MANILA - An ally of President Rodrigo Duterte in the Senate filed a bill seeking to grant him emergency powers to address traffic congestion in the country.
Sen. Francis Tolentino described traffic jams as a "national emergency requiring urgent, immediate and sweeping solutions, for the general welfare of the Filipino people."
Tolentino was head of the agency in charge of Metro Manila traffic for 6 years before serving as Duterte's political adviser. He won a 6-year Senate term last May.
Under Tolentino's measure, the transportation secretary will serve as the country's traffic crisis czar, who will be under the direct control of the President.
The traffic czar will implement and complete projects under the government’s massive infrastructure program and deal with site and right-of-way acquisitions and procurement.
The czar will also be tasked to reform the transportation system and ensure that the the use of the country’s roads, bridges and infrastructure are maximized.
Under the proposal, the czar may also enter into direct contracting and alternative modes of procurement for priority infrastructure projects. It also suspends the protest mechanism provided under the procurement law.
The bill also seeks the creation of a Traffic Crisis Action and Mobilization Plan, which will lay down the duties of various agencies on traffic management, list priority projects, produce an integrated traffic management plan, rationalize the route of land, sea and air public transport, and clear sidewalks, among others.
Private roads, including those within villages and subdivisions, may also be opened for public use, according to the bill.
The bill also states that only the Supreme Court can issue halt orders on the acquisition of sites for infrastructure projects, execution of transportation projects, opening of private village gates, and termination of any transportation project.
The emergency powers granted to the President shall only last for two years from the effectivity of the measure. The bill also creates a congressional oversight committee on the implementation of the measure.
A 2017 study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency said the Philippines loses P3.5 billion a day due to traffic and congestion in Metro Manila.