THE Department of Transportation (DoTr) said measures to decongest Metro Manila’s main thoroughfare, known as EDSA, can be implemented without the use of emergency powers but will take longer to complete.

“Without any grant (of powers)… mabagal. Baka matapos na po ’yung termino, hindi pa natin nai-implement (the government’s term might end before we can implement the measures) kasi may mga saklaw na batas na kung gagawin natin ’yung polisiya, matatamaan ’yung batas (the law stands in the way of prompt execution of the policies being considered)… Kung walang emergency power, kung susundin ’yung proseso sa procurement, at susundin ’yung bidding, mabagal (Without emergency powers, we’ll need to follow the procurement process, which will slow things down)” Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade said at a House hearing.

He was responding to a query from Rep. Edcel Lagman on the proposed measures to ease congestion on EDSA.

“We need the time to be able to put (our plans) in motion. Time is not on our side. The time of Congress is three years,” Mr. Tugade said.

House Bill 6425, which if passed will become the “Traffic Crisis Act of 2018. Makiisa. Makisama. Magkaisa,” was approved by the House of Representatives in 2018.

Section 6 of HB 6425 makes the transportation secretary in charge of road decongestion with “full power and authority… to streamline the management of traffic and transportation, and to control road use in the identified metropolitan areas.”

Its counterpart Senate Bill No. 1284, the proposed Traffic and Congestion Crisis Act of 2016, provides in Section 5 for the President to be “granted Emergency Powers to urgently utilize all necessary government resources, exercise police power, including eminent domain and employ executive action and measures to ensure effective implementation… of national and local government transportation projects.”

Transportation Undersecretary Richmund De Leon said there was no budget given to the public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program that would allow jeepney drivers to train with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

“For 2020, zero po ang nabigay na budget (nothing was allocated) for the PUV modernization program. We would appeal to the Congress, to the committee, to extend some assistance to our department in funding this very noble project which is the PUV modernization program,” Mr. De Leon said.

Ang isa hindi napondohan under this program ay ’yung suporta natin sa drivers and operators is ’yung training under TESDA (TESDA driver and operator training was also not funded),” he added.

The Development Bank of the Philippines provided P1.5 billion in initial financing for operators to buy new units in 2017. This year, the bank provided P462 million in assistance to transport and cooperatives.

The PUV Modernization Program was launched in June 2017 and required operators to decommission and replace old units with more fuel-efficient ones with upgrades to passenger comfort, safety, and fare collection systems. — Marc Wyxzel C. dela Paz