Emergency powers, revisited

- Boo Chanco - The Philippine Star

Sayang! The Transportation department lost a golden opportunity to convince the senators they need emergency powers. When asked how they intend to use emergency powers to ease traffic, a Transport usec responded that it would help in procurement.

Wrong answer! We had a bad experience the last time Congress granted emergency powers to FVR to fix the power crisis… and it involved procurement of expensive power plants.

FVR’s man at Napocor failed to use this emergency power judiciously. He overbought power plants and we ended up with a surplus. As a result, we had to pay for power we did not use. It caused our electricity rates to rise dramatically.

True, the Transport people will need emergency powers to help them get spare parts and supplies faster, but that’s not the main reason they need it. They need emergency powers to help them get some relief from some laws and bureaucratic procedures to get their job done faster.

For example, there are 17 mayors and 17 city councils passing ordinances that cover traffic in their streets. Some of those streets are needed as alternative routes to EDSA and C-5.

They may have ordinances that allow parking in some of those streets or allow two way traffic when one way would move traffic faster. Or the LGU may allow some sidewalk vendors to operate even if they block the sidewalks and spillover into the street.

Sec. Tugade, acting through the traffic czar, the HPG chief, should be able to override those LGU rules and ordinances as they see fit. They should also be able to require a single ticketing system for traffic violations. That means they must have the same traffic codes.

They will need emergency powers to immediately take possession of land for expropriation as part of the Right of Way (ROW) for a major project like the NLEX-SLEX Connector Road Project of San Miguel. That project is expected to ease traffic in both EDSA and C-5 by 50 percent. They still have to acquire 90 percent of the land they need.

No long court battles… no TROs… land values will be determined according to market value used by the BIR, amount deposited in escrow until all the paperwork has been accomplished. But in the meantime, the bulldozers can move in and the construction of the elevated expressway will not be delayed.  

They will need emergency powers to completely revamp our bus transportation system. Bus routes will be rationalized and franchises canceled and reformulated in a way that will provide the right number of buses serving the right routes at the right time. Without emergency powers, they will be tied down by TROs and court suits.

Indeed, emergency powers will be needed to also reformulate the jeepney and UV routes. What we have now grew out of chaos and that is why it is a mess out there.

I am sure there are other things they need to do that will be helped by emergency powers other than getting exemption from the Procurement Act.

Then again… emergency powers can be used to quickly get the spare part needed to fix the ILS of NAIA. Or the spare parts needed by MRT-3.

Emergency powers may be needed to complete the extension of LRT-2. At least two other contracts needed were not awarded by the Abaya DOTC. We may end up with the superstructure completed, but no train can run on it yet.

Then again, the Transport department doesn’t need emergency powers to alleviate the sufferings of airline passengers stranded inside their diverted planes at Clark. They simply need to change rules.

I heard they have finally agreed to issue a memorandum that will give the plane pilot discretion to allow passengers to disembark if they are stuck at Clark beyond two hours. I think two hours is still too long a time to be twiddling one’s thumbs. One hour is more than enough.

There are 28 to 30 diverted flights to Clark almost daily these days. Those diverted planes need to load fuel, and if there is only one delivery hose, that will take an eternity.

The problem is… Clark signed an exclusive contract with a small independent player who may not have the means to scale up operations. They should be able to simply nullify that exclusive contract … no emergency power needed.

The thing is… diverted flights will be normal in the foreseeable future… think three years or more. NAIA is simply unable to take in more flights. Any improvements from better management will be more than eaten up by traffic growth.

Ready or not, Clark will have to play a key role in addressing the problem. Clark must dramatically improve its capability to take in all those additional flights. They may need emergency powers to quickly buy additional equipment like those stairs used to disembark passengers. They only have two of those.

Consider another fact of life now for flights to NAIA: a 40-minute holding pattern that wastes gasoline, scares the hell out of passengers with all that banking turns and still end up having to be diverted to Clark. Passenger time wasted is horrible. Both the Transport department and the airlines have to be more creative in their thinking.

I was thinking… why not require most domestic flights during the peak hours of the day to make a mandatory stop at Clark, allow passengers who want to disembark to do so (checked bags properly tagged for Clark).

Instead of going around NAIA’s airspace waiting for the signal to land, they can wait on the ground, at Clark. That saves fuel used in 40 or more minutes of circling NAIA. It may eventually help develop a market for flights out of Clark as people realize it is the saner option to escape Manila’s traffic on air and on land.

They also do not need emergency powers to implement projects the Abaya DOTC failed to implement. This includes privatization of the Operations and Maintenance (O and M) of five domestic airports. This assures more efficient operations, as we have seen in Mactan and soon at Caticlan.

I am glad to hear that Sec. Art Tugade is also going to bring up for NEDA approval the privatization of the O and M of NAIA itself. All the paperwork had been completed by the PPP Center a year ago. Having seen government’s incompetence in managing NAIA, letting the private sector handle its O and M is a no-brainer.

Indeed, Congress should amend the CAAP charter to make it a purely regulatory agency. All its current operational responsibilities should be transferred to the privatized airport management.

That’s the only way to always have functioning essential navigation equipment like the ILS in both NAIA and Mactan. Incidentally, I heard that thanks to my column last week, they looked into the Mactan situation and I have been assured their ILS will be operational in four months.

Emergency powers? Sure the Transport department needs it to speed up its work. But there are also a lot of things they can do right away without it. They just have to know which is which.

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is bchanco@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco.


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