Tuesday, December 20, 2016

‘Emergency powers key to golden age of infrastructure’

By Lorenz S. Marasigan -

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) has a new pitch for the emergency powers it has been seeking: This measure will help pave the way for the Duterte administration’s much-hyped P9-trillion “golden age of infrastructure” campaign.
“The emergency powers is an enabling way. President Duterte wants this to be the golden age of infrastructure, so we are trying to pursue the backlogs and emergency powers will be enabling that,” Transportation Spokesman Cherie Mercado said at the BusinessMirror Coffee Club forum on Wednesday.
Mercado said the department faced headwinds and birthing pains during the administration’s first six months in power, and is bracing itself for more to come 2017. These issues, she said, include almost dead end-like problems, such a court cases and delays in right-of-way acquisition.
“We need to move forward with the projects that were left behind. We have to move with the ones that were left in the past, and make the new ones move faster,” Mercado said.
She explained that when projects move faster, these are the deals that more likely free of corruption. “When we push for projects to move faster, they are cleaner, because delays give corruption a chance to creep in on a contract’s implementation. That is why we want to make them move faster.”
The issues she mentioned, Mercado said, could easily be resolved when the emergency powers has been granted by Congress to the DOTr. “Those are a few major things that we were hopeful in resolving through the emergency powers. The emergency powers will help us to make projects move.”
With emergency powers, the transport agency will be able to fast-track the implementation of much-needed reforms in the transport sector, she noted.
Currently, the plea for the grant of emergency powers to the transport department hangs in Congress. A bill granting the said power to the executive branch, on the other hand, is unlikely to be passed before the end of the year.
“The ball is really in their [Congress] court. It is up to them if they will grant it to us or not. We feel that if granted, we will be delivering our deliverables at a faster phase and better manner.  If they deem that it is not necessary then we have to do things in the usual slow project implementation motion,” Mercado said.
Asked if her group is still bullish on getting the emergency powers despite hitting roadblocks in securing it, Mercado replied that her department is just hopeful that lawmakers will see the rationale behind the need for it. “There’s an urgency to our traffic crisis, that is why it is called a crisis,” she said.
The transport department will, however, accept whatever amendment Congress might include in the bill. “The bottom line there is whatever will be the final, that would still enable us to move the projects; that would help a lot.”
Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno earlier said the government is ready to spend P8.2 trillion to P9 trillion from 2017 to 2022 for the administration’s golden age of infra campaign. The program targets to generate more than 1 million jobs annually.

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