In a hearing held yesterday by the Senate Committee on Public Services, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) retained its stand that the legislation of emergency powers will significantly and quickly resolve traffic issues in greater Metro Manila. DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade, together with sectoral officials and heads of attached agencies, explained that if the emergency powers were granted in previous years, more projects, programs, and policies would have been already implemented.
During the hearing, transport officials highlighted ongoing projects and future plans that will help solve traffic congestion in Metro Manila and Metro Cebu. Despite numerous efforts and ongoing transport projects and programs, though, the DOTr believes it could have done more had emergency powers been granted earlier.
“Kung nabigyan tayo ng emergency powers noon, repaso na lang tayo ngayon. Kami ay umaasa na mabigyang pansin at tugon ang aming hinihiling. Wala ‘ho kaming sinasabi na wala ‘ho kaming nagawa kasi walang emergency power. Wala ‘ho akong sinabing ganyan. Ang sinasabi ko ‘ho, mas marami ‘ho sana kaming nagawa kung meron ‘hong emergency power,” [If we were given emergency powers before, we would only have to review it now. We are hoping that our request will be given attention. We did not say that we were not able to do anything because we did not have emergency power. What I did say is that we could have done so much more if we had emergency power] said DOTr Secretary Tugade said.
With other congressmen and officials in attendance, support was strongly shown for the DOTr. Samar 1st District Representative Edgar Sarmiento said that he hopes for the implementation of initiatives as soon as possible. Congress approved its counterpart bill on emergency powers, House Bill (HB) 6425, or the “Traffic Crisis Act of 2017,” on 03 December 2018.
Just to define, Senate Bill No. 213, or the Special Emergency Power Act, aims to give President Rodrigo Duterte full authorization to initiate measures to solve the country’s traffic problem. The proposed bill will also designate a traffic czar who will exercise all options given to the President.
Given how public transportation, namely buses have earned the watchful eye of traffic management, emergency powers can limit their numbers and operations on the road. “One solution that the emergency powers can resolve is the consolidation of franchises so that all bus units will coordinate as one single unit,” Undersecretary for Road Transport and Infrastructure Mark de Leon added.
For those who are on the worried side, Secretary Tugade clarified that the grant of emergency powers would only last for one to two years, and that the oversight functions of the Congress would still remain. As pointed out by transport officials, the grant of emergency powers would simply allow for the immediate adoption of policy directions that would normally require time-consuming amendment of existing laws and ordinances.
DOTr officials stressed that the provision of emergency powers will further expedite ongoing projects and systems that are needed by the riding public as soon as possible given the worsening traffic situation.
In our recent article, it has been proven that traffic does, indeed, cost lives. Should emergency powers be granted, is there enough political will and will there be enough understanding and cooperation from our fellow citizens to see the solutions through? Until such time, that remains to be seen.