Press Release
December 14, 2016


Mr. President, dear colleagues, magandang hapon po.

I stand here before you today to sponsor Senate Bill No. 1284 or An Act Compelling the Government to Address the Transportation and Congestion Crisis through the Grant of Emergency Powers to the President.

This bill is a consolidation of Senate Bills filed by Senators Drilon, Ejercito, Cayetano, and Gatchalian. We also took into consideration the inputs from all concerned government agencies, the academe, and stakeholders; and recommendations from transportation and urban planning experts.

It has come to a point where we plan our lives on how heavy the vehicular traffic will be, and for millions, gridlock in our streets has become a painful constant. We don't need statistics to prove how traffic has gone from bad to worse in Mega Manila. Cars move in a glacial pace. The only hope for fast mode of travel in the metropolis - the trains - have been derailed by lack of machines and old equipment, poor maintenance, and the greatest culprit that slows them - bureaucratic inertia.

People, including children who should still be asleep, now wake up before dawn to catch an MRT train only to realize that the time to queue for a ticket is now longer than the train ride itself. And they who rise before sunrise have to go through a harrowing commute just so they can be home by midnight - as they often post in memes and in social media - "pumasok sa tren na bagong ligo, lalabas na tila mandirigma galing sa isang giyera".

People tend to lose their whole day's energy even before they set foot in their offices or schools. The sad reality is that for many, the time spent for rest is less than the time spent on the road. The bus has become their bedroom.

It is no longer true that it is faster to fly across the ocean than to drive across town. As anyone who had recently taken a flight out of NAIA would tell you, sometimes the time spent by a plane queuing to take off is sometimes longer than the actual flight itself. Worse, the flight delays, and the duration of said delays, have become a norm undermining each and every passenger's personal schedule or time.

To be sure, a lot of opportunities, events and occasions have been missed or lost by thousands of passengers. And anyone flying in gets a free aerial tour of Metro Manila as planes waste time and fuel oscillating before they're given clearance to land.

And traffic is not just a Metro Manila disease. It is a virus engulfing the nation. Metro Cebu is showing the classic symptoms of long commutes and bumper-to-bumper traffic. Baguio is another. Where once you can stop to smell the pine trees, now traveling within the city is more stop than go where you can only smell the fumes. Today's holy land - that is Davao - is grappling with traffic, too. So are Iloilo, Cagayan de Oro, Lipa, Naga and many places in Laguna and all the other big and major cities in Central and South Luzon.

When commerce and commuters move in a pace that is slow and unsafe, the toll is high - in economic losses, health costs and productivity decline. One estimate pegs at 876 billion pesos the annual economic cost of traffic in Metro Manila alone.

Traffic does not only drain gas tanks, it zaps out our energy, and makes us feel less happy. Traffic does not only break down cars but, sabi nga ng mga millennials, break up relationships na rin.

The culprit, Mr. President, is our inability to expand and develop our mass transport system and our inability to immediately implement already existing plans for infrastructure and transportation management. We do not have a lack of plans but a lack of Action People--people who do more and talk less.

We depend heavily on private transportation. We junked our rails for wheels, we sold for scrap our trains which could ferry thousands, and built roads to make room for more sedans. At its peak, the Philippine railway system stretched 1,140 kilometers in three islands. Now we only have 43 kilometers of rails.

In the absence of people movers, people had no to choice but to find their own ride, and today that Pinoy diskarte is used to scrape together enough money for a "down payment" for a car that will be amortized in many "gives". Mr. President, people are forced to pay for their desired "convenience".

This year alone, the number of four-wheel vehicles sold in the country is forecast to reach - or even breach - 400,000 units. If one in every three cars will ply Metro Manila streets, then all these brand- new cars would fill not just one, but two-and-a-half lengths of EDSA - from Monumento to MOA, both sides, all lanes, bumper-to-bumper, 2.5 times. Or you can compute it this way: All cars sold in Metro Manila in four months and three weeks could fill both sides of EDSA. Just four months.

