MANILA - Various bills seeking emergency powers for President Rodrigo Duterte to curb traffic congestion in the Philippines have been filed at the Lower House.
Former President and now Pampanga 2nd District Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has proposed a Metro Manila Traffic Crisis Powers Act which seeks to authorize the President to enter into negotiated contracts for the construction, repair, rehabilitation, improvement or maintenance of critical infrastructure, projects and facilities, subject to certain requirements.
Arroyo's proposal also seeks to empower the President to reorganize the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to make it more effective, innovative and responsive to the traffic crisis in Metro Manila.
Her proposal likewise seeks to mandate the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) to set aside 10% of its annual aggregate gross earnings for the next five years as subsidy to MMDA.
Arroyo's proposal says the authority granted to the President under this Act shall subsist, be valid and effective for a period of two years from the effectivity of the Act, unless sooner withdrawn by a resolution of Congress.
READ: Duterte asks for 'emergency powers' to solve traffic crisis
A House bill proposed by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and representatives Rodolfo Farinas, Rolando Andaya Jr., Michael John Duavit, Carlos Cojuangco, Elisa Kho, Raneo Abu, Benhur Salimbangon, Danilo Suare, Rodel Baticabe and Karlo Alexei Nograles, meanwhile, is known as the Traffic Crisis Act of 2016.
Their proposal seeks to authorize the President to reorganize the Transportation Department, with the Land Transportation Office (LTO), Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB), MMDA, Toll Regulatory Board for land transport, and Civil Aviation Board (CAB) and Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) for air traffic concerns; to create and establish a centralized traffic authority both on air and on land, empowered to address all traffic concerns.
Part of the proposal is the creation and establishment of a mass transportation system, the transfer of transport terminals to decongest choke points in Metro Manila and to create or immediately establish or designate alternative international airports and the creation of parallel runways; the transfer of public markets on busy highways, opening up private subdivision roads to non-resident motorists with the option to provide non-fiscal incentives, the issuance and implementation of rules, requirements, conditions and qualifications for ownership, registration, possession and maintenance of public and private vehicles to relieve the highways of old decrepit vehicles; exercise state power of eminent domain to appropriate private property, the power to enter into negotiated contracts; establish new infrastructure, revival of the RORO, the implementation of the road map for transport infrastructure development for Metro Manila and surrounding areas.
Separately, Bohol Rep. Arthur Yap in his own bill also wants to empower the President to reorganize the MMDA, Transportation Department and DPWH, designate and appoint a traffic czar, exercise right of eminent domain by expropriating private property, reform the mass transport systems, reorient traffic enforcement units, immediately resolve transport and infrastructure issues, be exempted from procurement rules, be entitled to legal assistance and indemnification, formulate holistic and long term plans for transport and traffic management and be exempted from legal injunctions.
Abu has also filed a separate bill that does not grant emergency powers but which seeks to regulate the sale of motor vehicles in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, Metro Davao and other highly urbanized cities by requiring proof of parking space or facility as a prerequisite for the purchase of a motor vehicle.
Minority lawmakers are cold to the emergency powers proposals.
"I do not fully subscribe that the solution to the traffic situation rests on emergency powers given to the administration," said Buhay Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza. "Mas maraming dangers yang emergency powers na yan. Baka di ma-control ni Pangulong Duterte yung mangyayari in the bureaucracy."
Kabayan Party-list Rep. Harry Roque said "traffic is not an emergency," adding that the problems the country is facing right now are the result of incompetence of many past administrations.
"There is nothing that would qualify as an emergency. Mas delikado na isho-shortcut mo ang mga expropriation," Roque said.
Alvarez, in his inaugural speech as Speaker of the House, listed traffic management as a priority.
"As all commuters know, and that includes all of us here, the traffic in Metro Manila and Metro Cebu is simply terrible. We waste so many hours sitting in cars or buses or riding in jampacked and rickety MRT and PNR trains, instead of spending time at work or being with our families at home. PhP 2.4-billion a day is lost to traffic alone," he stressed.
"The situation is, in most certain terms, a true crisis which needs emergency powers to enable the President to act. In this vein, we should revisit and revise the Government Procurement Act. Since its passage into law, many government agencies as well as those in the private sector have felt discomfited with R.A. 9184, as amended. Unlike a free-size shirt, the Procurement Law should not be a one-size-fits-all kind of law. We should put in enough flexibility to address all foreseeable possibilities that may arise in the course of government procurement," he added.