Philippines launches move to unsnarl huge Manila traffic jams

Rush-hour traffic crawls in Metro Manila’s main Edsa highway.
Rush-hour traffic crawls in Metro Manila’s main Edsa highway.PHOTO: SPH

MANILA (AFP) - The Philippines deployed over a hundred special police to the capital's streets on Monday to try to ease a mammoth traffic problem said to be costing the country about US$53 million (S$76 million) a day.

Police said 150 officers were assigned to six "chokepoints" on Metropolitan Manila's main thoroughfare, the 24km Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, popularly known as EDSA.

Traffic jams in the capital of over 13 million people have become a major issue, with a growing number of commuters blaming the government of President Benigno Aquino.

"Hopefully, it will change things but traffic is a complex problem," said Aquino's spokesman Herminio Coloma. "There are short-term solutions but we also need long-term solutions." The head of the police highway patrol group, Chief Superintendent Arnold Gunnacao, told a Congressional forum that his men were making progress, getting illegally parked vehicles off the road and forcing drivers to be more disciplined.

A study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, released in 2014, found that traffic jams in Metro Manila cost the country 2.4 billion pesos (S$73 million) a day and were responsible for most of the air pollution.

The metropolis has long struggled with a deteriorating road and railway system, too many vehicles on the streets, undisciplined drivers and a lack of urban planning that forces long commutes.

The city is also hugely overcrowded, with the JICA study saying it has 191 people per hectare compared to 146 in Tokyo.

The government plans to expand and upgrade the overhead railway, and to build and expand airports outside the capital.

One legislator noted some improvement Monday, saying his 37-km trip to the Congress building only took him two hours instead of the usual two and a half.