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.”