Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri and House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. met informally on Tuesday night to discuss the differences of their respective chambers on the measure.
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Senate, House reach consensus on Road Board abolition
Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - January 17, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate and the House of Representatives have agreed to come up with a revised version of a bill abolishing the Road Board, which Congress aims to submit to President Duterte for signing into law in the coming days.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri and House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. met informally on Tuesday night to discuss the differences of their respective chambers on the measure.

“We agreed that the amendments will be short and simple,” Zubiri told journalists, describing the meeting as successful.

The amendments that will be written into the measure include remitting of all collections from motor vehicle user’s charge (MVUC) to the National Treasury; expanding the menu of projects the MVUC will fund to include construction, repair and rehabilitation of roads, bridges and drainage projects; and listing of the projects in the annual General Appropriations Act.

The MVUC is taken from the annual registration fees of motor vehicles and estimated to be at P46 billion as of end-2018.

The fund is being administered and disbursed by the Road Board without having to pass through Congress. 

The meeting was called following a senators’ caucus, after the House announced that its contingent bicameral conference committee was ready to sit down with the Senate to come up with a reconciled version of the bill.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon last week warned against accepting the House’s invitation.

Drilon said it could be a ruse to drag the legislative process that would end up with the Road Board not being abolished due to lack of time.

Congress will go on a break next month to give way for the electoral campaign.

Drilon wanted the Senate to ignore the invitation and simply transmit the bill to Duterte for his signature, noting the House also approved the measure but later wanted to take it back.

The Senate passed its version of the measure in February last year while the House approved its counterpart bill in May.

The two chambers convened the bicameral conference committee to reconcile conflicting provisions of their versions of the measure.

However, in September, upon the motion of Sen. Manny Pacquiao, the Senate decided to adopt the House version to hasten the transmittal of the measure to Malacañang and obviate the need to convene the committee.

The Senate’s move was apparently meant to dismiss the House’s formal request to recall the measure.

The Senate and House versions of the bill retained the MVUC as an off-budget item, which means the projects would not have to pass through congressional approval.

Recto moved to have the bill amended in order to include the MVUC funds and its projects in the annual national budget, necessitating the convening of the bicameral conference committee.

Zubiri said the Senate would simply recall the adoption of the House version in a plenary session so the bicameral committee can convene.

The House yesterday passed on second reading House Bill 7436, which seeks to abolish the Road Board.

House lawmakers were elated that both chambers of Congress reached common ground on how to go about the abolition, without the bogus attempt to shut down the agency. 

“The House-Senate consensus spared the President from signing a defective bill, which some powerful interests wanted him to. The attempt to hoodwink the President has been foiled,” Andaya said. 

Andaya issued the statement after reaching a “consensus” with Zubiri and Recto during the meeting. 

“We have long advocated for a real, and not the fake, abolition of the Road Board. The version that was pushed by the previous House leadership merely created three powerful road kings,” Andaya said, with an obvious swipe at ousted speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.  

Under the bill of the Alvarez speakership, the graft-ridden Road Board was not to be totally abolished since its powers will be relegated to three agencies – the Departments of Public Works and Highways, Transportation and Environment and Natural Resources. – With Delon Porcalla

ROAD BOARD ABOLITION
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