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Duterte mulls asking HPG, MMDA to escort ambulances through traffic

MANILA, Philippines – So emergency patients can get to the hospital on time, President Rodrigo Duterte is considering requiring Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) personnel and the police's Highway Patrol Group (HPG) to escort ambulances through traffic jams.

"Maybe I will ask all itong, lahat na, Metro Manila, Highway Patrol, 'pag may emergency... 'Pag may nakikitang siren, itabi nila para makalusot. Maybe that will be mandatory for them," he said on Tuesday, September 10 in an interview with reporters in Malacañang.

(Maybe I will ask along all of this Metro Manila, Highway Patrol, if there is an emergency... When they see a siren, they should set it aside so they can pass through. Maybe that will be mandatory for them.)

He also said he wanted HPG or MMDA to "pull" ambulances through traffic, but did not elaborate on the use of the term.

"Must, hila. Duty bound to hila (They must pull. They are duty bound to pull)." said Duterte.

He had been asked for solutions to cases reported by Agence France-Presse of emergency patients dying on the road because the ambulance carrying them was stuck in Metro Manila's infamous traffic.

At first, Duterte appeared stymied by the question. 

"'Yan ang walang sagot, ma'am. Kung may helicopter siguro, angklahan mo," he said, echoing the suggestion of Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo on using military choppers to airlift patients.

(That has no answer, ma'am. Maybe if there is a helicopter, you can tie them together.) 

Despite the dire situation of the megacity's traffic, Duterte said he is not inclined to ask for emergency powers from Congress.

"No...Bakit ako maghingi ng (Why should I ask for) emergency power?" he said.

'Let it rot'

In an earlier speech, he appeared to give up on EDSA traffic and blamed Senator Grace Poe for not giving his government emergency powers when they called for it in his first year of his presidency.

"Sabi ko, let it rot...sabi ko may solution, sabi niyo may corruption. 'Yan ang legacy niya," he said. (READ: Duterte claims he fulfilled all promises except easing EDSA traffic)

(I said, let it rot. I said there is a solution, you said there is corruption. That's her legacy.)

Poe, earlier that day, said the Department of Transportation (DOTr) was just using their lack of emergency powers as an excuse. In a Senate hearing, she said current laws and a Duterte executive order are enough to fast-track procurement processes and right-of-way issues.

She also pointed out that Duterte has not certified as urgent the granting of emergency powers over traffic.

As chairperson of the Senate committee on public services, Poe handles hearings on legislative measures dealing with traffic and transportation issues. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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