Why lawmakers file road conversion billsBy Leila B. Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—If President Aquino has vetoed so many road conversion bills, why do lawmakers keep filing them?
According to Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, some lawmakers want to guarantee that the roads in their districts would get the funding needed for their upgrade, improvement and upkeep.
Gonzales said that in the poorer provinces, local governments cannot afford to improve thoroughfares, especially if it would entail the acquisition of a right of way. Converting thoroughfares to national roads guarantees that they would be entitled to funds from the national government, he said.
“You have to understand the congressmen, particularly in the poor provinces. The province or municipality cannot maintain the roads. So what the congressmen want is to fund these through the [General Appropriations Act] and the only way you can fight for funding is if you convert them to national roads,” he said in an interview.
Road improvement plays a crucial part in developing a province and encouraging trade and businesses to flourish.
Gonzales admitted, however, that some of the road conversion bills were deficient because the thoroughfares concerned did not meet the criteria that would qualify them to become national roads.
Some of these bills were passed out of a sense of fellowship, to accommodate fellow lawmakers’ wishes.
Earlier, presidential legislative liaison office chief Manuel Mamba said the vetoed road bills failed to justify the proposed conversion of the thoroughfares, and that if approved, these would deplete the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
Following the President’s rejection of 70 bills—more than half of which had to do with road conversions—House leaders had vowed to ensure better coordination between lawmakers and administration officials in the 16th Congress.
Gonzales said the House of Representatives would see to it that it would consult with the DPWH when it came to road bills.
Earlier, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte called on Cabinet members to coordinate with lawmakers and attend the hearings on crucial legislation so that there would be no conflict later.
Lawmakers also said that there should be more meetings of the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council to discuss and iron out details of priority bills.