Gloria Arroyo bill to give Duterte crisis power over traffic | Inquirer News
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Gloria Arroyo bill to give Duterte crisis power over traffic

By: - Reporter / @deejayapINQ
/ 01:55 AM June 22, 2016
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Former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, now a Pampanga representative, is poised to file the proposed “Metro Manila Traffic Crisis Act of 2016,” which seeks to grant President-elect Rodrigo Duterte special powers to address the humongous traffic problem in Metro Manila.

In a draft of the bill sent to the Inquirer, Arroyo proposed a number of measures authorizing Duterte to enter negotiated contracts for traffic and transportation projects without bidding, and to reorganize the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), among other powers.

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The special authority will be effective for two years unless sooner withdrawn by Congress, according to the bill.

On Monday, designated Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade announced plans of the Duterte administration to declare a traffic crisis in Mega Manila and seek emergency powers to deal with the problem in two years, citing a study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency that P2.4 billion is lost to the capital’s monster gridlock daily.

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“Our quality of life has been bastardized,” Tugade said.

Transport and traffic problems have deteriorated, shaming Filipinos here and abroad, he said. “If our life has been bastardized and this is not a crisis, what is a crisis?” he said.

 

Explanatory note

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In an explanatory note, Arroyo, who is under hospital arrest on a plunder charge, said traffic congestion in the nation’s capital “impedes progress and leads to a situation where billions are lost daily in fuel cost, man hours and opportunities.”

“The Duterte government aims for an annual growth rate of at least 7 percent to make a significant dent on poverty. One of the ways to speed up growth is to get infrastructure moving, either by government or by build-operate-transfer (BOT) or any of its variants,” she said.

“Contractors would have to accelerate the implementation and completion of infrastructure projects in Metro Manila in order to decongest it. Drastic traffic reduction measures also need to be undertaken through traffic management reforms,” Arroyo said.

Under her proposal, the President may enter into negotiated contracts for the construction, repair, rehabilitation, improvement or maintenance of critical infrastructure, projects and facilities, subject to certain conditions.

The conditions include the publication of the list of projects to be undertaken, including budgetary estimates, and the winning contractors having “proven competence and experience in similar projects, competent key personnel and sufficient and reliable equipment, and sound financial capacity.”

“All the awarded projects shall be subject to existing government auditing rules and regulations governing negotiated contracts,” according to the bill.

MMDA revamp

The President shall also be authorized to set a maximum internal rate of return of not more than 12 percent of the house-estimated project cost, “provided that any infrastructure project that has the capacity to yield said internal rate of return under commercial conditions” may be undertaken on a BOT basis or any of its variants under the law.

The toll fees in the case of projects undertaken as BOT or any of its variants shall be set by the Toll Regulatory Board, the measure adds.

The bill also empowers the President to reorganize the MMDA “to make it more effective, innovative and responsive to the traffic crisis in Metro Manila.”

The President “may abolish or create offices; split, group or merge positions; transfer functions, equipment, properties, records and personnel; institute drastic traffic reduction measures and take such other related actions necessary to carry out the purpose herein declared.”

The bill states further that state-run Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) shall set aside 10 percent of its annual aggregate gross earnings for the next five years as subsidy to MMDA.

Be specific

“Let’s give him the emergency powers but let us be very specific on what emergency powers consist of,” said outgoing Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.

“I think Metro Manilans are very aware of what’s going on. Perhaps we can dispense with some of the bidding processes as long as it’s public, and it’s not behind the scenes,” he said.

Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo, chair of the House committee on Metro Manila development, said he agreed “100 percent” to the proposal.

“We know there are a lot of problems. There’s huge corruption in LTO (Land Transportation Office), LTFRB (Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board), PNP (Philippine National Police) and all government agencies,” he said.

Incoming House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez told reporters the Duterte administration was also seeking to expand the planned declaration of a traffic crisis to include Metro Cebu.

“I don’t see any reason why we will not support it. Everyone of us knows Metro Manila is traffic hell,” Alvarez said.

Senate President Franklin Drilon said he was open to the grant of emergency powers. “I would like to see, however, the specific powers that are being requested to be granted and the safeguards,” Drilon said in a text message.

Senator-elect Sherwin Gatchalian said:  “If we could solve it without emergency powers, that would be better, because if you shortcut the bidding process, definitely there would be a cloud of doubt in the minds of the people and we don’t want that. We have to make it as transparent as possible.”

MBC backs move

According to the Makati Business Club (MBC), the emergency powers must be anchored on a “solid national policy and complemented by a strong system of accountability.”

“MBC believes that the nation does face a transportation crisis, which needs urgent action and solutions. The MBC stands ready to assist and be an active participant in a highly thorough process of consultation, debate, and analysis between government and the private sector. If the solutions to address the transport crisis require emergency powers, MBC will be prepared to support the consideration of well-defined emergency powers for the transport sector,” the group explained.

In Davao City yesterday, Tugade said the powers being sought would not do away with public bidding or shortcut procurement.

“It will merely impose disciplined participation among the bidders and  maybe modify certain laws,” he said, refusing to go into specifics.

Incoming Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said: “Without the emergency powers, it would be difficult because whatever move  that Secretary Tugade will do will end in courts.” With reports from Ben. O. de Vera, Leila B. Salaverria, Amy R. Remo and Germelina Lacorte, Inquirer Mindanao

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TAGS: Congress, duterte, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Metro Manila traffic, metro traffic, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, MMDA, Rodrigo Duterte, traffic
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