By Vanne Terrazola
Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. has urged Sen. Grace Poe to reconsider her position about giving President Duterte emergency powers to solve the worsening traffic condition in the country.
Poe chairs the Senate Committee on Public Services, which deliberated last week Senate Bill No. 213 which seeks the grant of the emergency powers to President Duterte to address the traffic problem.
The hearing ended on a sour note with Poe and the Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade clashing over the need for the special powers.
Poe had lamented the DOTr’s alleged lack of plans specifically intended to ease traffic congestion in the country’s roads.
Revilla, vice chairman to Poe, said he will ask the public services committee to reconsider its supposed decision not to grant the emergency powers.
He filed Senate Resolution No. 133, calling for a national public transport summit to come up with a comprehensive traffic management plan that would lay down the short, medium, and long-term programs and solutions to the traffic crisis.
He saw this as a solution to Poe’s concerns “since the formulation of programs will take time before they can even be finalized and implemented.”
But in the meantime, Revilla said the executive branch should be given powers to act immediately so that the crisis does not worsen further.
“Totoo na marami namang kapangyarihan sa kasalukuyan kahit wala pang emergency powers. Pero mabagal ang usad dahil sa daming proseso at burukrasya (While it is true that agencies have the authority to implement programs without emergency powers, they, however, were slow-paced because of tedious process and bureaucracy),” Revilla said in a statement.
“Emergency powers will facilitate and speed up the action of government. And the Legislature will be there every step of the way exercising its oversight,” he added.
Revilla also said cooler heads should prevail, surmising that the heated exchange of officials could only be a result of frustration over the traffic situation and its solutions.
“Grabe na talaga ang traffic. Ang road rage hindi na lang sa kalsada. Iisa lang naman ang gusto natin, ma-solve ang problema. We have to come to a consensus para magawa ‘yan,” Revilla said, alluding to Poe and Tugade’s exchanges.
(This traffic problem is really serious, road rage is not only present in roads. But we all wanted one thing and that is to solve the problem. We have to come to a consensus to be able to do that.)
The public services committee is set to conduct weekly technical working group meetings to give the DOTr the opportunity to lay out its plans about the emergency powers.
Local transport systems
Meanwhile, the Senate Committee on Local Government started Monday its discussion on Senate Bill No 1012.
The measure seeks to amend the Local Government Code of 1991 and expand the authority of local government units (LGUs) over local public transportation systems.
Sen. Francis Tolentino, local government committee chairman and author of the bill, said the proposal will fast-track transport infrastructure projects of LGUs and ease traffic in their areas.
Tolentino, who also authored SB 213, lamented that tedious processes in the bureaucracy, such as having to seek the approval of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), have delayed several local transport infrastructure projects and even discouraged investors.
SB 1012 would allow the LGUs to undertake sustainable mass public transport systems, like railways, subways, and bus rapid transits, through loans, grants, partnerships and joint ventures.
“This bill will ensure that LGUs, by having that power, can go ahead proceed [with their projects] and at the same time, alleviate traffic,” he said in the hearing.