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Is there a need for a transport infra master plan? – responses to comments and questions

August 2011
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Immediately following the delivery of the issue paper in the DPWH-BL Fair last August 1 was an open forum where the audience had a chance to pose questions and comments on what was presented. Our technical staff shared these and following each question/comment is a response.
1. Are you eyeing for an agency or organization to champion the promotion of creating a national master plan?
(Response) The creation and/or integration of a National Transport Master Plan should be an initiative of the DOTC with the DPWH providing firm support (DPWH can co-chair or co-lead an inter-agency group.) This master plan is part of the mandate of DOTC. While highway planning, construction and maintenance is under DPWH, it should still refer to the DOTC which covers a larger scope in terms of transport planning. Most plans are usually submitted by these agencies to the NEDA for integration with plans from other agencies. Among the outputs of NEDA’s work is the Philippines’ Medium Term Development Plan, which is a 6-year plan designed for the term of the President.
2. Ano ang magagawa ng Bantay Lansangan para makaiwas sa “U-TURN” sa susunod na term?
[Note: We though that this question was minimally related to the paper and probably comes from a  person who just asked questions for the sake of asking.]
(R) The DPWH has to make a firm stand on these matters especially where design standards are concerned. While the MMDA is in-charge of traffic management in Metro Manila, they should still comply with standards for signs, markings and geometry, which happen to be under the DPWH.
3. No one was able to point out who will spearhead the creation of a national master plan, down to the details of budgeting etc.. With respect to Bantay Lansangan, who do you think is really capable of lobbying the creation of a transport master plan?
(R) DOTC should have the capacity for master planning for the entire country including integration of all existing plans to come up with a clear “road map” for transportation infrastructure. The DOTC should be supported by agencies such as the DPWH, NEDA, DENR, DOE, DOF, etc. in coming up with this. There is no need to start from scratch since there are many studies and documents that could serve as references. Progressive and responsible NGOs, civil society and the private sector should be able to lobby for a national master plan that will be clear in identifying priority infra and services.
4. [REACTION] A national road plan is based on HDM 4, which is actually under the premise of asset preservation. 
(R) HDM-4 is mainly for pavement management and is a tool for planning for the maintenance (i.e., preservation) of roads/highways. It is not a tool that will allow for the determination of what new highways or expressways need to be built and where. For this purpose capacity is required to be able to to travel demand forecasting including the use of tools that are more appropriate for this purpose such as CUBE, VISSUM and STRADA.
5. [REACTION] I think we should not concentrate on the creation of a national master plan alone but on which project budget has to be prioritized.
(R) It is not suggested that we stop working on programs and projects and concentrate on coming up with a master plan. In fact, work on a transport infrastructure master plan may be undertaken in parallel with other endeavors. One reason why we stray from the straight path (daang matuwid) is because we don’t have a firm grip on the bigger picture that is supposed to guide us in prioritizing projects. True that we shouldn’t concentrate on the creation of a master plan but it is also true is that we should prioritize based on what the “roadmap” requires and not which project seems attractive at present. This is why basic infra like certain bridges and roads are not built because funds are diverted elsewhere.
I would like to believe that the private sector is looking for a reference as they formulate project proposals. Without a reference, they will continue to come up with projects that are attractive to them but may not necessarily fit the whole scheme of things in terms of prioritization. As such, the government is usually at a loss on how to situate projects within a supposed framework when one, the framework may be outdated or two, there is no framework at all. Consequently, government technical staff are reduced to evaluating project proposals without the benefit of checking whether it is appropriate. The ideal situation is that the government should be able to guide the private sector and donor agencies for where investments should be placed. Ultimately, it is government’s responsibility to the people to build the required infrastructure while minimizing the wastage of resources.

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