By Chito Chavez
Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo M. Año on Monday gave the Metro Manila mayors 60 days to clear all obstructions in public properties in their respective turfs, especially those which are being used for private purposes.
In a press briefing with the Metro Manila mayors, the police and officials of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), Año appealed to the public for their understanding as he sought public support in the government’s bid to reclaim public lots.
Previously, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) set a 45-day deadline for the clearing operation of public places, but eventually decided to make it 60 days as some cities have problematic areas to deal with.
“This program to clear all road obstructions in Metro Manila as well as all over the country is long overdue. Hindi na uubra ang mga alibi lalo na’t ang Pangulo na mismo ang nag-utos. Kelan pa ba tayo aaksyon para maibsan ang traffic? (Alibis will no longer be unacceptable especially that the President gave the direct order. When do we have to move to resolve the traffic woes?)” said Año.
Año insisted the mayors should prioritize clearing primary roads directly contributing to traffic in the metropolis as well as arterial roads leading to main thoroughfares such as Commonwealth Avenue, Osmeña Highway, Aurora Boulevard, C5, among others.
Next on the list will be tertiary roads and residential areas where even the sidewalks are being used as tiangge, parking area, sari-sari store and house extension.
“Talagang nagkaroon ng pagpapabaya sa bahagi ng LGU at pagmamalabis sa bahagi ng mga mamamayan. Kapag pinabayaan natin ito, sisikip ng sisikip ang mga daanan, mas lalong lalala ang traffic at walang mangyayaring pagbabago (There certainly was negligence on the part of the LGU and abuse on the part of the public. If we let this continue the roadways will continue to be congested. Traffic flow will further worsen and there certainly will be no change),” said Año.
In his recent State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Rodrigo Duterte tasked the DILG to ensure that LGUs reclaim public roads used for private purposes in order to ease traffic congestion in the metropolis.
A recent study made by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) showed that the Philippines is losing P3.5-billion a day to Metro Manila traffic which could reach up to P5.4-billion in 2035 if no interventions will be introduced at present.
The DILG Secretary said that the department will provide the mayors all the support that they would need, such as deployment of additional police units and even fire personnel, in carrying out the President’s directive.
“The entire machinery of the DILG, including the PNP, will be behind you and will support you in this undertaking,” he added.
While the task of clearing road obstructions in 60 days seems insurmountable, the DILG chief insisted “it can be done like what the DILG and other agencies of the government did in Boracay and what Mayor Isko Moreno did in Manila in three weeks’’.
“We urge the local chief executives of Metro Manila to step up to the challenge and emulate what Mayor Isko Moreno who has made remarkable progress in clearing the roads of Manila,” said Año.
Also, Año warned that he “will not hesitate to recommend to the Office of the President the suspension of any Metro Manila mayor who fails or refuses to act decisively and urgently on the traffic situation within his locality’’.
“There is no room for compromises on this issue. It’s either black or white. Hindi ako magdadalawang-isip na magpasa ng mga pangalan ng LCEs na matitigas ang ulo sa ating Pangulo. (I will not have second thoughts to submit to the President the names of the stubborn LGUs). If it all leads to a suspension, so be it. It is for the benefit of the people anyway,’’ Año warned.
Section 60 of the Local Government Code of the Philippines states that gross negligence or dereliction of duty, together with abuse of authority, dishonesty, oppression, among others, are grounds for a local official to be disciplined, suspended, or removed from office.
Preventive suspension may be imposed by the President if the respondent is an elective official of a province, a highly urbanized or an independent component city; by the governor, if the respondent is an elective official of a component city or municipality; or by the mayor, if the respondent is an elective official of the Barangay.
Aside from clearing road obstructions, the DILG Secretary added the LGUs were also expected to review existing city, municipal and barangay ordinances and resolutions that allow the use of public roads or sidewalks for barangay outposts, talipapa, tricycle terminals and similar purposes and to cause the revocation of said ordinances.
He said the mayors should also employ appropriate strategies in order to cushion the impact of the clearing operations on those who will be displaced by such operations.
“Hindi dapat tayo tumitigil sa paglilinis ng mga kalye at kalsada. Siguraduhin nating mayroon din silang maayos o alternatibong kalalagyan (We should not stop clearing the secondary roadways and thoroughfares. We want to make sure that they will have orderly alternate routes),” he said.
He also reminded the LGUs that they have the full burden of constructing, maintaining, and regulating the use of local roads, especially the ones that will be reclaimed in the process of clearing.
DILG Undersecretary and spokesman Jonathan Malaya said that Año has assigned all of the DILG Undersecretaries and Assistant Secretaries to each of the LGUs in Metro Manila to provide support, assistance, and close monitoring to the Metro Manila Mayors.
“It will be the task of these senior DILG officials to work closely with the City Mayors so that the deadlines could be met. They will also work closely with the PNP, MMDA, DPWH, and DOTR to ensure close coordination between the National Government and LGUs in ensuring compliance with the President’s directive,” Malaya said.
Malaya added the department has directed the PNP to provide full police assistance to the LGUs in the conduct of road clearing operations.
“The PNP may arrest or detain those who interfere with the LGU or MMDA clearing operations,” he added
Año has also directed NCRPO Chief Guillermo Eleazar to dismantle police outposts or stations located on sidewalks that cause traffic in their areas.
“The Secretary expects the PNP to show a good example with compliance with the law by self-demolishing their illegally constructed police outposts,” Malaya noted.
In order to ensure the success of the LGUs in this undertaking, Año appealed to ordinary citizens “to cooperate by way of complying and complaining.”
“Kailangan ding ireport o ireklamo ninyo sa amin sa DILG kung medyo tutulog-tulog ang inyong mayor para kalabitin namin at gisingin para umaksyon sa problema ng traffic sa inyong lugar (You also need to report these incidents to the DILG if the mayor fails to enforce the order. We will nudge them to act on the traffic woes in your places),” the DILG chief noted.
The public may report to the DILG Public Assistance and Complaints Center at 925-0343 or with the DILG city or municipal field officers assigned in their area their negligent mayors and submit or show date-stamped photos of areas in their locality where there are road obstructions.
“Makipag-ugnayan po kayo sa DILG at aaksyunan po namin agad ito (Please coordinate with the DILG so that we can act on them immediately),” Año concluded.