Monday, September 26, 2016

Salceda proposes Carmaggedon Law granting the President 3-year emergency powers to solve traffic crisis
By Johnny C. Nunez

MANILA, Sept. 26 (PNA) -- Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda has filed House Bill 3712 which seeks to decisively solve the country’s debilitating traffic and congestion problem by declaring a “state of traffic and congestion crisis” and granting President Duterte emergency powers and additional resources to address the ‘Carmageddon’ within three years.

The bill seeks to give the President emergency powers for “three years necessary and proper to effectively respond to multiple problems caused by the worsening and debilitating land and air traffic crisis in the country.”

The horrendous traffic and congestion problem, most particularly in Metro Manila, is now referred to as “Carmageddon” by commuters to describe their daily ordeals.

HB 3712 titled “Traffic and Congestion Crisis Act of 2016m” proposes to: declare the existence of traffic and congestion crisis; adopt state policy to address it based on the constitutional directive of promoting social justice; grant the President emergency powers to solve the crisis; mandate the formulation of a Decongestion and Transportation Network Development Reform Plan for four sectors: Land-based transport, Rail and Toll Roads, Air transport, and Seaports; designate the DOTr as crisis manager; authorize special modes of procurement; install safeguards through the Executive Order on Freedom of Information and a Congressional Oversight Committee; and provide an initial PHP20 billion for its implementation.

Salceda, vice chair of the house’s committees on Appropriations and Ways and Means, said his bill “provides an answer, the necessary solution –- an innovative, effective, swift, and never before seen solution -- that will stop the crisis from escalating and spreading to other urban hubs like Cebu and Davao, alleviate the situation, and prevent its recurrence.” He noted that the traffic crisis takes a heavy toll on the economy which now translates to billions of pesos in daily losses, has become so serious that conventional remedies have proven futile and ineffective. The problem has reached a point where the government is forced to think out of the box and to come up with a novel course of action.

Under his proposed emergency powers, the President “may reorganize and rationalize the existing structure of the Department of Transportation (DOTr), Land Transportation Office, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, Civil Aeronautics Board, Metro Manila Development Authority, PNP-Highway Patrol Group, and other agencies in the transportation sector.”

The bill also provides that within six months from its enactment, the President “may abolish, merge or create agencies, offices and positions; split, group, or merge positions; adopt a rationalization plan, transfer functions, equipment, properties, records and personnel; institute drastic cost-cutting measures; and take such other related actions necessary to carry out the declared State policy.” It also proposes to authorize special modes of procurement to immediately provide the facilities and infrastructures and cut through red tapes, but “install safeguards through the implementation of EO on Freedom and Information and the creation of Congressional Oversight Committee.”

HB 3712 likewise provides an initial budget of PHP20 billion for the early phases of the program, sourced from the current year’s budget of agencies implementing the act, and from the savings of the national government.

In filing HB 3712, Salceda said woeful stories about commuters caught in Metro Manila’s traffic “are the stuff that Metro Manila traffic nightmares are made of.” One commuter was reported in the newspapers to have “spent the first few hours of his birthday with strangers on a passenger bus, rather than with his loved ones at home, staying on the road September 8 – 9,” because there was a flash flood. Even without the aggravations of climate change impacts, however, he said these stories are “repeated every day in hundreds and hundreds of narratives of hapless and weary travellers and commuters, braving the traffic jungle that is Metro Manila.”

An economist, Salceda said there is no shortage of data and literature on Metro Manila’s traffic nightmare which aside from the torture it imposes, has also taken serious effects on the economy.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) said in a recently published report stating that land and air traffic congestion is costing the country a daily loss of PHP2.4 billion in potential income.

The National Economic Development Authority said this daily loss will balloon to PHP6 billion daily by 2030 if no interventions are undertaken. JICA also reported that more cars on the road is causing a rise in greenhouse emissions from 4.7 million tons per year in 2012 to 5.72 million tons by 2030, causing a staggering cost in human health and climate change.

CAAP has reported that airport congestion is causing the airlines at least PHP7 billion per year in fuel and engine maintenance costs; and to top it off, an international traffic software application, Waze, said Metro Manila has “the worst traffic in the world” in 2015.

Salceda said Metro Manila residents spend 1,000 hours in traffic per year while metropolitan areas in other countries spend only 300 hours, based on research. He added that studies clearly have established that the massive and horrendous traffic congestion in the country has assumed the nature and magnitude of a national emergency, which requires immediate, decisive and comprehensive solutions.

“We do not lack of daily reminders of how pervasive the traffic crisis has become. Traffic congestion is the perennial topic in TV, radio, and print news. Complaints and tirades are constantly trending in social media, and we hear personal stories of friends and family members missing out on their personal and professional lives, because they spend literally half of their day in cars, jeepneys, buses, and planes, wallowing in traffic,” he added. (PNA) FPV/JCN/EDS