The traffic crisis in Metro Manila calls for an emergency power for the President to address the urban misery that continues to hamper the economy by P2.4 billion a day.
On this, Third District Rep. Arthur Yap filed House Bill 38 pushing for emergency powers for the PresidentÂ â€œto address the Metro Manila Traffic and Transport Crisisâ€.
â€œThe state of the transport and traffic situation in Metro Manila can be summed up in a single word. Crisis. It has caused immense damage to the economy estimated in 2012 at a staggering P2.4 billion per day or about P576 billion annually,â€ according to Yap.
Under House Bill 38, the President is being granted emergency powers, to address the â€œMetro Manila Traffic and Transport Crisisâ€ for him â€œto be able to utilize all necessary government resources, to exercise or employ executive actions and measures, necessary and incidental, unhampered by existing laws, regulations, procedures to solve this burgeoning problemâ€.
Such emergency power will run for one year â€œunless sooner withdrawn through a resolution of Congress, without prejudice to rights and benefits that may have been vested, and culpabilities and liabilities that may have been incurredâ€.
In his bill, Yap seeks to empower the President â€œto reorganize the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), Department of Transportation (DOT), Department of Public Works and Highways, attached or related agencies, especially those that impact on traffic management, including but not limited to, the Land Transportation Office (LTO), Land Transport Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), Toll Regulatory Board (TRB), Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA), Philippine National Railways (PNR), to make them more effective, innovative, and responsive to the traffic crisisâ€.
â€œThe President may designate and appoint a traffic czar, with extraordinary powers to sufficiently and efficiently discharge his duties and responsibilities for the soonest abatement of the crisis,â€ Yap added.
He explained that the traffic czar shall have the power to override local ordinances, permits and licenses, including those allowing the operation of public conveyances, parking of vehicles, operation of businesses, construction of structures, public utility vehicle terminals that impede traffic flow on major and secondary roads needed as alternate routes.
In accordance with bill, the emergency powers of the President shall include: exercise right of eminent domain by expropriating private property for right-of-way necessary for infrastructure projects or public convenience; reform the mass transport systems; reorient traffic enforcement units; immediately resolve transport and infrastructure issues, foremost of which is the common station for the railway transit systems; be exempted from procurement rules; be entitled to legal assistance and indemnification; formulate holistic and long term a plans and program for transport and traffic management; and be exempted from court injunctions.
As a check and balance, the authority granted to the President under the emergency power will be good for only a year.
A Congressional Oversight Committee will be there to monitor the implementation of the law that grants the emergency power and the Presidentâ€™s exercise of the authority.
The Office of the President will have to submit a quarterly report to Congress.
Yap cited that the â€œConstitution itself, prescribes that, in times of national emergency, Congress may authorize the President, for a limited period, and subject to restrictions as it may prescribe, powers, necessary and proper, to carry out a declared national policyâ€.
â€œNo one is spared from this crisis. All of us Filipinos, across the board, suffer. The ordinary public suffers from the pains of commute in the grungy Metro Rails systems and unkempt public utility vehicles. Even those in the highest echelon of our society, riding their luxurious automobiles, likewise suffer from the horrid traffic conditions. It has to stop,â€ according to Yap.
He also pointed out that the traffic crisis has already resulted to â€œhigher operating cost in addition to lost income opportunities and productivity, higher foreign exchange outflow for fuel and redundant transportation equipmentâ€.
â€œMore exacting however is its heavy social cost. This predicament has sown disruption to family life and social ties. It has degraded public health and the environment due to vehicle emissions. Moreover, it has impaired the image and competitiveness standing of the country. This problem crisis of proportions calls for drastic solutions,â€ Yap emphasized.
On this, Yap filed the bill proposing the law entitledÂ â€œAn ActÂ Declaring the Metro Manila Traffic Crisis as a National Emergency, Granting the President of the Philippines Emergency Powers, Prescribing Urgent Related Measures Necessary and Proper to Effectively Address Such Predicament, and for other purposesâ€ or to be called the â€œMetro Manila Traffic and Transport Crisis Act of 2016â€.
In House Bill 38, Yap proposed to declare it a policy of the state to â€œrecognize as an emergency the magnitude of the crisis brought about by the traffic congestion and mass transportation shortage, to adopt adequate and effective measures to address such predicament, to mobilize socio-political support for extraordinary and stern measures to restore order on the streets, optimize use of public road space, maximize transportation and infrastructure resources for public convenience and benefit through reduction of commuting and vehicle travel time, reduction of air pollution and decongestion of Metro Manila through urban dispersalâ€.
In line with the reorganization of MMDA, Department of Transportation, DPWH and attached agencies, â€œthe President may abolish or create offices; split, group, or merge positions; transfer functions, equipment, properties, records and personnel; institute drastic cost-cutting measures and take such other related actions necessary to carry out the purpose herein declared. Nothing in this Section shall result in the diminution of the present salaries and benefits of the personnel of the said agencies: Provided, That any official or employee of the said agencies who may be phased out by reason of the reorganization authorized herein shall be entitled to such benefits as may be determined by the Office of the President, on coordination with the Commission on Audit and Civil Service Commissionâ€.
