Making good on his vow to help President Rodrigo Duterte fulfill a campaign promise that their tandem made in the last elections, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano is proposing a measure that would give the President wide-ranging emergency powers to address the country's traffic crisis.
|Senator Alan Peter Cayetano|
The senator on Monday (Aug. 8) filed Senate Bill No. 999 or the "Freedom from Traffic and Congestion Act of 2016," as he vowed to put in effect a "more holistic and inclusive approach" to address the worsening traffic and congestion problem.
What makes Cayetano's bill different from similar proposals is that it aims to address not only land transportation traffic, but air-based and sea-based transport congestion as well.
Additionally, SBN 999 shall cover not only Metro Manila, but all other urbanized areas that experience the same level of traffic and congestion, such as Rizal, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, and Metro Cebu.
Citing a report by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Cayetano said the cost of traffic in Metro Manila could likely increase from P2.4 billion to P6 billion a day if left unresolved. This means that low-income households will have to allocate more of their income for higher transport costs, he said.
"Traffic does not plague Metro Manila alone. It also affects other highly urbanized cities with no relief in sight," Cayetano added. "Worse, our kababayans in other regions have to wait for Manila to solve their problem. This is the fate that awaits other highly urbanized cities in the years to come if we do not create changes now. We should prevent a repeat of the past administration's fiasco. We can't wait for two years just to finish procurement procedures. Let’s expedite the construction of major infrastructure projects to ease traffic congestion."
Cayetano further noted how severe congestion in NAIA’s major runways has caused regular delays in flights, disrupting people’s productivity and work flow while also affecting the country’s image before the international community for having one of the world’s worst airports.
“The country’s traffic problem, both land-based and air-based, in Metro Manila and in other highly urbanized cities, has assumed the nature and magnitude of a public calamity,” said the senator. "The situation has reached crisis levels and this requires no less than emergency powers for the President and concerned agencies if we are to provide urgent relief to our people’s suffering,."
If passed, Cayetano's bill shall give emergency powers to the President, along with heads of executive departments and agencies related to the transportation sector, to urgently utilize necessary government resources, employ executive actions, and reconfigure and harmonize government projects with the goal of addressing the crisis. It will take effect for three years.
SBN 999 shall authorize the executive branch to direct the formulation of a "comprehensive, integrated and sustainable Decongestion and Transportation Network Reform Plan," which will provide a roadmap for the national and local transportation system - land, sea, and air - to decongest Greater Metro Manila and other highly urbanized cities. The Secretary of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) shall be the designated Traffic Czar to oversee the implementation of the plan.
Upon filing his bill, Cayetano stressed the need to adopt a strong system of transparency in addressing transport woes. He said any emergency measure proposed to solve the crisis should be powerful enough to prevent oligarchs from securing government projects to advance their own interests.
“We assure the public that we will put in effect adequate safeguards to guard against graft. We believe that the President will deal harshly with any person or agency that abuses these powers for their own gain,” he said.
The senator repeatedly said decongesting the National Capital Region (NCR) by providing sufficient transport infrastructure and linkages in other regions is the first step towards decentralization and attaining inclusive growth. During their campaign, the Duterte-Cayetano tandem presented various proposals to achieve this goal, such as constructing a Mindanao railway system and a Panay railway system, rehabilitating airports and seaports, and developing the Clark International Airport as an alternative to NAIA, among others.#