By Malia Ager, September 10 2019; Philippine Star

Image Credit to Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The country’s traffic problems have remained unresolved not because of the absence of the proposed emergency powers but because of the lack of a transport master plan, Senator Grace Poe said Tuesday.

Poe insisted that existing laws are already sufficient to address the problems on procurement and right of way acquisition.

“Under these existing laws, a lot could have been done with or without emergency powers,” she said before terminating the hearing of the Senate committee on public services.

Aside from traffic, the committee chaired by Poe also tackled the implementation of the provincial bus ban, and the proposed emergency powers.

‘It’s not the lack of powers but the lack of a master plan,” she said. “We have an approved Dream Plan but it’s unclear if our transport agencies have adopted it for implementation.”

“It’s not the lack of powers but the lack of a more proactive stand. We need firmer actions from the executive who can very well function if they want to,” Poe further said.

The senator stressed the need for a transportation system master plan, which she said identifies short, medium, and long term projects “with sufficient funding and achievable deadlines.”

During the hearing, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon also asked transport officials about a comprehensive master plan to address the worsening traffic problem in the metropolis.

“Have you presented a plan? Wala pa akong nakikita dito. In the last three years wala pa akong nakikitang presentation dito sa Senado,” Recto said.

Transport Engineer Rene Santiago, who was part of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) team that formulated the “Dream Plan” in 2014, expressed readiness to make the presentation before the committee.

In 2015, Santiago said, the Dream Plan was adopted by the National Economic Development Authority.

But still responding to Recto’s queries, the engineer admitted that not all sections in the masterplan were being followed.

“Some of the 11 or 13 bridges plans were not part of the plan,” Santiago said.

Recto then asked: “May mali ba sa plano na kailangang baguhin?”

“Adjustments are acceptable but if it changes the whole behavior of the network, it changes the integrity of the plan,” Santiago said.

Drilon pursued Recto’s line of questioning asking if the said masterplan has been submitted to the Department of Transportation.

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade confirmed that the agency had received all the studies and masterplan submitted by Jica two to three years ago.

“Yes, we are in receipt all those studies and masterplan submitted by Jica. Yes, we’re in receipt of the masterplan reviewed by Neda (National Economic and Development Authority). Yes, we’re trying to follow the masterplan with some changes. These changes are on the structures and facilities,” Tugade said. /kga