House panel OKs traffic crisis bill

MANILA-- The bill seeking to grant special powers to the Duterte administration in addressing the country's worsening traffic problem has hurdled the committee level at the House of Representatives.

The House committee on transportation approved on Wednesday House Bill (HB) No. 4334 entitled, "Traffic Crisis Act of 2016", which was authored by committee chair Cesar Sarmiento, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Majority Leader Rodolfo FariAas.

"This traffic crisis act is not forever. We're just addressing the traffic crisis for a limited period of time," Sarmiento said during the committee's 12th hearing on emergency powers.

"If you look at the whole traffic crisis act, this is not emergency power. This is a law that contains strategy and reforms that we identified in the course of the 16th Congress and even now in the hearings of (the) traffic crisis act," he added.

Sarmiento noted that many ideas from the House bill had been adopted in the Senate version, thus making the harmonization of the two versions easier.

HB 4334 identifies and limits the scope of the bill to the land traffic crisis in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Davao City.

Under the bill, the Secretary of the Department of Transportation is designated as the ex officio Traffic Chief and shall have the power of supervision and control over the following: Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), Cebu Coordinating Council, Philippine National Police-Highway Patrol Group (PNP-HPG), Land Transportation Office (LTO); Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB), Road Board, and the Metropolitan Davao Traffic Administrator.

The Traffic Chief will be allowed to also implement similar mechanisms and systems provided in the bill to other cities and municipalities around the country which may suffer from a traffic crisis.

"This bill is intended to address or mitigate (the traffic problem) but it's not a magic wand miracle that will solve everything if approved. Since there are a lot of varying traffic ordinances coming from LGUs (local government units), this bill will give the traffic chief the power to harmonize all these,"" Sarmiento said.

New amendments introduced in the measure include the following:

(1) Expanding the composition of Metro Cebu, referring to nine cities and 36 municipalities of the province of Cebu;

(2) Clearing of sidewalks and identification of need for elevated crosswalks, suitable locations for the elevated crosswalks which must be integrated to the designated public utility vehicles (PUVs) terminals and bus stops;

(3) A system to expedite the reporting and clearing of vehicular accidents through the admissibility of digital photographs as a basis of police report or other traffic investigation reports;

(4) Relaxing the timeline with the formulation of a traffic management plan being completed within 90 days and route rationalization within 8 months.

(5) On the power of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee to certify, concur, or approve.

(6) Approval of plans, programs, and projects by the traffic chief shall take the form of a development permit that shall be issued prior to any land development and shall be in lieu of all other permits such as those issued by the MMDA and LGUs.

(7) Drivers, driver's assistants, mechanics, and other employees of the PUV operators affected by a revocation or modification of franchise shall be entitled to financial social support services, such as in the form of the Department of Social Welfare and Development's Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) funding for the entire 2017.

(8) Bidding out or procurement of the priority projects including infrastructure projects, software, or IT components and attendant acquisition of the goods and consulting services as identified by the Traffic Chief and submitted to the JOC.

(9) Legality/constitutionality of priority projects, programs, policies, rules and regulations to be implemented under the act

(10) The creation of a separate and permanent Department of Urban Traffic Management, which shall be tasked with the control, planning, and management of land-based traffic in the metropolitan areas and will take over and continue to exercise all the powers and authority transferred on the traffic chief.

HB 4334 addresses the impending displacement of public utility drivers and operators who will be affected by route rationalization and DOTr's mass transport projects to solve traffic congestion. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency

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