Car travel is inherently inefficient. It costs at least Php 750,000 to transport a person from one point to another by car. Furthermore, a car occupies at least 13 square meters of public space, even if it is carrying only one person. Car travel accounts for 30% of trips but accounts for 72% of road traffic. What we need are vehicles that carry more people. Thus, we want our people to rely on public transportation. Sadly, this is not the case.

A long train of bad ideas, bankrupt programs, botched projects, and lack of meaningful foresight has made it an accident waiting to happen - the perfect train wreck upon which the well-being and welfare of the Filipino people is fighting for survival. It is now time to untangle the mess, one that is so grave and great that it needs emergency powers to straighten it out.

What is disappointing, Mr. President, is it appears that the burden to solve the traffic crisis is now on us. Bigla na lang idinadahilan ng ibang mga taga executive department na hindi sila makakilos ng mabilis dahil wala silang emergency powers. Many solutions do not require legislation. In fact, the laws are there, the plans are there, if only they are implemented. Hindi lahat ng solusyon nangangailangan ng semento. Kadalasan, sentido-kumon lang ang kulang.

To them, I say, "Get off your office chairs, and act NOW." You should inspire the people to have confidence in you, and that will only happen if your actions will spur results.

Nonetheless, we are granting emergency powers to the President because losing 3 billion pesos a day due to traffic is alarming enough to constitute a crisis. This is especially true given the independent JICA estimates that by 2030, estimated losses will increase to 6 billion a day.

Congress needs to declare a national emergency with regard to traffic congestion, because traffic from highly urbanized areas is now spilling over to nearby localities and causing businesses and people to lose money and opportunities. In figures, around 12.8 million trips are made in Metro Manila everyday, which is a lot, considering that Metro Manila has less than 1 km of road for every 424 vehicles. Currently, 50% of Metro Manila's road networks are operating near saturation level, at a volume or capacity ratio of 0.80% and at average speeds of 20 km/hour.

To address the traffic crisis, our bill declares as State policy the adoption of "comprehensive and effective measures" that will immediately create a transportation system that is "fast, safe, secure, efficient, viable, competitive, dependable, integrated, environmentally sustainable, people-oriented, and inclusive." In short, it defines the problems, and prescribes the cure.

By granting emergency powers to the executive branch, we can achieve the following:

1. Harmonize traffic laws of LGUs and the national government;

2. Provide for the use of Alternative Methods of Procurement under our existing procurement law (RA 9184);

3. Compel, empower, and capacitate the executive branch to implement existing plans (Three-Year Rolling Infrastructure Program of the NEDA; JICA plans approved by the NEDA);

4. Compel, empower, and capacitate the executive branch to create and implement a short to mid-term plan, known as the Traffic Crisis Action and Decongestion Plan, to specifically address the traffic and congestion crisis we are now experiencing.

Achieving the above requires a focal person, who will be the lead implementer of powers conferred. This will be the Traffic Crisis Manager. The Traffic Crisis Manager shall be appointed by the President and shall have Cabinet rank, and pay and privileges of a department secretary. He shall have the opportunity to formulate, coordinate and implement land, air, and seaport traffic plans, projects and programs. He may open private roads, clear sidewalks, and override LGU ordinances that are counterproductive in easing traffic in Metro Manila.

But the Traffic Crisis Manager cannot just enter the fray without knowing what he has to do. Thus, we cannot simply build, build, and build without planning, for you will end up with a Lego city built by toddlers. You want order, organization, and flexibility in building a city and in connecting regions.

So the first question is: "Is there a plan?" The DOTr could not give us a straight answer so we shall give it to them. Yes, there are already existing plans. We do not have a lack of them. For short term infrastructure projects, we have the Three-Year Rolling Infrastructure Program or TRIP, which consists of plans submitted by various agencies and already approved by the NEDA. We don't understand why from the very beginning, the DOTr did not reference to this. For long term projects, we specified in our bill the Roadmap for Transport Infrastructure Development for Greater Metro Manila and the Roadmap Study for Sustainable Development for Metro Cebu.

