Press Release
September 22, 2016


The Senate Committee on Public Services chaired by Senator Grace Poe has concluded public hearings on the emergency powers sought by Malacañang to fix the country's worsening traffic crisis and speed up key infrastructure projects, with the panel readying to craft a committee report of the measure to be submitted to plenary in November.

In opening the third and final public hearing, Poe said the committee has approached "the last mile so it would be best to chart the remaining course so we can finish on schedule and endorse the bill for plenary debate."

"We will be having technical working groups (TWGs) unless something comes up that we need to call another hearing," said Poe during the three-hour public hearing. She added the committee may conduct three TWG meetings to draft a committee report on the emergency powers bill and specify locations of the projects.

Congress will go on session break starting Oct. 22 and will resume on Nov. 7. Congress will go on holiday break on Dec. 17 to Jan. 15 next year.

Poe said the emergency powers bill may hurdle the Senate by December, given that the proposed P3.35 trillion spending program for 2017 takes precedence.

Recognizing that billions are wasted due to daily traffic, Poe said the Senate would expedite deliberations on the proposal but assured that lawmakers will closely scrutinize projects in the pipeline.

"In the course of five weeks, we have listened to the presentations of 53 resource persons. The committee is also in receipt of 62 written submissions, proving that inputs, as promised, are indeed crowdsourced. My purpose in giving you the present coordinates of our journey is to give us all an idea of the work that lies ahead," said Poe.

Poe said a number of challenges in the current traffic mayhem could be addressed sans emergency powers, such as road clearing and strict implementation of traffic rules, lamenting traffic gridlocks in many areas such as Kalentong in Mandaluyong and Marcos Highway that traverses Marikina and Pasig.

"We owe it the people, to make sure that the powers granted to the Executive will not be to the people's disadvantage," she said.

Noting just how miserable traffic congestion is, Poe said Metro Manila residents spend 1,000 hours a year in traffic, while other countries in the world spend only 300 hours.

If approved, the measure would grant President Duterte, for a period of two years, the power to do away with tedious public bidding and instead use alternative procurement methods and implementation of transportation projects will proceed "unhampered by existing laws, agreements, regulations, court orders and procedures that may cause delay in addressing the crisis."

Other key features of the emergency powers is that it authorizes President Duterte to reorganize the Department of Transportation, Land Transportation Office, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, Civil Aeronautics Board, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, Philippine National Police Highway Patrol Group and all other agencies in the transportation sector and rationalize their functions.

The measure is expected to designate the Transportation secretary as Traffic Crisis Manager who will exercise overall land, air and sea traffic management and control.

Meanwhile, Poe said the committee is studying to include a provision in the bill that would incorporate ICT-based solutions to solve traffic, specifically on the immediate issuance of permits for cell sites to help make Internet faster and promote so-called telecommuting, or remote work.

"Kailangan din sa emergency powers siguro na ikonsidera ang pagtatayo ng mas maraming cell sites sa buong Pilipinas para mas malinaw ang cellular signal natin at para mas mabilis ang Internet. Sa ganitong sitwasyon, ang ating mga kababayan hindi na kailangan lahat na magtrabaho sa opisina, pwede sa bahay na nila. Mas makaka-reduce ito ng traffic kapag merong telecommuting na sinasabi na trabaho. Kung ikukumpara natin ang Vietnam merong 45,000 cell sites, tayo 25,000 lang. Ang kulang natin ay kailangan natin at least 50,000 cell sites pa so kailangan talaga natin dagdagan ito," said Poe.

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