DOTr drops bid for emergency powers to deal with traffic

MANILA, Philippines – After pushing for emergency powers to deal with the worsening traffic in the national capital region, the Department of Transportation decided to withdraw the request it had made with the Senate committee on public services on behalf of President Rodrigo Duterte .

Following the second technical working group session on Senate Bill No. 213 or the Special Emergency Powers Act on Monday, September 23, DOTr Assistant Secretary Goddes Libiran confirmed that the transport agency would no longer lobby for the President's emergency powers in relation to the traffic problem.

“There isn’t enough time anymore. Madaming oras na ang nasayang (A lot of time has been wasted). We’ve been requesting for that since 2016. Also, the President has already spoken. With that, we will no longer push for emergency powers,” Libiran said in a message to Rappler.

Under the Senate bill, DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade would have been designated as the "traffic czar," allowing him to formulate and harmonize traffic policies as the alter ego of the President.

However, in the last Senate hearing on the provincial bus ban, the DOTs also pointed out that traffic management is not part of its mandate.

Since the 17th Congress, Senate committee on public services chairperson Senator Grace Poe has been asking the executive branch to present a comprehensive plan for addressing the traffic problem, then senators would be willing to grant President Duterte emergency problems in relation to this.

No such strategy had been submitted to the committee. The DOTr only submitted in 2016 a list of projects it wanted covered by the President's emergency powers. 

Last September 10, Poe called out the DOTr for using the lack of emergency powers as an excuse for failing to do its job, and said Tugade was “underperforming” in terms of traffic management.

This was when the DOTr responded that traffic management is not part of its mandate, and highlighted instead the numerous transportation infrastucture projects they have in the pipeline.

After the recent Senate hearing on the provincial bus ban, Poe also said that Senators were not convinced that emergency powers were needed to solve traffic.

Traffic congestion shows no signs of letting up. According to a recent report by Agence France-Presse, some emergency patients die when their ambulances are caught in Metro Manila traffic jam.

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority's proposed budget for traffic and transport management in 2020 has suffered a cut

Loreben Tuquero

Loreben Tuquero is a researcher-writer for Rappler. Before transferring to Rappler's Research team, she covered transportation, Quezon City, and the Department of the Interior and Local Government as a reporter. She graduated with a communication degree from the Ateneo de Manila University.