House panel approves bill on emergency powers vs traffic

Mara Cepeda

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House panel approves bill on emergency powers vs traffic


Under HB 4334, the DOTr secretary would hold the emergency powers to address traffic in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, and Davao City for 3 years

MANILA, Phillippines – The House transportation committee approved the measure that would give emergency powers to the Department of Transportation (DOTr) chief to address the perennial urban traffic problem. 

Voting unanimously, the committee members gave their nod to House Bill (HB) Number 4334 or the Traffic Crisis Act of 2016 on Wednesday, January 18. The measure is now up for 2nd reading during the plenary session. 

President Rodrigo Duterte had earlier asked Congress to grant him emergency powers to solve traffic. 

Under HB 4334, the DOTr secretary, as “alter ego” of the President, would be holding the emergency powers for 3 years as traffic chief.

The DOTr secretary would also have jurisdiction over the traffic in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, and Davao City, plus overall control over the following traffic and transportation agencies:

  • Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA)
  • Cebu Council
  • Philippine National Police-Highway Patrol Group (PNP-HPG)
  • Land Transportation Office (LTO)
  • Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB)
  • Road Board
  • Metropolitan Davao Traffic Administrator
  • All other executive agencies, bureaus, and offices with roles pertaining to land transportation regulation

The traffic chief would also have the power to formulate and oversee the implementation of existing public transport operations, infrastructure requirements, the use of thoroughfares, traffic enforcement operations, traffic engineering services, and traffic education programs.  

“Ang number one personality dito sa Traffic Crisis Act [ay] ‘yung traffic chief. Now, ‘yung traffic chief, sino ang appropriate agency na magiging traffic chief, ang Department of Transportation kasi hawak niya ang LTO, LTFRB.  And then ‘yung MMDA naman, it has something to do with traffic,” said House transportation panel chairperson Cesar Sarmiento.

(The number one personality here in the Traffic Crisis Act is the traffic chief. Now, the traffic chief will be coming from the appropriate agency which is the Department of Transportation because the LTO, LTFRB are under him. The MMDA, meanwhile, has something to do with traffic.)

Unlike its counterpart proposals in the Senate, however, HB 4334 will not be establishing an Office of the Traffic Crisis Manager under the Office of the President. 

“So siguro itutuloy namin ‘yung meeting namin with Senator [Grace] Poe para i-harmonize, para mas mapabilis ang pag-approve ng bill na ito (So perhaps we would continue meeting with Senator Grace Poe so we can harmonize the bills, to fast-track the approval of this bill),” said Sarmiento, Catanduanes representative.

‘Not a miracle vs traffic’

According to Sarmiento, the approved measure will not automatically fix the traffic problem. 

“Precisely this bill is intended to address, mitigate, but it’s not a cure-all, magic, miracle na pag na-approve ito, talagang malulutasan (that when it is approved, it will immediately solve the issue),” said Sarmiento.

“But overall kasi, hindi lang infrastructure… May iba’t ibang traffic ordinance tayo sa LGUs (local government units), ‘di magkatugma. So dito sa batas na ito, ‘yung traffic chief, iha-harmonize,” he added.

(But overall, this will not just involve infrastructure. We have traffic ordinances in LGUs that do not match. So under this bill, the traffic chief would harmonize them.) 

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez earlier slammed the “uncooperative” DOTr for the delaying the approval of HB 4334 in the House. 

Alvarez said the department helmed by Secretary Arthur Tugade must be able to lay out its concrete plans to address the country’s urban traffic woes.  (READ: Tugade clarifies: Traffic problem a ‘state of chaos, not a state of mind’)

Rumors have been spreading that Alvarez, former Department of Transportation and Communications chief, would be given the DOTr post. But he denied this, saying becoming a Cabinet secretary would be a “demotion” from being Speaker.

Read the full copy of HB 4334 below:


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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.