The Three-Year Rolling Infrastructure Program, however, will simply be part of the Traffic Crisis Action and Decongestion Plan. This plan encompasses not just infrastructure but also programs and projects that aim to immediately address the traffic crisis.

Programs and projects under the Traffic Crisis Action and Decongestion Plan include route rationalization; creating a uniform Traffic Code that will harmonize all laws related to traffic management; managing the volume of users in gateway seaports and airports to aid decongestion; and modify, revise, amend, suspend, or revoke franchises; among others.

What about other cities, like Davao, Cagayan De Oro, Iloilo, Lipa, etc? Remember when I emphasized the importance of having a plan? These cities do not have a "master plan" yet. We cannot simply build a flyover and take it down later because we want to build a BRT. The emergency powers will empower the executive branch to start feasibility studies on these areas. We are now compelling them to actually have a legitimate study because they have none in many areas.

However, for immediate relief, the Traffic Crisis Manager may implement similar systems and mechanisms, such as implementing a teleworking scheme, clearing of sidewalks, designation of PUV terminals, etc, in these areas.

While this bill sets the parameters for the projects to be implemented, it gives the implementers more than enough latitude to maneuver, provided that they are within fixed parameters.

So what does this bill prescribe, Mr. President?

It sets a rules-based exercise of emergency powers. The Constitution does not permit the executive to write its own emergency powers in a D-I-Y fashion. And it is in obedience to the Constitution that we have made the emergency powers time-bound, targeted, transparent, task-oriented, and technology-aided.

Time-bound, because emergency powers given to the President must have an expiry date. Without this, the element of urgency is lost. Why call it an "emergency" if we do not demand for immediate or urgent solutions? Our bill uses the language of the Constitution that limits the grant of emergency powers to the next adjournment of session, which is June 2019.

Second, it is targeted because it specifies the areas where it would and may be applied. In this case, the implementation of infra projects, subject to an existing plan, covers Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and their adjoining towns and cities. However, this does not preclude the creation of a master transportation plan for other areas, especially highly urbanized cities and municipalities that are already suffering from traffic congestion.

Third, it is transparent because these are emergency powers to solve problems and not, to borrow a term popular years ago, "emergency powers to steal." The power to expedite projects is not a license to contract expensive projects with kickbacks. Our bill requires the publication of everything that has to do with the use of emergency powers--from the policies crafted through this Act down to the updates on projects being implemented.

It is also task-oriented, because although the weight of this Act falls heavily on the Traffic Crisis Manager, it empowers him to create an inter-agency task forces and designate action officers from both the national and local government.

Hindi naman si Superman si Traffic Crisis Manager at lalo hindi sya ang Diyos. Thus, the bill retains the mandate and duties of specific agencies, such as the DPWH, MMDA, NHA, and LGUs. It also creates a Traffic Crisis Advisory Council, which is composed of not just the pertinent government agencies, but also members of the academe, NGOs, technical experts, and representatives from transport and commuter groups.

As the powers given are great, so are the sanctions for their abuse. Any violation or non-compliance with any provision in the Act shall be considered a violation under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and shall be penalized with imprisonment of one to ten years and shall be perpetually disqualified from holding public office.

Kung meron pong pasaway sa gobyerno na ayaw makisama sa centralized regulation dahil sa pulitika o anupaman, ito po ay violation. Pwede na siyang ma-disqualify perpetually from public office--kailangan pong makisama tayo dito para sa ikabubuti ng ating bayan. Kaya yung mga pasaway sa gobyerno na ayaw maging team player at nagpapahirap sa pagpapatupad ng mga proyekto na makakapagpabilis sa daloy ng trapiko ay mapaparusahan.

Paano naman iyung nagnanakaw o kumukuha ng kickbacks? Our law also provides that if they violate an already existing law, such as the Revised Penal Code or any special act, then the maximum penalty shall be imposed.

Lastly, our emergency powers bill is technology-aided because if we will not tap the best solutions science can offer, then we will be applying more of the same ineffective cures.

