A Senate committee recommended Wednesday that President Rodrigo Duterte be granted emergency powers to address the worsening vehicular traffic in the Philippines.
In her speech sponsoring Senate Bill 1284 or An Act Compelling the Government to Address the Transportation and Congestion Crisis through the Grant of Emergency Powers to the President, Senate public services committee chair Sen. Grace Poe described traffic as a "virus engulfing the nation."
She said that when commerce and commuters move in a pace that is "slow and unsafe," the toll is high in terms of health, economy and productivity.
Poe pegged the annual economic cost of traffic in Metro Manila to be P876 billion.
"Traffic does not only drain gas tanks, it zaps out our energy, and makes us feel less happy. Traffic does not only break down cars but, sabi nga ng mga millennials, break up relationships na rin (as millenials say, it even breaks up relationships)," she said.
She also said the burden to solve the traffic crisis suddenly fell on the legislative branch even though the executive branch can execute some plans.
"To them, I say, 'Get off your office chairs, and act now.' You should inspire the people to have confidence in you, and that will only happen if your actions will spur results," she said.
"Nonetheless, we are granting emergency powers to the President because losing P3 billion a day due to traffic is alarming enough to constitute a crisis," she added.
The senator said lawmakers hope to harmonize local traffic laws, provide alternative procurement procedures and compel the executive branch to come up with a mid-term traffic crisis plan and implement existing ones.
Around 50 percent of Metro Manila’s road networks are operating near saturation level and a study estimates that by 2030, the estimated losses the country will incur from traffic will increase to P6 billion a day, according to Poe.
"Congress needs to declare a national emergency with regard to traffic congestion, because traffic from highly urbanized areas is now spilling over to nearby localities and causing businesses and people to lose money and opportunities," she said.
Poe, however, noted that the bill limits the granting of emergency powers only until the next adjournment of session on June 2019.
"The Constitution does not permit the executive to write its own emergency powers in a D-I-Y fashion. And it is in obedience to the Constitution that we have made the emergency powers time-bound, targeted, transparent, task-oriented, and technology-aided," she said.
The bill will still have to be approved by the plenary before it is passed by the Senate.