Singapore to help the Philippines deal with traffic woes with 'intelligent transport system'

Singapore and the Philippines have signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the republic to help develop systems to solve Manila's traffic woes. Jeepneys, seen here, are a staple on Manila's gridlocked streets.
Singapore and the Philippines have signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the republic to help develop systems to solve Manila's traffic woes. Jeepneys, seen here, are a staple on Manila's gridlocked streets.PHOTO: AFP

MANILA - The Philippines and Singapore agreed on Thursday (Aug 31) to collaborate on measures to help ease metropolitan Manila's massive traffic jams.

Under a memorandum of understanding signed by Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade and Singapore Cooperation Enterprise (SCE) chief executive Kong Wy Mun, Singapore is offering to help the Philippines develop an "intelligent transport system" (ITS).

The system allows efficient use of whatever road network capacity is available. It is designed to control traffic, and monitor and manage congestions and traffic incidents.

Among the measures being considered are congestion charging, similar to Singapore's Electronic Road Pricing system, cracking down on illegal parking, and enforcing bus lanes.

The Philippines is also looking into centralising traffic and incident management, so that road accidents can be detected early and their impact and the resulting congestion lessened.

"With today's MOU, SCE will share Singapore's journey in striving towards a sustainable land transport system through reduction in traffic volume, improvement in mobility and integrated land and transport planning," said Mr Kong.

Mr Tugade said the ITS will be in a "basket of approaches" the transportation department is planning to solve the country's traffic woes.

"It also underscores that we in the transport business in this country is not an enemy of technology," he said.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency estimates that heavy traffic in the capital is costing the Philippine economy 2.4 billion pesos (S$6.37 million) in lost productivity each day. If unchecked, that number may rise to 6 billion pesos a day by 2030.

There are an estimated two million vehicles crammed in Metro Manila. This 640 sq km metropolis has a road network no longer than 1,100km. That translates to 2,000 vehicles per kilometre.

Metro Manila has a daytime population of roughly 14 million. Some 11 million of them take public transport, but there are only 15,000 buses, 48,000 jeepneys, 27,000 taxis and 50km of rail available to ferry them.

So far, Manila only has 50km of city rails. By comparison, Seoul has 526km; Beijing, 456km; and, Singapore, 146km.

The LRT system currently moves some 1.5 million people a day. By 2030, some 7.4 million are expected to take the train.

The government has been looking into rolling out a "bus rapid transit" system (BRT) similar to Indonesia's TransJakarta, by 2018. It involves building 27.7km of dedicated bus lanes, stations and a card-based ticketing system that will cut from east to west across Metro Manila.

Three hundred buses will be fielded, each following a schedule, and drivers will be paid fixed wages rather than compensation based on passenger quota.

The system will cost 4.65 billion pesos, much cheaper than a rail line, and when finished will move about 280,000 passengers a day.

The World Bank has already lent US$2.9 million (S$3.94 million) to a pilot BRT programme in another burgeoning Philippine metropolis, Cebu, where the bus system is expected to move 330,000 people a day.