By Genalyn Kabiling
The government is mulling over the use of the special road funds to bankroll the cleanup and rehabilitation of Manila Bay.
The utilization of the road users’ tax for government projects was discussed during the Cabinet meeting convened by President Duterte in Malacañang last Monday.
“The Cabinet also discussed that the special road funds can be used to finance hospital needs and the cleanup of the Manila Bay,” Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
“A portion of the fund can also be used to benefit those affected by TD (tropical depression) Usman specially those in the Bicol Region,” he added.
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu recently announced plans to lead the rehabilitation of Manila Bay this year, hinting a crackdown on those polluting the historic bay.
Cimatu said the 2008 Supreme Court order to concerned government agencies to clean up, rehabilitate and preserve Manila Bay must finally be enforced by the government especially the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
The President earlier said he wanted to use revenues from the P46-billion road tax for flood control projects in Bicol which endured floods and landslides during the onslaught of tropical depression Usman.
He also backed the abolition of the Road Board due to the alleged corruption in the agency, saying the management of the funds could be transferred to the Department of Public Works and Highways.
In the same Cabinet meeting, Panelo said they discussed the proposed creation of a new government department to lead disaster mitigation and response in times of calamities and other emergencies.
“The importance of the creation of a disaster department was stressed to address the emerging challenges to disaster resiliency,” he said.
He said the Cabinet was also given a briefing on the damage left by tropical depression Usman as well as the relief assistance provided by concerned agencies to calamity victims.
“The meeting ended with the good news noting that the average inflation rate under the Duterte Administration is at 3.6 percent which falls within the government’s target range of 2-4 percent,” Panelo said.