Transportation department slammed for lack of solid plan for emergency powers proposal

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Traffic situation along Edsa has been described by some as reaching crisis levels.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Transportation officials on Wednesday admitted they had yet to produce a concrete plan to decongest massive traffic in Metro Manila.

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) defended before the Senate, its draft bill proposing that it be granted emergency powers to deal with the problem of vehicle gridlock in the entire country.

However it admitted it lacked a solid plan of coordination with other relevant agencies to decongest traffic and how to fund these projects estimated to cost billions of pesos.

This was revealed during the fourth and last public hearing by Senate Committee on Public Services headed by Senator Grace Poe.

Provisions of the proposed DOTr bill, titled "Traffic and Congestion Crisis Act," were questioned by Senator Ralph Recto, a member of the committee. He challenged the agency's capability to be the "traffic crisis manager of the entire country."

Recto questioned Section 7 "formulation of the decongestion and transportation network reform plan" of the draft bill.

"May plano na ba talaga kayo o gagawa pa lang (Do you already have plans or none yet?)," Recto asked.

DOTr Undersecretary Raoul Creencia said plans were underway. "There is an ongoing preparation for the DOTr plan but what we would have wanted to formulate is a decongestion plan that will involve all other related agencies."

Recto countered with: "Sa madaling salita, wala pa ngang plano (In other words, there is no plan yet)."

Creencia replied: "Wala pa po (None yet)."

Emergency powers, lack of funding questioned

Recto questioned the DOTr's proposal for emergency powers to deal with traffic nationwide, as Creencia noted that their powers would extend to cities "that are experiencing or on the verge of experiencing traffic problems.”

President Rodrigo Duterte in his first State of the Nation Address on July 25, asked Congress to "accord emergency powers to the agencies concerned" to "logically address" the worsening traffic situation in the country.

The granting of emergency powers will allow the Executive branch to quickly implement much-needed transport solutions which could affect informal settlers, private villages, and businesses in priority areas.

"Ang pinakamalaking problema ngayon (The biggest problem now) would only be, I suppose, in Metro Manila, maybe Cebu and Davao, so why not focus just on the three," Recto said.

The DOTr submitted a list of projects worth P1.275 trillion, but admitted only a few have funding allocated in the agency's budget under the General Appropriations Act.

DOTr Usec. Garry De Guzman said they have P19.7 billion from the 2015-2016, while P227 billion has been allocated to other projects, and P39 billion for infrastructure projects in 2017.

This still leaves a deficit of around P989.3 billion.

"Even if we give you emergency powers, there is no funding source," Recto said.

DOTr Usec. Garry De Guzman said this is true for some of the projects.

Recto to DOTr: Be realistic

Recto asked the DOTr to "be realistic, let's make sure there are funding sources."

He also ordered the DOTr to coordinate with the Department of Budget Management, the National Economic and Development Authority, and other concerned agencies.

Recto slammed the economic development agency for failing to send a representative to the inquiry despite an invitation from the Senate.

"Mahalaga ba talaga sa ating pamahalaan itong problema ng traffic? (Does the government really give importance to the traffic problem?)"

There is an estimated productivity loss of P2.4 billion daily due to the traffic problem in Philippine cities, says a 2014 study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.