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4-day work week pushed amid hellish traffic jams

/ 03:20 AM February 18, 2014

GROUND ZERO. This road signmarks the spot where the construction of the Skyway Stage 3 project will start along South Luzon Expressway in Makati City. But formotorists, it might as well indicate the pace of traffic per hour once construction starts this week. GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

MANILA, Philippines—The prospect of hellish traffic jams in Metro Manila with two major road projects beginning simultaneously on Monday night has prompted a Quezon City lawmaker to revive his push for a four-day work week for government employees to help ease the anticipated gridlock.

Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo, who chairs the House committee on Metro Manila development, said his proposal would reduce the commuting time for state employees and provide a measure of comfort by giving them an extra day off.

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This is especially important now in light of the looming traffic jams expected to result from the construction of the Skyway project to connect South Luzon Expressway on Gil Puyat Avenue in Makati City to the North Luzon Expressway in Balintawak, Quezon City, and the construction of Ninoy Aquino International Airport Expressway Phase 2 to the Entertainment City gambling hub.

To make up for the extra nonworking day, government workers would have to work for 10 hours a day instead of the usual eight hours, according to Castelo.

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The 10-hour, four-day work week complements a recent proposal from traffic officials to limit school days from five to four days a week as well.

“Our workers serve as our economic backbone. We should not close our eyes to their difficulties, especially now that major infrastructure projects are on their way for their construction,” Castelo told reporters on Monday.

“At no better time than now when megaroad projects in Metro Manila have gotten under way that proactive experimentation should take place,” he added.

The House has long been observing the four-day work week, Castelo said, and this has resulted in government savings, among other things. He said the cutback had not compromised service or productivity.

The lawmaker said his bill, if approved, could lead to 20-percent in savings in work expenses, such as transportation fare and food for the state employees. Employers, on the other hand, could save on maintenance costs and overtime pay for workers.

Better productivity

The shortened work week could also lead to better productivity because it would help workers to be more focused on their tasks, he said.

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The extra rest day would give government workers more time to spend with their families or pursue leisure activities, and this could make them more revitalized and motivated, Castelo said.

They could even use the additional day off to hone their skills so that they would be more competitive in the labor market, he added.

Castelo said he decided to refile his bill in the 16th Congress even before the megaroad projects took off because he had observed that many workers were being stressed out by worsening daily traffic and becoming less productive.

Members of the House independent bloc said they would invite public works, traffic and other officials involved in the 14.8-kilometer Skyway project to a hearing to provide details of the impending road works.

Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez said having more in-depth data about the major road projects would help Congress come up with ways to mitigate the effects of the road works.

Romualdez said this should not be taken as opposition to progress. “We wish it would’ve come earlier… so we’re stuck with a much delayed and last-minute project,” he said.

He also said the public should know how much the toll would be once the Skyway extension is completed because this could also lead to increased fares and trigger a demand for higher salaries.

Brace for the worst

Residents of the capital went through the usual traffic snarls that would likely worsen in the coming years as the Aquino administration belatedly implements 15 infrastructure projects.

“We are informing the general public to brace for the traffic situation that we will be encountering for the next four years,” Francisco Manalo, executive director of the capital’s traffic office, said as angry commuters took to social media to vent their frustrations.

Manalo warned that once construction begins, travel on the city’s main roads will be reduced to a crawling speed of 1 to 9 kilometers per hour, compared to the already slow, normal 20 kph.

Motorists and commuters fearful of getting stuck on the roads left home earlier than usual on Monday. But with so many vehicles on the road as the day began, traffic in and around Manila was snarled for hours in the morning.

“Traffic armageddon begins in Manila!!” tweeted San Crisselle Tiu, while Chay1007 said she had to bring an “extra [supply] of patience.”

Once actual construction begins, it can take a vehicle at least two hours to travel the 19-km stretch of the city’s main thoroughfare, warned Vicente Lizada, spokesman for the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority’s traffic monitoring office. The authority has asked contractors to provide staff to help direct traffic.—With a report from AFP

 

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TAGS: Metro Manila, Quezon City, Skyway 3, traffic
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