Faster internet connectivity does not only mean faster Facebook speed. Hindi lang po pang Facebook ang gamit ng Internet para magtroll. We also need this to ensure real time monitoring of traffic, katulad po kapag nanonood kayo ng mga news sa ibang bansa. Kapag sa mga pelikula, kapag nakikita nilang may emergency, mayroong central traffic control system na maaaring gawing green light lahat ng intersection with a touch of a button. Kailangan ganun din ang ating teknolohiya sa ating bansa at hindi yan malayo sa katotohanan kung atin lang bibigyan ng pagtutok.

We also need this to make sure that people can work from homes. Kaya nga yung pagtatayo ng mga cell towers na bibilisan ay dapat nating payagan para mas mabilis ang internet speed that's why we also support the bill of Sen. Bam Aquino. Kailangan mabilis ang internet speed para yung ibang kailangang pumasok sa trabaho ay sa bahay na lang kung pareho, pwede tayong mag-teleconference o video conferencing at marami pa tayong kamag-anak sa abroad na matutuwa sapagkat mas mabilis ang pasok ng Skype at information sa kanila.

First, we will allow the Traffic Crisis Manager and the implementing agencies to use the Alternative Methods of Procurement under the existing procurement law (RA 9184) by recognizing traffic congestion as a calamity that needs urgent solutions. Our bill's provision on procurement still remains faithful to RA 9184, with the addition that bonus incentives will be given to concessionaires who are able to complete their tasks at a shorter period of time.

Second, our bill prohibits the issuances of TROs and preliminary injunctions by lower courts. Thus, only the Supreme Court may issue a TRO. Para mabawasan ang nuisance lawsuits.

Third, we intend to limit the number of licenses, permits and certifications necessary to implement a priority project. Mantakin niyo, mismong gobyerno nahihirapan sa dami na kailangan na permits para lang makapagtayo ng imprastraktura. Ang gobyerno kumukuha ng permits sa iba't ibang ahensya ng gobyerno at natatagalan. Tayo mismo ang nagpapabagal sa sarili nating proyekto.

And fourth, we shall expedite the acquisition of rights-of-way, project sites, and relocation sites but with safeguards. For example, we shall provide for additional funding for informal settler families who need to be relocated. Hindi naman pwedeng sasabihin nating magpapatayo tayo ng tulay, may mga nakatira pa doon at wala silang malilipatan. Kailangang may budget para realistic na makalipat ang ating mga kababayan.

What about PUV operators who will be displaced due to the route rationalization scheme or other projects that will be implemented? Hindi po natin sila nakaligtaan. Mayroong mga social support mechanisms na tutulong at poprotekta sa kanila.

Granting emergency powers to the President may be frowned upon by some, but the public need not worry since there will be a Congressional Oversight Committee that will monitor their every move. A reporting mechanism is likewise in place. These are in addition to the transparency provisions already found in the bill.

Mr. President, while there are many things that this bill is about, there are equally many things that this is not. It is not the sole handbook to fix our traffic problems. It is but one of many.

The Senate needs to do its part to help address the traffic crisis. But we also expect the executive department to do theirs. If this bill passes into law, then the executive department will no longer have any excuse and should stop pointing fingers as to its inability to address the traffic crisis in the country.

I also appeal to our kababayans, sumunod po tayo sa batas trapiko. Huwag pumara sa gitna ng daan, tumawid tayo sa tamang lugar kahit mas malayo pa ito sa kinaroroonan, huwag mag-counterflow, etc. May mga pasaway rin na PUV and tricycle drivers na titigil sa unahan kahit green light na kasi kukuha pa ng pasahero o kaya naman gagawa ng terminal kung saan naman wala.

Ang lakas natin magreklamo tungkol sa trapik pero tayo rin minsan ang sanhi. Huwag ganun. Hindi niyo kailangan ng taong papalo sa inyo para lang madisiplina kayo. We should exercise self-discipline.

I know that that this bill will not undergo smooth sailing when it comes to the evaluation of this bill but we are prepared to be able to answer and accept legitimate amendments that will really help in smoothing out the problems in traffic. I do hope that this Chamber will do its part in supporting this measure that could eventually improve the traffic condition of our country.

Maraming salamat po.

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