Paolo Romero | Philstar.com | November 21, 2016

MANILA, Philippines – Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade will have to come up with better plans to address the worsening traffic crisis in the country than the ones he presented to Congress in asking for emergency powers for President Duterte, Sen. Grace Poe said yesterday.

Poe chairs the Senate committee on public services, which is writing the final draft of the proposed emergency powers law for Duterte to address the traffic crisis.

Poe's committee plans to have a final committee report in the coming weeks with the aim of passing it before the end of the year.

But she said the work was made difficult by the Department of Transportation (DOTr)'s incoherent and even grandiose proposals that are unlikely to be implemented due to lack of clear plans and funding.

"We are working hard on something that is very transparent, doable, and simple that can be implemented that's why it's called emergency powers. It will not likely cover the entire country but only areas where the transportation crisis is evident,” Poe said in a telephone interview.

Tugade was bypassed by the bicameral Commission on Appointments last month amid questions on his competence and on the way he was running the DOTr. He is considered to be on holdover status until Duterte reappoints him.

Poe said possible transparency provisions in the bill include the creation of bicameral oversight panel to make sure the DOTr does not enter into onerous contracts. She stressed that the body would not get in the way of speedy procurement of urgent projects.

Tugade has proposed the Duterte administration be allowed to do away with the usual bidding procedures to speed up implementation of transportation projects for at least three years when the emergency powers are in force.

But Poe said many of the DOTr's proposed projects – costing anywhere from P3 trillion to P8 trillion – don't have approved plans or even feasibility studies.

She cited the case of the proposed Bus Rapid Transit system along EDSA where the DOTr gave the committee what amounts to only a "prospectus."

She also noted the DOTr made funding proposals to the committee when the bill has nothing to do with appropriating budgets for projects.

"Where are we going to get all these funds? Do our agencies have the absorptive capacity to implement all these projects in three years?" Poe said.

She said the DOTr could do well in looking into project proposals that have been well researched and have feasibility studies, such as those conducted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

Poe also said her committee has been holding technical working group meetings with various stakeholders, including local government units and government agencies like the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) that the DOTr apparently did not consult when it presented its proposed emergency powers bill.

She noted that addressing the traffic crisis should be the work of all government agencies. She cited the plan of the Department of Education to study the school year calendar to ease traffic congestion as well as the MMDA's various initiatives.

"There are many small but effective things LGUs and government agencies can do to address traffic without the emergency powers," she said.