Government Response

The current administration of President Rodrigo Duterte has identified Manila’s traffic problem as a high priority issue, aiming to fix the issue within 2-3 years. Here are some of the actions and proposals the government has offered so far.

(President Duterte discusses traffic in his first State of the Nation Address [SONA] in June 2016.)

  • The Duterte administration has requested “emergency powers” through Senate Bill No. 11, or the Transportation Crisis Act of 2016, to more efficiently deal with the traffic crisis. Deliberation on these powers has been delayed since last year, and so these have not yet been granted by the Philippine Senate.
  • The Department of Transportation, which is in charge of traffic solutions, has publically emphasized road discipline. It noted that Manila “really needs discipline. [It] can’t just rely on enforcement. Car users need to follow the rules themselves.” The Department has also reformed traffic monitoring systems and lane use on major roads in the city.
  • Infrastructure spending was increased from 5 to 7% of the country’s GDP, to fix issues like road structure and sewer management, and to improve the LRT and MRT train systems to relieve stress off the road.
  • Other plans include rebuilding the Pasig River ferry system, and copying other countries’ transportation systems such as Bolivia’s cable car system.



ABS-CBN. (2017). Emergency powers for Duterte to address traffic further delayed. [video.] Available at: (Accessed March 17, 2017). 

Cruz, C.A., Tan, W. & PH, C., (2016.) The Philippine Traffic Problem: How the New Government Plans to Solve It. Carmudi Philippines Journal. [online] Available at: (Accessed February 26, 2017).

Dumlao-Abadilla, D. (2016). DPWH eyes metro manila traffic improvement in 2-3 years. Rappler. [online] Available at: (Accessed: March 7, 2017). (2016). Duterte enumerates viable, immediate traffic solutions [video.] Available at: (Accessed March 7, 2017).

Rappler, (2016). Dept of Transportation unveils plans to ease Metro Manila traffic. Rappler. [online] Available at: (Accessed February 19, 2017).

Health Impacts

Traffic Congestion is a serious urban problem that has negative impacts on individuals’ physical and psychological health. It causes not only delays, but also pollution and increased fuel consumption. Air pollution has become a serious barrier to the quality of life and even the health of urban populations.

Psychological factors:

In Manila, urban citizens are often stressed and frustrated as their time is wasted in traffic and in this case may result in late arrivals to meetings or employment causing loss of jobs or other disciplinary actions to be taken against them.

Environmental factors:

The most detrimental impact of traffic is its effect on the environment. For instance, throughout the day, vehicles are left idling for hours releasing greenhouse gases into the air, and increasing air pollution overtime.

 (Air Pollution and Traffic in Metro ManilaSource of photo: CreativeCommons) 


Overall, increases in carbon emission as a result of traffic congestion contributes to global warming and it can cause more short-term and localized problems, such as smog, pollution, stress and increased respiratory problems in a community due to poor air quality.


Evans, G.W. & Carrère, S. 1991, “Traffic congestion, perceived control, and psychophysiological stress among urban bus drivers”, Journal of Applied Psychology, vol. 76, no. 5, pp. 658-663.

Evans, G.W., Wener, R.E. & Phillips, D. 2002, “The Morning Rush Hour: Predictability and Commuter Stress”, Environment and Behavior, vol. 34, no. 4, pp. 521-530.

Hennessy, D.A. & Wiesenthal, D.L. 1997, “The relationship between traffic congestion, driver stress and direct versus indirect coping behaviours”, Ergonomics, vol. 40, no. 3, pp. 348-361.

Economic Productivity

More and more people are starting to migrate from rural to urban areas as a result of the rise of new major industries in the city, such as the Business Process Outsourcing Industry. Rural-urban migration is also driven by people’s desires of improving their quality of life.

(Here’s an example of a Business Process Outsourcing Industry. This is TeleTech, a major consulting company in the Philippines from the US. Source of photo: CreativeCommons.)

While Metro Manila has seen a period of unquenchable economic success in the past, it has not, however, been able to properly address the city’s problem of traffic congestion.

Traffic congestion has enormous impacts on the productivity and mobility of its workers:

  • Every year, the city loses about P140 billion (CAD $3.7 million) due to traffic congestion.
  • Metro Manila is the world’s 3rd worst city in the world for driving, next to Beijing and New Delhi.
  • It has a significant impact on the city’s business and leisure travel as well as tourism opportunities due to the lack of proper infrastructure development.
  • The attraction on investments in the city is inhibited by the effects of traffic congestion. eg. Polluted air and the inefficiency of the urban environment.
  • People’s livelihoods have been largely affected by their limited mobility across the city. The more time people spend sitting in traffic, the more they have to wait to reach to improved access to education, healthcare and job opportunities.

Mobility and traffic management are two deeply intertwined elements that could help boost the city’s overall economy and productivity. Without proper investment and collaboration to enhance their transport systems, the megacity will not be able to reach its fullest economic potential like it once did.

(People spend hours sitting in traffic upon their return home after work. Source of photo: Senia L on Flickr.)


“Metropolitan Manile Development Authority; World Bank. 2014. The Metro Manila Greenprint 2030 : Building a Vision. World Bank, Washington, DC. © World Bank. License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.”


Even with though the major road, EDSA highway, has 5 lanes heading north and another 5 heading south, cars are stuck in traffic for hours in Manila.

The problem is intensified due to the city’s hourglass shape. The business district, which inevitably attracts traffic, is located right in the middle of the city, squeezed by Manila bay and Laguna lake on each side, and wider suburbs spread in north and south of the district.

Because the business district is spatially focused in one area, the traffic going to and fro faces difficulties in mobility. The roads are highly concentrated in the business district as seen in the picture below, but with under investment in road infrastructure, road improvement constructions are in need to alleviate the problem.

(Map of Roads in Metro Manila. Source of Photo: Wikimedia Commons)



Economist, T. (2016) Traffic in the Philippines’ capital Slowly does it. Available at: (Accessed: 2 March 2017)

“Metropolitan Manile Development Authority; World Bank. 2014. The Metro Manila Greenprint 2030 : Building a Vision. World Bank, Washington, DC. © World Bank. License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.”

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