With a large population that continues to expand and further increases social and economic requirements, the country’s premier metropolis ought to be governed by a government agency with police power to solve chronic problems of traffic, flooding, zoning, etc.
This is why Metro Manila, consisting of 16 cities and one municipality, must be run like a typical local government unit or like a provincial government with a governor, vice governor, and local legislators who can enact local laws that would address metro-wide concerns and have an impact on the entire National Capital Region.
As of now, the ability of the Metro Manila Development Authority to orchestrate programs and policies that have a metro-wide impact is limited. It would be rendered helpless if any of the NCR’s component LGUs decide to pursue policies that would adversely affect another neighboring LGU.
What would happen if, for example, an LGU allows a slaughter house to operate at the fringes of its territory right beside a residential section of another LGU’s jurisdiction? What if half of the LGUs in Metro Manila decide not to support the supposedly metro-wide vehicle number coding scheme designed to ease monstrous traffic jams?
The helplessness of the MMDA to stand up against component LGUs became obvious in 2013 when a bus ban went into effect in Manila to ease traffic in the nation’s capital. The move led to traffic buildup at a major roadway in Quezon City leading to Manila where passengers had to alight from the buses that had to turn back, resulting in widespread complaints from commuters, particularly students who had to shell out extra fare money to reach their schools in the University Belt.
The incident was a glaring example of why one city or municipality cannot isolate itself from its neighboring LGUs and solve its problems within its jurisdiction without regard for the consequences of its action on its neighbors.
Basic metro-wide public services rendered by LGUs can be administered more efficiently and economically if integrated under a system of central planning. Plans and programs decided upon by LGUs ought to be coordinated and orchestrated by a central body.
But MMDA’s ability to act against LGUs is hampered due to two major reasons. One is the fact that the head of the MMDA is not elected. Being an appointed official who serves at the pleasure of the President, the MMDA chairman’s political clout, if ever the post has even a semblance of it, is deemed inferior to that of an elected Metro Manila mayor.
Another reason why the MMDA, created by RA 7924, seems powerless against component LGUs that act like “separate republics” is because it does not possess the same powers of a typical local government.
“There is no syllable in RA No. 7924 that grants the MMDA police power, let alone legislative power. Even the Metro Manila Council has not been delegated any legislative power,” the Supreme Court said in a March 2000 ruling.
Without police or legislative power, the MMDA is merely a coordinating and monitoring body handling seven metro-wide basic services: (1) development planning; (2) transport and traffic management; (3) solid waste disposal and management; (4) flood control and sewerage management; (5) urban renewal, zoning and land use planning, and shelter services; (6) health and sanitation, urban protection and pollution control; and (7) public safety.
The functions and powers of the MMDA are so unlike that of its forerunner, the Metro Manila Commission (MMC) which I headed right after the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolt. Created by Presidential Decree 824 in 1975, the MMC had the legislative power to “review, amend, revise or repeal all ordinances, resolutions and acts of cities and municipalities within Metro Manila.”
The MMC was established in response to “the rapid growth of population and the corresponding increase of social and economic requirements in the contiguous communities” in need of “simultaneous and unified development.”
“Whereas, many public services now rendered by local governments separately for themselves may and should be administered more efficiently and more economically, to the common benefit of the cities and municipalities in the area, if they are integrated and harmonized, under a system of central planning which would take separate municipal needs into account as a common problem,” the MMC law said in 1975.
At present, the need for Metro Manila to be governed like a typical LGU to be run by elected officials has become even more pressing.