House holds marathon consultation on emergency powers

House holds marathon consultation on emergency powers

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The House committee on transportation consulted the private sector and the various government agencies during its marathon hearings last week on their role and contribution in enforcing the proposed “Traffic and Congestion Crisis Act” that will grant emergency powers to President Duterte.

Rep. Cesar V. Sarmiento (Lone District, Catanduanes), committee chairman, said they need to pass the bill as soon as possible after consulting all sectors concerned because the people are already tired of waiting for the solution to the traffic problem.

“Finished or not finished, pass your papers. To the Department of Transportation (DOTr), we will require plans, information and actions. From our end here at the House of Representatives–the representatives of the everyday commuters and of all future commuters–we will fill in the gaps as best as we can and enact this bill in due time,” said Sarmiento.

Sarmiento identified two major gaps that need to be addressed in the crafting of the traffic crisis bill: a support mechanism for transport workers to be displaced; and a provision to guarantee that only qualified drivers and roadworthy vehicles will use our roads.

“The support mechanism will assist the transport industry workers who might be displaced and their families. The committee believes many industry workers are at risk of losing their jobs once mass effective transport system, rationalized routes and various traffic laws are properly implemented and enforced,” said Sarmiento.

Sarmiento added: “We must come to terms with the workers who will lose their jobs once the different forms of mass transport system would be implemented, once the routes are rationalized and once the various traffic laws are properly enforced. This is the crisis that is within the transport crisis – the displacement crisis. We must deal with the displacement crisis if we are to bring change to the transport system. While we want our transport system to change, we want it to be a change that is inclusive rather than divisive.”

Among those who might be displaced are drivers, conductors, mechanics and other employees of tricycles, jeepneys, FX, vans, trucks and buses.

Officials of the following offices were invited to give their inputs on the possible displacement crisis: Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to help the affected workers through the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Program; Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA to give priority to the affected workers in its training courses; Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and Philippine Overseas Employment Authority (POEA) to help professional drivers and mechanics in looking for employment here or abroad; Department of Education (DepEd) and Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to provide scholarships to children of displaced transport workers; and Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) to provide financing schemes to displaced operators or drivers in order for them to modernize their units.

The committee likewise consulted representatives of the private sector, including private subdivision homeowners in view of proposals to open their areas as alternative traffic routes; operators of public utility vehicles, including buses and taxis; and transportation network companies, including Grab and Uber, for their contribution in reducing traffic.

The committee also consulted industry players from both maritime and aviation sectors which expressed willingness to cooperate with the decongestion plan of the government. They, however, requested the government to level the playing field by offering incentive packages to participating businesses; providing the necessary infrastructure to ensure the comfort and safety of the commuting public; and making interconnectivity possible through better transportation networks, among others.

Rep. Carlito S. Marquez (Lone District, Aklan) said infrastructure is important in preparation for the influx of tourists as a result of the decongestion process. He expects tourism activity to increase in the provinces. He cited that in his province, poverty incidence decreased from 36% to as low as 25% to 20% because of tourism.

Committee vice chairman Rep. Edgar S. Sarmiento (1st District, Samar) recommended to the DOTr to look into the possibility of hiring qualified displaced workers to complement the personnel requirements of the bus rapid transport (BRT) once it is institutionalized.

Rep. Franz Castro (Party-list ACT Teachers) asked if the DOTr had organized a summit to generate common ideas to ease the traffic problem.

Rep. Maximo B. Rodriguez, Jr. (2nd District, Cagayan de Oro City) said he has yet to see a blueprint drawn up by the DOTr in coordination with the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) and Highway Patrol Group (HPG).

Rep. Reynaldo V. Umali (2nd District, Oriental Mindoro) suggested that a more helpful approach would be to devise a setup similar to the balik-probinsya program that would encourage city-dwellers to go back to their provinces and, in effect, declog the heavily congested metro and unburden the national government.

Rep. Romeo M. Acop (2nd District, Antipolo City) advised the Land Transportation Office (LTO) to beef up its capability in monitoring vehicle roadworthiness and to come up with a more stringent licensure examination to ensure driver competence, most especially of PUVs.

Acop said the easy acquisition of vehicles and licenses is one reason why there are incompetent drivers. “This results in accidents and causes subsequent traffic,” he said. (30)




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