The grant of emergency powers to President Duterte may not achieve its desired goal of addressing the transportation crisis in the country as many of the government’s proposed traffic-related projects are not funded in the budget, senators pointed out yesterday.
Michael Varcas, File photo
‘Emergency powers may not solve traffic crisis’
Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - October 13, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – The grant of emergency powers to President Duterte may not achieve its desired goal of addressing the transportation crisis in the country as many of the government’s proposed traffic-related projects are not funded in the budget, senators pointed out yesterday.

During the final hearing of the Senate committee on public services on the emergency powers being sought by the administration, senators hit the Department of Transportation (DOTr) for the vague provisions in its proposed “Traffic and Congestion Crisis Act” submitted to the panel.

Upon questioning by Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto, Transportation Undersecretary Jerry de Guzman admitted many of the road, maritime, aviation and rail projects listed by the DOTr in the bill were not funded in the proposed P3.35-trillion national budget for 2017 or did not have feasibility studies or engineering plans yet.

The total cost of transport-related projects in the DOTr’s emergency powers bill is pegged at P1.275 trillion.

Recto cited the proposed P220-billion subway and P45-billion Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system – two projects pushed by the DOTr as solving traffic congestion – as listed in the proposed 2017 General Appropriations Act (GAA).

De Guzman said only P39 billion out of the total cost of the projects to be covered by the proposed emergency powers were included in the proposed 2017 budget.

“Aren’t you talking with the DBM (Department of Budget and Management)? As early as July, I called on you (DOTr) to earmark funds in the 2017 budget (for the projects),” Recto chided De Guzman.

“So even if we give you emergency powers, there is no funding source,” the senator said.

De Guzman said since many of the projects they proposed were not funded in the 2017 proposed budget, they were hoping that Congress would also approve funding for them.

Recto, however, pointed out that the proposed emergency powers bill was different from a supplemental budget or a proposed GAA.

Recto described the DOTr’s proposal as having “no focus,” adding he even found a provision stating that Duterte be given the powers to create, reorganize and abolish offices when the President already has such powers.

He also cited a provision that mentioned the “formulation of decongestion and transportation network reform plan,” which meant the government did not have a comprehensive plan yet to address the crisis.

Recto and Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the panel, likewise questioned the authority of the proposed traffic czar, whom the DOTr proposed would have jurisdiction all over the country.

Poe said the panel in consultation with concerned agencies would limit the powers of the proposed central traffic authority to areas or cities that were experiencing transportation crises.

 

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