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16 June 2009

SBMA: Improved traffic system crucial for Subic-Clark growth

Wondering how to make responsible motorists out of the usually errant Filipino drivers? Bring them to Subic, a top official of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) says.

Proudly citing the world-class traffic management system in the Subic Bay Freeport, SBMA administrator Armand Arreza said that global-competitiveness could start with a most unlikely economic pursuit: traffic discipline.

“If we want to lure more investors and tourists into the country, we should create world-class facilities and support systems for investments, including the fast and orderly transfer of goods and other resources through efficient traffic management,” said Arreza, speaking at the sidelines of the pilot taping here of “The Freeport Forum”, a new television show covering the Subic and Clark free ports.

“The state of vehicular traffic says a lot about a certain place, and investors take first notice of that when scouting for possible locations for their businesses,” Arreza explained.

The SBMA official also called on concerned agencies and government units to step up the traffic management system in the areas between Subic and Clark, which are target areas for expansion of the neighboring free ports, and pledged SBMA’s support in laying down the groundwork for an internationally-competitive investment environment in the area.

“Improvements in the traffic management sector are a major component of Subic’s expansion program to the nearby communities,” Arreza said, mentioning Olongapo City, Subic town in Zambales, and Morong, Hermosa and Dinalupihan in Bataan as target areas for expansion.

He added that to help bring about better traffic management in nearby areas, the SBMA now invites traffic enforcement officers to study and adopt the orderly traffic scheme in the Subic Bay Freeport.

Aside from Arreza, the other guests in the forum were Sec. Edgardo Pamintuan, chairman of the Subic-Clark Alliance Development Council (SCADC), and Benigno Ricafort, president of Clark Development Corporation (CDC).

According to Arreza, Subic Bay’s traffic enforcement scheme, along with the American traffic system, has served as a model for the University of the Philippines’ (UP) Traffic Safety Model Zone — a test bed for a new road order designed to be replicated everywhere in the Philippines.

Likewise, officials from the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx), the Clark Freeport, Bataan, and even Cebu have also studied the Subic system while developing their own traffic management systems, he said.

“Filipinos are basically law-abiding citizens. We just have to get them inside the Subic Bay Freeport first so that this innate discipline would show,” Arreza said with a laugh.

Meanwhile, Lt. Benjamin Evia, SBMA traffic branch chief, explained that the Subic Bay Freeport has basically the same traffic laws as in other areas.

“Subic simply makes a difference because of its strict enforcement policy and a corruption-free standard operating procedure,” Evia said.

“But we are willing to share the success of the SBMA in the field of traffic enforcement. If it can be done in Subic, there’s no question it can be applied to just anywhere in the country,” he added.

Evia said corruption in traffic enforcement could be greatly reduced, if not totally eliminated, when traffic enforcement agencies employ the “minimum interaction with violators” policy, which he said could be traced back to the US Navy days here.

To illustrate, Evia said that Subic traffic enforcers must first radio their headquarters upon flagging a vehicle, and only then could the officer approach the driver and read the traffic violation citations.

The driver ticketed for violation, meanwhile, is not allowed to speak unless questioned during the whole procedure, which is monitored by closed-circuit television cameras at key areas in the Subic Bay Freeport.

“We also have hotlines where motorists could seek help, or even report traffic violators— 9111 for cellphones and 911 for landlines,” said Evia.

The SBMA traffic chief said that besides strict enforcement and smooth communication lines, the Subic system adheres to international standards of road engineering, which includes signage.

This also improves better understanding by both motorists and pedestrians of traffic rules and regulations within the free port, Evia said. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

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