Two ordinances and the traffic
By Julma M. Narvadez
In August, the Sanggunian Panlungsod of Naga passed two ordinances that can potentially help ease traffic congestion. One provides a “legislative framework” to establish underground cabling while the other directs road clearing.
Ordinance No. 2022-064 aims at “further strengthening disaster resiliency” while Ordinance No. 2022-064A, in its rationale, says “illegal encroachments have also narrowed some of our local roads which, if left unchecked, would adversely affect the flow of traffic, increasing its volume and causing great inconvenience to motorists, and delay or hamper essential public services such as health, fire and police responses.”
Before we get too excited about underground cabling, here’s a reality check: the ordinance has only set in motion the creation of an inter-agency task force that will draft a “unified and comprehensive Underground Conduit Plan” in the next six months. For now, only God knows what will be in the plan. But at least the ordinance has identified Balatas New Development Area, Diversion Area Development Center and Almeda Highway Centrum as priority areas. While the underground cabling is, for the long term a disaster-mitigation measure, it will clear our roads of pesky poles and wires. When? Again, only God knows.
Meanwhile, Ordinance No. 2022-064A echoes DILG’s directive for LGUs to clear roads of obstructions. It defines public roads, road obstructions and the penalties for violations, among other provisions. The Naga City LGU Road Network Development and Clearing Task Group may come up with the implementing rules and regulations within two months, says the ordinance. But of course, legislations are one thing, enforcement is another.
Nonetheless, it is worth noting that these ordinances underscore the city government’s duty to make public safety a top priority. After all, traffic is not just about inconvenience. It can be a life and death situation. When emergency responders fail to prevent an impending tragedy because they got stuck in traffic, who do we hold accountable? Several times, I have been on the path of an ambulance deciding to counterflow. Good that my lane had space for the ambulance, but what if both lanes were congested? For an ambulance, every minute counts. For a fire truck, as well.
Many of our road users are from outside Naga and our local economy relies on the business they bring in. With S & R now hiring personnel, imagine the influx of more and more vehicles along Roxas Avenue when the retail giant opens its doors. We also take pride in being the center of education. With the resumption of face-to-face classes, are our roads ready for the daily commuters? Residents of neighboring cities and towns need our hospitals and health care facilities. How do we ensure that emergency cases are not hampered by traffic congestion, road barriers and potholes? A laboratory test can already cause anxiety just by thinking about it. The ordeal gets worse when a patient has to bear extra hours on the road because of the traffic.
Traffic management takes more than infrastructure and orange barricades. As we can see, road widening does not guarantee smooth traffic. In a four-lane road, with two lanes for each direction, who should take the outer lane? M.T. Villanueva Avenue a.k.a. Magsaysay Extension – or Liboton, as locals call it - can easily show you that many motorists do not know the right answer. The roundabout at Concepcion Pequeña is another lamentable example. Roundabouts were so designed in order for traffic to continuously circulate. There should be no reason for getting stuck there, but it is a common experience.
This is where the city government can take another closer look. No road widening nor clearing can truly effectively decongest our roads if traffic rules and road courtesy are not observed. Additional cones, barricades and even signages will not do the trick. A comprehensive plan to educate motorists and pedestrians is needed. If there’s money to promote tourism and entertainment, there should be money for capability building.
Moreover, our traffic enforcers – and those responsible to clear our roads - must be equipped with the tools, skills, and competence that will ensure safety and efficiency on our roads. The quality of the service they provide is a basic component before we can position Naga City as a business hub.
Dealing with the traffic is not a glamourous affair. It is easier to boast about the pretty pavements and canopies along Plaza Rizal. But there is no place for hubris in public service. Our motorists and pedestrians deserve nothing less than first class.