MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday urged Congress to grant him emergency powers to fix the traffic problem in Metro Manila as well as back his push to shift to a federal form of government.
Going beyond his prepared statements in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA), Duterte urged Congress to hurry up and push for a federal form of government in the next couple of years before he steps down from office in 2022.
"You call for a referendum and then a presidential election and I will go...You must have a president, wala na ako nun. Do not worry about me. I do not have much ambition," he said.
"Nanalo nga ako, hindi ko alam kung bakit nandito ako. Dati nandoon lang ako," he added, to laughter from the lawmakers.
Duterte also urged lawmakers to grant emergency powers in order to address the traffic problem, pointing out that the situation needs an immediate solution.
"Alam naman ninyo na sagad na. If you give it, fine. If not, we will take the longer route. Slowly," he said.
He also dispelled doubts from lawmakers that granting emergency powers would lead to graft and corruption. "I assure you, this will be a clean government," he said.
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade earlier said proposed emergency powers include favoring direct contracting over public bidding for transportation-related projects, opening private subdivision roads to traffic, and removing transport terminals and public markets located on busy highways.
Tugade said Duterte has rolled out several measures to ease crippling traffic, even before Congress grants him "special powers."
Traffic jams have become a daily misery in the Philippine capital of 12 million people with its flood-prone roads and rundown trains.
Duterte earlier cited the traffic nightmare in Metro Manila as he apologized for declining invitations to serve as guest honor in various events.
A study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency said the country loses P2.4 billion daily due to traffic.
Traffic to cost PH P6-B a day in 2030: JICA