By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Secretary Arthur Tugade denied that the Department of Transportation (DOTr) lacked plans to implement the emergency powers that it is asking from Congress to address the country’s traffic crisis.
Tugade, in a radio interview following the Senate Committee on Public Services hearing on Tuesday, said they were not given the chance to speak about their plans once the requested power was granted to the agency.
“Ang pakiramdam ko kanina ay hindi naman kami binigyan ng pagkakataon nailahad ang mga plano namin tungkol sa emergency powers (I felt that we were not given the opportunity to present our plans about the emergency powers),” Tugade told DZMM.
Senator Grace Poe, committee chairperson, said senators were not convinced with DOTr’s reasons in asking for the traffic emergency powers, believing that existing laws could remedy the agency’s issues with procurement, right-of-way acquisition and court intervention in implementing their projects.
Poe said the DOTr should first submit its specific plans to address the traffic problem.
But Tugade said they were only able to present to the panel plans for the rail sector, as they were cut off by the issues raised by the lawmakers.
“Meron pa pong bahagi ng aming presentasyon na kung saan mapapakita natin ang programa namin sa Kagawaran ng Transportasyon doon sa road sector, doon sa aviation, at doon sa maritime (Our presentation also included the DOTr’s programs for the road sector, aviation sector and maritime sectors),” he said.
Tugade also clarified that transport infrastructure plans were different from traffic management plans. The latter, he said, should be prepared by the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and the local government units, as well as the Land Transportation Office (LTO), Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), and the Philippine National Police’s Highway Patrol Group.
“Magkaiba po ‘yon. Ang nasa amin po, ‘yong transport infrastructure roadmap…Alalahanin po natin na ‘yong MMDA may sarili pong mandato yan at hindi sakop ng DOTr (Those two are different from each other. What we have is a transport infrastructure roadmap. We should also remember that the MMDA has a separate mandate and is not under the DOTr),” he said.
Tugade, on the other hand, agreed with Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto that a more comprehensive master plan would be necessary to carry out the emergency powers.
The DOTr chief, meanwhile, hit back at Poe for insinuating that they were using the lack in emergency powers as an excuse to justify the delays in its projects.
“Alam niyo po, kung maligaya siya sa sinasabi niya na yan, hayaan mo siyang magpakaligaya. Ano yong katotohanan? Tanungin natin ang taong bayan, tignan natin ang kapaligiran. Ano ‘yong nagawa ng Kagawaran ng Transportasyon? Kung happy siya sa sinabi niyang yan, give the happiness to her. But the truth will speak out,” Tugade said.
(You know, if she is happy with what she said, then let her be happy. But what is the truth? Ask our people, look at our surroundings. What has the DOTr done? If she is happy with her statement, give the happiness to her. But the truth will speak out.)
He said he was also not blaming Senate for its inaction on the emergency powers bill, despite saying in his opening statement during the hearing that they could have done more if they were granted the special authority.
Tugade also maintained that the proposed emergency powers were considered by President Duterte as a priority when he mentioned it in his first State of the Nation Address in 2016.
Still, Tugade said the DOTr will heed Poe’s appeal for their participation in the upcoming technical working group meetings on the proposal.
Senate Bill No. 213 filed by Sen. Francis Tolentino, seeks to give the Chief Executive the authority to exercise powers necessary 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.”
Under the bill, the Transportation Secretary will be designated as the “traffic crisis czar” to act as the President’s alter-ego and exercise all the authority given by Congress. It proposes a two-year validity for the emergency powers.
In appealing for the passage of the bill, Tugade said the bill will speed up the implementation of the DOTr’s infrastructure projects which are hampered by the tedious lawmaking process, court injunctions, among others.