, but is blocking traffic for commuters from southern Luzon.

“Dapat ang pinag-uusapan natin ngayon is that in two to three years mawawala na ‘yan, maaayos na ‘yan because construction of projects is ongoing,” Libiran said.