Sen. Grace Poe said the dehumanizing traffic situation in Metro Manila is no longer just a road use efficiency problem but a public health issue, citing the physical and emotional stress being suffered by commuters daily.

The senator said she has been monitoring reports of people being stranded on the road for hours, wading in flooded streets or standing inside packed buses, so they could go home to their families. The following day, they face the same battle going to their workplaces.

“The situation is alarming; it is no longer just a traffic problem but a serious public health issue as it affects our quality of life. Suffering like this every single day will take a toll on the physical and, emotional well-being of our constituents,” Poe said.

Poe, who chairs the Senate Sub-committee on Public Transportation, urged local government units (LGUs) to look at the big picture in approaching the problem.

“Beyond managing traffic on the major thoroughfares of Metro Manila, we have to look at the big picture as well, and part of the big picture is the need to have an intelligent plan for urban development,” she said.

To address the traffic problem, LGUs should also look at how they can mitigate flooding, effectively manage solid waste, and ensure that people know and follow disaster preparedness protocols, Poe said.

She stressed that a master plan for the development of Metro Manila should have the commitment of LGUs not only in the Greater Manila Area but also in Regions III and IV-A.

Metro Manila has a population of 11.5 million, but including the urban areas of Rizal, Bulacan, Cavite, Batangas and Laguna, the total population totals around 24 million.

“Traffic and transportation in Metro Manila is really a people issue. It begins with us and ends with us. We have to work together if we want to make Metro Manila more livable,” she said.

Poe said the country’s mass transport system should be improved to accommodate the increasing number of people who travel to and from the National Capital Region.

“This means not only expanding our roads and rail networks so that our transport system would connect the inner cities to the outer areas,” Poe said.

She said the government should also incentivize and promote alternative forms of transportation by making the streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists. This would give people “other dignified ways to get to their destinations,” Poe said.#