Many problems face new  MMDA  chairman

Published January 18, 2021, 10:10 AM

by Manila Bulletin

Former Mandaluyong  City Mayor Benjamin “Benhur”  Abalos  assumd his new position   chairman  of the Metropolitan Manila Devlopment  Authority  (MMDA) last Tuesday, taking over from Danilo  Lim who died  last week from cardiac arrest a week after contracting COVID-19.

On his first day n office, he said he will look  into MMDA’s  program  on  COVID-19 in coordination with ongoing national efforts against the  pandemic and with local government units which have  drawn  up their  individual plans against the virus.  Many of these local governments now have plans to purchase vaccines for their people.

Chairman  Abalos  may find that a great deal of his attention will be needed to solve  Metro Manila’s  basic problems as a region, notably transport and traffic,  flood control, garbage and pollution.  It was for problems  in these areas  that the MMDA was organized in 1975, for they required coordinating  the efforts of the  17 separate local governments of Metro Manila.

In recent years, before COVID-19 shut  down  most of the nation’s  activities, traffic had been one of the biggest problems, especially along Metro Manila’s busiest thoroughfare,   Epifanio de los Santos Ave. (EDSA). It was such a  principal concern, so that at one time President Duterte  promised it  would soon be possible to travel along EDSA from Ayala, Makati,  to Cubao, Quezon City, in just five minutes. The construction of  two major elevated highways – Skyway 3  connecting the North and South Expressways and the earlier NLEX-C3-Port Area highway  —  has helped the situation by giving motorists alternative routes through the Metro area.

The  MMDA  introduced  traffic innovations, such as a ban  on provincial buses, closure of bus stations in the congested  Cubao area, exclusive bus  lanes all along EDSA, and elimination of many U-turns.  The new chairman  will need  to review these projects and discuss them as well as new ones with Secretary  of Transportation  Arthur Tugade, such as  plans for elevated busways.

As a former Metro Manila mayor,  Abalos has long  known about  these problems, especially as they affect his city  and its people. Now that he is chairman of the MMDA, he will have an opportunity to work on them from the regional point of view, which is really the only way they can be solved.

Presidential legal adviser Salvado Panelo, a former  presidential spokesman, said Abalos  brings with him “years of experience and wisdom” to  his position.  “Definitely,  he is qualified and capable to continue the good work of the late Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim,” Panelo said. “With public service in his DNA, Chairman  Benhur Abalos will lead the MMDA to greater heights.”