Press Release
October 12, 2016


Key infrastructure and transportation-related projects that will be implemented under the emergency powers will face tough scrutiny by legislators as part of the safeguards they are putting forward, Senate committee on public services Sen. Grace Poe said today.

Congress, as part of its oversight functions, will be granted powers to review contracts before any project can proceed to ensure that transparency and accountability are observed by the implementing agencies.

Under the Palace-backed legislation, a congressional oversight committee will be established to be composed of five members each from the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Asked if the oversight committee will have the power to stop questionable contracts, Poe said she intends to spell out in the emergency powers bill the scope of powers of the oversight panel.

"Iyon ang gusto kong ilagay sa oversight provision. Kapag mayroon kaming compelling reason na ibig sabihin masusuway ang tatlong kategorya na aming sinasaad na dapat FOI-compliant, fiscally responsible, dapat mayroon ding deliverables at practical effective solutions. Kung ang isa doon sa tatlong iyon ay nasuway, maaari nating ipatigil ang implementasyon nito," Poe elaborated.

"Our intention is not to slow it down but to make sure that it is effective and necessary. Kasi kung sasabihin natin na blanket authority na 'basta bahala na kayo kung ano yung papasukan ninyo diyan,' wala din tayong safeguard," she added.

The committee, which has earlier terminated its public hearing, decided to conduct a fourth public hearing upon the request of the Senate minority led by Sen. Ralph Recto. The panel concluded its public hearing and will consolidate all proposals.

Poe said the committee will now examine with a fine-tooth comb the proposal submitted by the Department of Transportation (DOTr), which included projects that cut across land, air and sea-based transportation collectively pegged at P1.2 trillion.

"The committee intends to conduct another TWG to go through a line-by-line reading of the bills in order to amend, reword, add, or remove certain provisions," said Poe.

A committee report is being prepared to be submitted for plenary consideration in November when sessions resume from a congressional break. Poe hoped that the bill could hurdle the Senate's final approval in December.

Meanwhile, the committee learned that most of the infrastructure and transport-related projects identified in the DOTR wishlist have no funding sources.

"There were questions about whether emergency powers will be supported with sources of funding. The bill is not supposed to be a supplemental budget," said Poe, adding that implementing agencies should coordinate with the National Economic Development Authority and the Department of Budget and Management "for purposes of creating much needed budget space... Not all should have been PPP [public-private partnership]."

During the hearing, Poe asked the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to explain the change in plan of constructing the common station that will connect Manila's three urban rail systems.

"Kung totoo ba itong makakaginhawa sa ating mga kababayan, bakit hindi naman pero bigyan natin ng pagkakat mag-eksplika ang mga commuter groups... Have you considered the stakeholders involved? Paano na ang mga, matatanda at persons with disability?" Poe said, adding that an estimated 55,000 commuters would have to walk some 350 meters to reach the planned MRT-7 from EDSA MRT-3.

"It is imperative that the common station project be based on public convenience and public interest, at the least cost to the government. Public infrastructure should not be held hostage by private interest and we agree with that sentiment," said Poe.

The senator asked the DOTr to furnish the panel a copy of the memorandum of understanding supposedly signed late last month by the DOTr and two giant mall operators.

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