By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senate President Vicente Sotto III has renewed his proposal to create a Department of Public Safety in local government units for better disaster and emergency response and traffic management system.
Sotto filed Senate Bill 239, or his proposed Public Safety Act, seeking to establish a public safety department, or DPS, in every province, city and municipality.
“The Department of Public Safety will augment law enforcement, oversee the operations of private security agencies and security guards, clear sidewalks and public spaces of obstruction and mitigate the effects of disasters and calamities,” Sotto said in explaining the bill.
“This measure also allows for contiguous municipalities and cities to jointly establish collective command and control centers and emergency response and management systems pending the ability of certain municipalities and cities to establish their own independent centers and systems,” he said.
Under SB 239, the proposed DPS, which would be under the control and supervision of the provincial governor, city or mayor, will implement public order and safety laws and ordinances, help reduce traffic congestion and address the effects of man-made and natural disasters.
It shall have a central command and control center and emergency response and management system that will monitor and respond to contingencies.
The DPS will also be given authority to issue temporary terminal permits to public utility vehicles and manage public utility terminals and issue traffic clearance certificates to business establishments.
The department will also have the power to clear sidewalks, public parks and other public areas of obstructions such as unauthorized structures or fixtures and unlicensed vendors.
It shall monitor, supervise and issue security clearances and business or work permits to private security agencies and security guards.
In pushing for the bill’s approval in the 18th Congress, Sotto pointed out that economic and other losses result from deaths, injuries and property damage due to crime and natural or man-made disasters and calamities.
He also noted the worsening traffic congestion in Metro Manila which, according to the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), costs P3.5 billion in lost opportunities per day and could balloon to P5.4 billion if not addressed.