MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday denied asking for emergency powers from Congress to address the traffic problem in Metro Manila and other urban areas in the country.
“You hear me something like, ‘I’m asking this power to expedite the traffic.’ Wala kayong narinig. It was the councilors and maybe [Transportation Secretary Arthur] Tugade because that was what he needs to do the right thing. Pero wala kayong narinig sa akin,” Duterte said in his speech during the mass oath-taking of his appointees.
Duterte said he kept mum on the issue so he would not be accused of seeking too much power.
“Right at the start, nag shut up ako, nagsara talaga ako. And I never mentioned it to anybody, not even with Speaker [Pantaleon] Alvarez and the Senate President. They come here to talk to me. Matanong ninyo sila. I never said na ‘Bigyan ninyo ako,’” he said.
During his first State of the Nation Address in 2016, Duterte asked Congress for emergency powers to solve crippling traffic jams that cost the economy P2.4 billion daily.
Duterte said back then that Congress' action was "the urgent and immediate solution" to the worsening traffic situation.
However, more than a year since Duterte assumed office, no emergency powers have been approved by Congress as the bill seeking such was not certified as urgent by the President.
Senator Grace Poe has urged Duterte to certify the emergency powers bill, which she sponsored, as urgent. The bill, if passed into law, will remove certain barriers in the implementation of transportation projects.
Certifying the bill as urgent will allow Congress to pass it on second and third reading on the same day.
The administration has been pitching its “Build, Build, Build” program as one of the main solutions to the heavy traffic in the capital, but it will take years before the promised roads and other infrastructure get built.