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POE ASKS PALACE: CLARIFY TRAFFIC AGENDA

Sen. Grace Poe today said MalacaAang should clarify its position if it still interested in keenly pushing for the passage of the proposed emergency powers that would allow the Executive branch to implement key transportation projects and end traffic gridlocks gripping the metropolis and other urban areas in the country.

This, after Poe--the main proponent of Senate Bill No. 1284 or the proposed Traffic and Congestion Crisis Act--was puzzled by the fact that President Rodrigo Duterte failed to mention the bill in his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) and the leadership of both chambers did not include the emergency powers measure among the list of priorities.

"Ako'y umaasa sana noong SONA na sasabihin ng Pangulo na priority itong emergency powers kasi yung sinasabi po niyang problema, ako ay nakikisimpatya, hindi lamang sa nagiging problema ng Pangulo sa paglutas ng traffic kung hindi lalung-lalo na yung ating mga kababayan na matagal na rin, pareho nating adbokasiya ito," said Poe in a radio interview on Wednesday.

Poe, chairperson of the Senate committee on public services, said the President's strong backing could pave the way for the swift approval of the bill--which would allow the speedy rollout of projects without the threat of any injunction by the lower courts-- just like the tax reform bill that House of Representatives already approved in May and now awaits Senate nod. But without the Palace certification, the bill could undergo a protracted process and its approval could be stalled now that the 2018 spending plan has been submitted to Congress.

"Kaya nga po sabi ko sana nga pagalitan n'ya [Duterte] rin kami run sa Senado na 'uy bilisan na ninyo yan' kasi talagang malaking tulong sana ito," she said, adding that the emergency powers could help the administration's planned rollout of P8 trillion in infrastructure projects.

The Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council, an advisory board to the President composed of lawmakers and Cabinet members, also has not listed the emergency powers bill in its priority bills released last month.

Business groups, however, wanted the emergency powers to be passed immediately to address the nation's traffic and transportation woes.

Poe said she will ask the Senate leadership, in particular Majority Leader Vicente "Tito" Sotto III, to frontload the emergency powers measure now up for interpellations and pending second reading. Poe earlier said she wanted debates on the measure ended last March but there were a number of senators who wanted to interpellate.

"Mayroon pa pong nakalista na nais magtanong pero hindi pa po nai-schedule...Para sa akin, sana nga ma-calendar na ito," she said.

The emergency powers, if approved, shall be valid and effective until the next adjournment of Congress--or in June 2019--unless sooner withdrawn by Congress.

In his second annual address to the nation, Duterte told lawmakers at the joint session that temporary restraining orders (TROs) are the "bane" of projects.

"Tapos yung TRO na yan would delay the projects. I am asking Congress, find me a law wherein if there was regular bidding, the courts or somebody else should not be messing it up because it will delay the project which has been the case in the provinces," said Duterte.

Poe said this is the reason for Congress to immediately churn out the emergency powers bill in the legislative mill. "Problema niya mga TRO hindi lamang sa traffic pati rin dito sa reproductive health, balakid talaga kapag mayroong mga proyekto tapos may magsasampa ng kaso, naaantala yung mga proyekto na iyan."

"We hope to resume deliberations on the bill and as sponsor, I want this bill passed before the year ends. However, after the period of interpellations, the bill will still have to undergo amendments. I think the emergency powers bill is still considered a priority in the Senate but the question is--how is it doing in the House of Representatives?" she said.

Source: Senate of the Philippines

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