By Keith A. Calayag, November 15, 2019; Daily Tribune

Image Credit to Daily Tribune

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano has a counter-offer to the proposed emergency powers to President Rodrigo Duterte to push the flagship projects under the “Build, Build, Build” program, which is the creation of a committee to be chaired by Tarlac Rep. Carlos “Charlie” Cojuangco to oversee the infrastructure buildup.

Cayetano believes it is already too late in his term to give the President special powers.

“I’m a believer in special powers. However, I’m going to give those members who filed the bill including (Albay) Congressman Joey (Salceda) a call because the President has already said he does not want to be given special powers,” he said in an interview on the sidelines of the Kapisanan ng Broadcaster ng Pilipinas conference in Tagaytay City yesterday.

“It was not given during the time it should have been given, so you know it will have some advantage, but it will not attain its objective anymore. So, rather than debate on it, we’ll focus on the ‘Build, Build, Build,’” the House leader said.

Cayetano said the best time to have given the President special powers was during his first few months in office.

“You need it during the time when your emergency measure is most effective. So, at the start of the administration, the first few months, emergency powers are essential… It was not given (by Congress),” he added.

Fake news

Salceda on Wednesday filed a bill that sought to give the President special powers to ease the procurement process and facilitate right-of-way acquisitions.

The filing of the bill came a day after Sen. Franklin Drilon called the infrastructure program a “dismal failure.”

Cayetano debunked the claim of Drilon and said it is fake news: “The Duterte administration has done a lot. It (Build, Build, Build) is being done not for politics but to give people a safe and comfortable life.”

“To say that ‘Build, Build, Build’ is a failure is fake news,” he added.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo, however, welcomed the measure on special powers.

In a press briefing, Panelo said Salceda’s filing of the measure at the House of Representatives on Wednesday would help speed up projects.

“I think Congressman Salceda’s move is laudable. Because one of the reasons why projects have slowed was Right-of-Way. We have problems with that. The owners don’t want to allow, while others filed a temporary restraining order (TRO). But if there are powers, work will move forward,” Panelo said.

He added he still has to talk to the President regarding the measure.

“As I said, I will ask the President. I haven’t talked to him. I’ll ask him,” he stressed.

DoTr strikes back

The Department of Transportation (DoTr) also rejected Drilon’s assessment. DoTr Assistant Secretary for Communications and Commuter Affairs Goddes Hope Libiran said the list presented by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), which include 75 flagship projects, were submitted way back during the beginning of Mr. Duterte’s term and does not reflect the evolving needs of the country.

“As you go along, you need to have an evolving list of what projects are seen by economic managers as necessary to begin and most needed by people,” Libiran noted.

Such a list, he said, would naturally include projects that should be completed or started during the Duterte administration.

She added the BBB program was beyond those initial 75 projects and that the department had completed numerous projects while more are ongoing.

“As far as the DoTr is concerned, we deliver infrastructure projects. Even more than what is expected of us,” Libiran said.

For airports, he said 64 projects have been completed by the DoTr and its partners, with another 133 projects ongoing.

The completed airport projects include the new passenger terminal building of the Puerto Princesa International Airport completed on May 2017, “World’s Friendliest Resort Airport” Mactan-Cebu International Airport inaugurated on June 2018, and the country’s first ecology-friendly — Bohol-Panglao International Airport — inaugurated in November 2018.

“All other domestic projects neglected in previous years have been completed such as the Ormoc Airport, the Tacloban Airport, and so many other airport projects,” Libiran said.

Projects moving fast

For maritime ports, she said the DoTr has completed 243 port projects nationwide in partnership with the Philippine Ports Authority and other stakeholders.

For land terminals, she cited the completion of the country’s first land port, the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange, with two more terminals in the pipeline — the Taguig City Integrated Terminal Exchange and the North Integrated Terminal Exchange.