MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto questioned transportation officials for their seemingly “unfocused and unfunded” plans to solve the worsening traffic crisis in metro cities.
Recto said the Department of Transportation (DOTr) has so far submitted projects worth P1.3 trillion ($26.7 billion), mostly not included in the proposed 2017 budget of the agency.
He then lectured the DOTr that the bill seeking to grant emergency powers to President Rodrigo Duterte to solve traffic in urban areas is not a supplemental budget. The suggested plans, the senator said, should have been included in the proposed 2017 national budget.
“I’d like to relate all these projects together. Baka isipin ng DOTr na itong emergency powers ay isang supplemental budget or another General Appropriations Act (GAA) which is not the case,” Recto said during the final Senate hearing on the measure.
(I’d like to relate all these projects together. The DOTr might think this emergency powers bill is a supplemental budget or another General Appropriations Act which is not the case.)
DOTr Undersecretary for Finance Gerry De Guzman indeed admitted that most of the proposed projects were not included in the department’s proposed 2017 budget.
“Since we cannot fund it under the General Appropriations Act and the present funding–” De Guzman tried to explain but Recto interjected.
The senator asked, “So you’re admitting, Usec, that it is not found in the 2017 National Expenditure Program?”
“Yes, Sir,” De Guzman responded, and requested Congress to grant the DOTr additional funds “if possible.”
Recto was not convinced and this was not the point of the emergency powers bill. He criticized the DOTr for not coordinating with the Department of Budget and Management, the main agency tasked to allocate funds for government offices.
“Di ba kayo nag-uusap ng DBM? Nanawagan na ako noon, paguusapan emergency powers na ilagay na ninyo, mag-earmark na kayo sa 2017 budget. This is not a supplememtal budget. This is not a GAA, so maliwanag there is nothing in the budget for 2017 that will address in a significant way this list of projects you want to undertake,” Recto said.
(Are you not coordinating with the DBM? I already called on you before, that we are going to talk about emergency powers, to earmark the amounts in the 2017 budget. This is not a supplemental budget. This is not a GAA. So it’s clear there is nothing in the 2017 budget that will address in a significant way this list of projects you want to undertake.)
Of the proposed P1.3 trillion worth of proposed projects, De Guzman said the DOTr was only given P39 billion for 2017. The remaining amount, he said, would be sourced through the 2015 and 2016 allocations.
Recto then asked, “Of the P39 billion, what projects are for the improvement of traffic in EDSA?”
It turned out, however, that the only plan for EDSA next year – the main thoroughfare in Metro Manila – is a feasibility study of the Bus Rapid Transit system.
Recto asked: “So ngayon, feasibility study lang pala? Paano ‘pag lumabas sa feasibility study na di pala siya feasible (So now, it’s only a feasible study? What if the study says it’s not feasible)?”
De Guzman paused before answering, “Ah, kung ganun po baka irerevise ‘yung plano to make it more responsive to the needs of the EDSA traffic (Ah, if that’s the case the plan might be revised to make it more responsive to the needs of the EDSA traffic).”
A dissatisfied Recto then moved on to another topic.
The agency again drew criticisms from Recto for its seemingly unfocused projects to solve the traffic crisis.
The senator questioned why the DOTr is spreading itself too thin in seeking to solve traffic – in air, land, and sea – among 80 provinces and 105 cities.
He urged the agency to focus on Metro Manila and other urban cities, saying almost half of the 9 million vehicles nationwide are in the capital region.
“Mawawala ang focus (The focus would be lost). It would only be, I suppose, in Metro Manila, maybe Cebu and Davao. Why not focus on the 3? Why do you want 1,500 municipalities, 80 provinces, 105 cities? Magiging kalat-kalat kayo diyan kung saka-sakali (You will end up losing focus if that’s the case),” Recto said.
“Ang sinasabi traffic crisis manager kayo ng buong Pilipinas, kukunin niyo kapangyarihan ng lahat ng LGU (local government units). Ako, walang problema sa MMDA, sa buong Metro Manila, pero bakit buong Pilipinas? Magulo ‘yan,” he added.
(It is said that you are the traffic crisis manager of the whole Philippines. You’re going to get the powers of the LGUs. I have no problems with the MMDA and the whole Metro Manila but why the whole country? That would be confusing.) – Rappler.com
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