By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senators are expected to decide on the next step that should be taken with regard the proposed abolition of the Road Board, and where the funds from the motor vehicles user’s charge (MVUC), or road user’s tax should go after it is dissolved.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said on Monday that members of the Upper Chamber will meet in a caucus when they resume sessions on January 14.
Among their agenda, he said, will be the controversial agency, particularly, whether or not to convene a bicameral conference committee that will tackle the bill proposing its abolition.
House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya had recently said that congressmen were ready for the bicam.
“That will be part of our caucus on the 14th. I’m calling for one right after the roll call at 10 am,” Sotto told reporters in a text message.
There has been debate about convening a bicameral committee on the Road Board since the Senate had already adopted the House of Representative’s version of the measure for the planned abolition. The House, however, has since rescinded the final approval of their own bill and insisted on a “better” version.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, earlier, proposed that a bicam be convened to thresh out issues with the House, and strengthen the abolition of the Road Board. Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, on the other hand, found it unnecessary.
But Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, on Monday, said he believed that they can take advantage of the bicam to transfer the MVUC funds, currently pegged at P45 billion, to the national budget as some lawmakers have proposed.
“Better to convene bicam and ensure that all funds go thru the GAA (General Appropriations Act). And eventually line item all appropriation. That way it can not be abused very easily,” Recto said.
Meanwhile, other senators also supported President Duterte’s plan to use the multi-billion peso road user’s tax for infrastructure and flood-control projects in the Bicol region after the onslaught of tropical depression “Usman.”
Senator Panfilo Lacson said it could be tackled when they resume sessions next week, starting with their scrutiny on the proposed P3.757-trillion 2019 national budget before submitting it to the President for signature.
“Both suggestions may be supported, as long as the usage is compliant with the provisions of RA 8794 which include a menu list that specifies and limits the description of the projects to be implemented utilizing the proceeds of the MVUC,” Lacson said.
Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito, for his part, maintained that a portion of the MVUC funds be retained for road safety projects.
“While I support PRRD’s proposal, I suggest that the portion for road safety projects will be retained and the remaining portion be allotted for the suggestion of the President. We cannot sacrifice the whole road safety program, this would mean saving lives, too,” Ejercito said.