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Poe: Masterplan needed to fix traffic

Sen. Grace Poe. file photo Philippine Daily Inquirer

Julie M. Aurelio & Leila B. Salaverria | Philippine Daily Inquirer | September 11, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, backed by Malacañang, on Tuesday made a fresh push for emergency powers to fix the country’s traffic and transport woes.

But Sen. Grace Poe shot holes in his plea, saying that the Department of Transportation needed a masterplan, not emergency powers, to ease horrendous traffic in Metro Manila and in urban centers.

Appearing before the Senate public services committee, Tugade made a fresh case for emergency powers, arguing that these these may be exercised for only a few years and Congress and the Supreme Court would have powers to oversee them.

“If we think about it, had we been given emergency powers before, we would now be reviewing what we had accomplished,” Tugade said.

These, he said, would allow officials to immediately adopt policy directions that would otherwise have required the amendment of existing laws.

The Secretary said that these would also fast-track procurement and right-of-way acquisition in transport projects, paving the way for their implementation.

Excuse for traffic congestion

And while Poe did not not completely reject the plea, she said officials would have to convince the committee of the need to grant these.

“It’s sad that it seems they are using the lack of emergency powers as an excuse as to why there is traffic [congestion],” Poe, committee chair, told reporters.

Besides, she added, the authorities could have done a lot with their powers to address issues on right of way and procurement, the major causes of delay in projects.

“Clearly, for all intents and purposes, under existing laws, a lot could have been done with or without emergency powers. It’s not the lack of powers, but the lack of a masterplan,” she said.

If at all, Poe said she was open to granting powers that would lead to the streamlining of court processes.

Patients dying on the road

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo backed Tugade’s plea to grant President Rodrigo Duterte emergency powers to solve jams in the metropolis, which had been blamed on the deaths of some patients being transported in ambulances.

“Because of that, then with more reason that the members of the Senate consider the grant of emergency powers, given that particular situation wherein even patients are dying because the ambulance carrying them could not reach the hospital on time,” he said.

Panelo said the President had been consistent in seeking emergency powers to address the traffic gridlock on Edsa, but said that he would just let “Edsa rot there” following Poe’s reservations to these.

“I think the position of the President remains, from the very start he wanted emergency powers to solve the traffic problem. But when some senators issued statements against it and insinuated that there might be some abuse of power, then he said, ‘Then it’s up to you,’” Panelo said.

The President, however, would “not go down on his knees and plead” for the grant of the powers, he said.