Emergency powers to address traffic woes backed
THE COUNTRY’S biggest business organization has backed the granting of emergency powers to President Duterte to help ease the worsening traffic crisis in the metropolis, provided certain restrictions would be set to guard against potential abuses.
George T. Barcelon, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), said in an interview that such authority should be granted only if the new administration would be able to present clear-cut parameters, objectives and timelines that would prevent an agency or individual from exploiting these proposed emergency powers.
“It’s the first time that a new administration is asking for emergency powers this early in its term. But if they (Duterte administration) will come out with very specific objectives and timelines on how they will [use] it, we would want to back it. But they have to be very specific because a blanket emergency power may be problematic,” Barcelon told the Inquirer last week.
Barcelon added that the group was also hoping that President Duterte would use these emergency powers to help fast-track the implementation of the country’s public-private partnership (PPP) program and further ramp up spending for key infrastructure projects that were critical to attracting foreign direct investments (FDIs). In turn, these investments will help generate the much needed high-quality jobs and stimulate economic activities in the rural areas.
The PCCI chief said that seeking emergency powers this early was not a premature move as some quarters claimed, stressing that many of the issues for which the authority would be used have been pending for such a long time and have been neglected. A case in point was the worsening traffic crisis, which was estimated to cost the Philippine economy as much as P2.4 billion a day.
The idea of granting emergency powers to address Metro Manila traffic was first raised by then incoming Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade during a forum held in Davao City last June.
President Duterte then repeated the call during his first State of the Nation Address last month. The emergency powers, he had assured, would only be used to open up blocked streets and construct roads and train lines.
In June this year, the highly influential Makati Business Club (MBC) urged the new administration to exercise caution in crafting the proposed emergency powers and ensure that these would be “specific, limited and time-bound.” These powers, it added, must likewise be anchored on a “solid national policy and complemented by a strong system of accountability.”
“MBC believes that the nation does face a transportation crisis, which needs urgent action and solutions. The MBC stands ready to assist and be an active participant in a highly thorough process of consultation, debate and analysis between the government and the private sector. If the solutions to address the transport crisis require emergency powers, MBC will be prepared to support the consideration of well-defined emergency powers for the transport sector,” the group earlier said.
Last year, the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) put forward a list of recommendations aimed at easing transport and traffic woes in Metro Manila. Based on its proposal, the group wanted the government to appoint a traffic czar to handle all matters related to or affecting traffic and road management.
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