Christine F. Herrera and Macon Ramos-Araneta | Manila Standard | November 21, 2016

HOUSE Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said Tuesday Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade's performance in the first 100 days of the Duterte administration was a "failure."

He said Congress will not grant emergency powers to his department to solve the traffic problem because the parameters of the emergency powers being sought by the government must be defined.

Tugade has not complied with Congress' demand to provide the specifics and details of his plan to solve the traffic gridlock in many parts of the country. But he wants to become the "traffic crisis manager" once Congress grants him emergency powers.

"Sad to say, I have not felt any improvement as far as traffic is concerned in Metro Manila and Metro Cebu," said Alvarez, a key ally of President Rodrigo Duterte in the House of Representatives.

He made his statement even as Senator Grace Poe said the Senate committee on public services had decided to hold a fourth public hearing on Oct. 12 on the proposed emergency powers to solve the traffic crisis.

That extends the public hearings by the committee following the request of some senators to continue with those so they could learn more about the Transport department’s plans to solve the traffic mess.

Poe said the panel wanted to be apprised on two proposed bus rapid transit systems that will traverse Manila to Quezon City and another from Edsa to Ayala and Ortigas to Naia. The projects will cost P44.23 billion over a three year period assuming the emergency powers requested by the government are in place.

Poe's committee also asked for clarification on why the proposed list of port projects submitted by the Department of Transportation only included Manila ports and not Subic and Batangas ports.

"Our traffic problems are by no means confined to land-based transportation. We also have to deal with port congestion resulting to slower movement of goods by sea and air traffic problems causing flight delays," Poe said.

The public services committee had decided to conclude the hearings after a third hearing on the emergency powers on Sept. 22, to be followed by technical working group meetings toward crafting a committee report on the measure.

Alvarez said that, in particular, the Transport department had been remiss in ensuring that the rail systems in Metro Manila did not bog down.

"Until now, we still receive reports of trains bogging down," Alvarez told reporters on Monday.

"Some of these have already been privatized. There are train lines that are being operated by private corporations, so these [things] should no longer happen."

Except for the traffic mess, Alvarez said, it felt like President Rodrigo Duterte had made progress in his campaign promises.

"The President has done a lot already," Alvarez said.

"It feels like one year instead of 100 days―particularly in the campaign against illegal drugs."

But Alvarez expressed sadness over the failure of Tugade and his men to ease the plight of commuters who, he said, continued to suffer from the worsening traffic crisis in the first 100 days of the administration.

He said Congress wanted to know the parameters of the emergency powers being sought by Tugade.

Tugade submitted a 40-page Palace-proposed emergency powers bill that would allow him to have control over several government agencies to resolve the transport mess.

But Tugade did not provide details and failed to identify which parts of the country were vulnerable to a traffic crisis, aside from Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Metro Davao.

"Not Davao. The traffic in Davao is manageable," said Alvarez who hails from Davao del Norte. Catanduanes Rep. Cesar Sarmiento, chairman of the House committee on transportation, said the panel required Tugade to submit documents.

"The submission of these necessary documents will not derail the deliberation of the traffic crisis bills but will instead help fine-tune the contents of the bills," Sarmiento said.