DOTr not giving up on emergency powers bid yet

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 05 2019 03:59 PM

MANILA - The administration of President Duterte has not given up on seeking emergency powers to end Manila’s traffic crisis.

The 17th Congress failed to pass a bill granting emergency powers for the president to fix the traffic problems in Metro Manila, Cebu City and Davao City. 

During the transportation department’s 2020 budget briefing before the House Appropriations Committee, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade discussed their basket of solutions which he said may be implemented even without the grant of emergency powers. 

Tugade reminded lawmakers that solving the traffic crisis is the shared responsibility of the Department of Transportation (DOTr), the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, the local government units, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, the Land Transportation Office, and the Highway Patrol Group.

Tugade said the DOTr’s contribution to this effort is in terms of policy, structure and system. This covers the review of existing transport franchises, routes and the launch of the motor vehicle inspection system to determine a vehicle’s roadworthiness.

Also part of their basket of solutions are banning loading and unloading points in front of malls and transferring these inside the malls; synchronization of traffic lights and stricter parking rules; improving the MRT to increase its ridership; construction of new railway systems; a bus augmentation system and the construction of common stations.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman pointed out that other countries addressed traffic congestion without emergency powers. 

However, Tugade emphasized that unless Congress gives the President emergency powers, the implementation of solutions will be very slow.

The DOTr chief said the solutions will be in conflict with some laws, like procurement and right-of-way laws that can slow down implementation. He also noted that projects are usually affected by court injunctions. 

“Our situation is unique…because of the uniqueness, we need unique solutions,” he said.

He added, several projects are already in the pipeline but progress has been slow as these have been affected by issues on right of way and local government units.

Tugade maintained that the emergency powers the administration seeks will be time-bound and subject to congressional oversight.

Lagman, however, pointed out that there are already existing laws banning injunctions on infrastructure projects, and that there are also exemptions from procurement laws government can invoke.

In the same hearing, Tugade told Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate that the railway systems of the government would be turned over to the private sector for operations and maintenance once construction or rehabilitation is complete. However, no private contractor has been selected yet.

Tugade said he would like government to be a regulator instead of being the operator to prevent the recurrence of problems that plagued the MRT3, the rain which runs on EDSA. 

He concurred with Zarate’s request for copies of the contracts for the railways.

Several bills giving Duterte emergency powers are now pending before the House Committee on Transportation.

For 2020, the DOTr is seeking a P147.022-billion budget which is 112.29% higher than its 2019 budget. The DOTr is spending over P108-billion on infrastructure projects, P106.68-billion will go to railways, P346.46-million to aviation, P507.506-million for maritime, and P101-million to the road sector.

A total of P6.06-billion will be used to subsidize the MRT3 for equity rental payments pursuant to the BLT agreement; P84.73-B will go to the North South Commuter Railway Systems; P9.7-B to the Metro Manila Subway Project Phase 1; P74.04-M to the LRT Line 1 Cavite Extension Project; P96.14-M to the Mindanao Railway Project; P877.13-M to the PNR South Long Haul Project; and P5.06-B to MRT3 Rehabilitation Project.