Thursday, May 23, 2019

House approves DOTr emergency powers

THE House of Representatives has passed on third and final reading the bill that seeks to grant the Department of Transportation (DOTr) emergency powers for three years to address the traffic congestion in Manila, Cebu and Davao.

Voting 188-8, lawmakers on Monday night, Dec. 3, approved House Bill (HB) 6425, or the “Traffic Crisis Act of 2017 Maki-isa. Maki-sama. Magka-isa.”

The bill recognizes traffic crisis as an emergency case, thereby expanding the coverage of Emergency Case defined under Section 53 of Republic Act (RA) 9184, or the Government Procurement Reform Act and Section 53.2 of its Implementing Rules and Regulations.

President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly asked the Congress for emergency powers to solve traffic. Last September, he renewed his call noting the traffic crisis on Edsa, the country’s busiest thoroughfare.

The bill gives the DOTr chief, as alter ego of the President, emergency powers to address traffic congestion for a period of three years unless sooner withdrawn by the Congress. But to prevent a future traffic crisis, the measure mandates that some strategies and mechanisms shall remain to be effective even after the Traffic Crisis Act expires.

The measure provides for the establishment of the Cebu Traffic Coordinating Council as the sole central authority for land-based traffic in Cebu. It also gives the Davao City traffic chief, in consultation with the component barangays, the power to appoint a Davao traffic administrator.

Under the bill, the DOTr secretary will act as the traffic chief who shall have the power to monitor and supervise the transportation agencies, including the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the Cebu Traffic Coordinating Council and the Davao traffic administrator.

The bill mandates the traffic chief to consult the MMDA, Cebu council and Davao administrator and the affected private stakeholders to formulate a separate Traffic Management Plan (TMP) for each of the mentioned areas.

The TMP should detail the concrete steps that will be taken to immediately and effectively address the traffic crisis such as the establishment of friendship routes, promotion of sustainable transport, traffic flow and volume reduction schemes.

HB 6425 suspends the power of the local government unit (LGU) to issue franchises to padyak, tricycles and all other public utility vehicles (PUVs) while the measure is in effect, and grants the traffic chief the power to revoke or modify PUV franchises.

It also grants the traffic chief the power to approve or disapprove all plans proposed by the LGUs and other agencies including the Department of Public Works and Highways, in ensuring compliance to the TMP.

In an interview on Tuesday, Dec. 4, Talisay City Vice Mayor Alan Bucao said lawmakers should consult LGUs first before granting emergency powers to the DOTr to manage the traffic situations in Manila, Cebu and Davao.

Bucao believes HB 6425, in its current form, is disadvantageous to LGUs as it takes away their power to issue franchises to tricycles and pedicabs.

He said LGUs know better when it comes to issuing franchises.

He said that once the proposed bill reaches the Senate, senators will think twice about passing it into law, especially since they are in the middle of the election season.

“They don’t want to offend any LGUs,” he said in Cebuano.

Cebu City Transportation Office operations head Francisco Ouano, though, welcomed the passage of HB 6425.

Ouano said it will have an impact on traffic management in the country’s three major cities if enacted into law.

“I was really happy that Cebu is included. It will be of great help to address traffic in the metro, especially this December and the upcoming Sinulog,” he said in Cebuano.

He said people have experienced firsthand how terrible traffic is here, which he blamed on undisciplined drivers and the growing number of vehicles on the streets. (SunStar Philippines, JKV, PAC of SuperBalita Cebu)


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