By Genalyn Kabiling
Malacañang is hopeful for the passage of a bill granting emergency powers to President Duterte to help ease traffic congestion in Metro Manila and other urban centers in the country.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo has welcomed the proposed Special Emergency Powers Act filed by neophyte Senator Francis Tolentino, saying Duterte has long wanted such measure to hasten infrastructure development to enhance mobility.
Panelo however could not yet say if the President will certify the measure as urgent.
“I don’t know if it will be certified but we know for a fact that granting him emergency powers will solve many problems affecting the building of infrastructure for instance, the traffic problem in EDSA,” Panelo said during a Palace news conference.
“We hope that it would pass but then again that is left to the wisdom of the members of Congress,” he added.
Panelo admitted that the President previously sought emergency powers to address the traffic congestion in Metro Manila but Congress refused. “The President wanted that at the vey inception of his presidency but Congress did not. Di ba sabi niya, kung ayaw ninyo eh di huwag [Didn’t he say, ‘If you don’t like it, then don’t],” he said.
Tolentino has filed Senate Bill No. 213 seeking the declaration of a national emergency due to traffic congestion and granting the President the authority to exercise powers to address the problem. The areas covered by the emergency powers will include Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, Davao City, Cagayan de Oro City and other highly urbanized cities.
Under the bill, the President shall be given emergency powers to “urgently utilize all necessary government resources, exercise police power and the power of eminent domain, and employ executive actions to ensure effective procurement, implementation, reconfiguration, harmonization, and completion of national and local transportation projects intended to address traffic and congestion crisis.”
The President earlier declared that the government could decongest Manila “without the help of the Senate,” citing the massive infrastructure program.
Dismayed by Congress’s rejection of his proposal due to supposed concerns it would be prone to corruption, Duterte said the government has pursued the Build Build Build program aimed at improving the country’s transport network.
The massive infrastructure program includes construction of roads, bridges, railways and other projects to improve mobility and connectivity.