Yap also proposed in the House Bill 38 that â€œthe President may designate and appoint an Ad Hoc Office of the Presidential Assistant for Metro Manila Traffic Management, or the â€˜Traffic Czarâ€™, to exercise all powers and authority delegated by the President, including the extraordinary powers under this Act, that are necessary or those inherent in the office being concurrently occupied by the Traffic Czar, if any, to sufficiently and efficiently discharge his duties and responsibilities for the soonest abatement of the crisisâ€.
â€œFor the period of the emergency under this Act and pending reorganization of the pertinent government offices under the preceding Section, the powers, authority and functions over traffic management of the MMDA under Section 3 (b), Section 5 (e) and (f) and other related provision of Republic Act No. 7924, the Local Government Units (LGU) of Metro Manila and nearby local government units under Republic Act No. 7160 as amended, or the Local Government Code, the Philippine National Police, LTO, LTFRB, pertinent Departments or government institutions, shall be vested in the Traffic Czar,â€ the proposed law stated.
If it becomes a law, the â€œtraffic czar shall have the power to override MMDA, or Metro Manila Council, LGU traffic and related ordinances, permits and licenses, including but not limited to those allowing the operation of public conveyances, parking of vehicles, operation of businesses, construction of structures, public utility vehicle terminals that impede traffic flow on major and secondary roads needed as alternate routesâ€.
â€œThe Traffic Czar shall however continually coordinate with LGU executives and their officials and the private sector in the execution of traffic and transport plans, programs and measures. The Traffic Czar may likewise enlist and deputize the traffic enforcement units of the MMDA and the LGUs,â€ as stipulated in the proposed law.
Yap also proposed, under the section on Eminent Domain in the proposed law that the President shall cause expropriation of private property with just compensation for right-of-way necessary for infrastructure projects or public convenience and this shall include the power to open private roads for public use or under a toll system.
Also under the proposed law, â€œpublic transportation shall be reformed into an efficient, sustainable, clean and integrated mass transportation system, including the modification of franchises to operate public utility vehicles or conveyances for the purpose of reorganizing the same into consortia and rationalizing their deployment for better efficiency and convenience of the commuting public, revising compensation schemes for transportation workers away from the boundary scheme, compensation scheme for franchise operators, prescribing minimum operating standards and design specifications for the conveyances, instituting a common fare systemâ€.
Under the section on Reorientation of Traffic Enforcement Units, Yap proposed that â€œthe traffic enforcement units of the MMDA, PNP, participating LGUs, and other agencies, as organization/s, shall be reviewed, reformed, re-oriented and re-trained, with focus on effectivity and efficiency, imposition of disciplinary measures, enhancement of compensation and benefits systemâ€.
Yap also seeks for immediate resolution of transport and traffic infrastructure issues such as those bottlenecks on transport and traffic infrastructure- -foremost of which is the common station, extension and expansion of present operations, and construction of new railway transit systems.
There is also a proposed section on exemption from procurement rules which provides that the President may waive the application of Republic Act 9184 or the Procurement Reform Law in entering into transport and traffic infrastructure contracts, provided that these shall not be disadvantageous to the government.
Also under the proposed law, the President shall formulate a holistic and long-term plans and programs for transport and traffic management that shall include enactment of all necessary rules, regulations and standards to optimize all government infrastructure resources, such as the road system, airports and seaports, and including regulated private toll roads; prescription of rules, regulations and standards for large mixed-use property developments to ensure adherence to best practices for long term sustainability, avoid disturbance to adjoining communities and public convenience, and minimize adverse environmental impact; and ordaining rules, regulations and development standards to rationalize land and transportation development to promote urban dispersal to decongest Metro Manila.
It is also proposed that the President shall be exempted from the issuance of court processes, including injunctions against executive actions, exercise of the power of eminent domain and undertaking of infrastructure projects in the course of implementation of the Traffic Crisis Act.
Yap also proposed that â€œother than the legal services of the Office of the Solicitor General, the Traffic Czar, as well as his/her subordinates, may secure the services of a private lawyer or external counsel as necessitated by the filing against them of any criminal or civil action or proceeding for acts made in connection with the lawful performance of their functions. They shall also be entitled to be indemnified of all costs and expenses reasonably incurred in connection with any civil or criminal actions, suits, or proceedings to which they may be or made a party by reason of the performance of their functions or duties, unless they are finally adjudged in such actions or proceedings to be liable or guilty of gross negligence or grave abuse of discretionâ€.
Moreover, the Oversight Committee in each House of Congress- -the Senate and the House of Representatives- -to be created will be composed of five members of each, as may be designated by the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, to monitor the implementation of this Act and the exercise of the authority granted thereunder.
The Oversight Committees shall submit periodic reports, evaluations and recommendations to the Senate and the House of Representatives.