MANILA (DWDD) – Sen. Grace Poe said she remains hopeful that the Senate will be able to muster the required backing to finally pass the emergency powers measure that will enable the Executive to implement critical infrastructure projects that will untangle traffic mess in Metro Manila and other major urban areas.
Poe, chairperson of the Senate committee on public services and principal sponsor of Senate Bill No. 1284 or the proposed Traffic and Congestion Crisis Act, said while plenary discussions on the bill are still ongoing and the Senate would not be able to pass it before the Lenten break on March 18, the Senate may eventually be able to approve the measure upon resumption of session in May.
“Marami pang katanungan, sabi ko nga at first ganado lahat para ipasa pero marami ring mas nauna, kulang din ang oras ng senado. Kinalulungkot ko man, pero sa tingin ko naman sa darating na Mayo ay dapat mapasa na ito, sapagkat kung hindi pa ito mapapasa ay balewala na ito,” Poe told reporters in an interview.
Several senators have expressed their intent to interpellate and introduce amendments to the bill. The emergency powers bill, meanwhile, has been delayed amid various advocacy bills being pushed by legislators.
Congress will have a session break on March 18 until May 1. The legislature will have one month from May 2 until June 2 to pass the emergency powers bill before adjournment of session starting June 3.
“Kaya nga emergency ay dahil nagmamadali tayo pero alam niyo kahit ipasa ito sa Senado, ibang kwento naman kung mapapasa din ito sa Kamara. So kahit naipasa natin dito ay wala pa rin naman sila doon sa period of interpellation so balewala rin,” Poe added.
Poe expressed hope that with the subsequent approval of the emergency powers measure, construction of planned massive infrastructure projects that will effectively solve traffic will be in full swing.
The measure authorizes President Rodrigo Duterte, through his appointed Traffic Crisis Manager, to use alternative methods of procurement such as selective bidding, direct contracting, negotiated procurement and other modes under existing laws to speed up implementation of key transportation projects. The bill has set the parameters on how to exercise the emergency powers, but projects to be rolled out under a Traffic Crisis Action and Decongestion Plan would be limited to those indicated in the short-term Three-year Rolling Infrastructure Program submitted by various agencies and already approved by National Economic and Development Authority and the long-term Roadmap for Transport Infrastructure Development for Greater Metro Manila dubbed the “Dream Plan” and the Roadmap Study for Sustainable Development for Metro Cebu prepared by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
Asked for any indication of a special session just to conduct marathon deliberations and approve the bill, Poe said the impending Senate approval would prove worthless if the bill’s fate remains hanging in the House of Representatives, which has not yet started its plenary discussions on the measure.
Poe added she would like to know if Malacañang, through the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC), is still keenly pushing for the emergency powers eight months after President Duterte declared that he wants Congress to do its part in addressing the traffic congestion. LEDAC, composed of lawmakers and Cabinet members, was scheduled to convene quarterly after the initial Jan. 20 meeting.
The Philippine Business Groups-Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines has included the emergency powers as among the priority measures they want passed by Congress.
Poe had sponsored the bill for plenary approval last Dec. 14 but it has been pending as some senators have indicated their intentions to ask more questions on the measure. SENATE / MCAG