Published July 6, 2017, 12:04 AM by Hannah Torregoza
If the Duterte government wants to ensure that the implementation of the nationwide massive infrastructure program is unhampered, then it must push lawmakers to approve the much-needed emergency powers it earlier requested to address the disappointing traffic situation in the Philippines.
Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito said all the government needs to do is to ask its allies in the Senate, and most importantly at the House of Representatives, to expedite the measure granting emergency powers to solve the traffic congestion.
“I really think it (emergency powers) would be essential. I’m still appealing to both Houses of Congress, for us to be able to pass the emergency powers to expedite the ‘Build, Build, Build’ project. I think it would be very essential in the government’s thrust to build, build, and build,” Ejercito said in a weekly press conference at the Senate.
Ejercito noted that one year after President Duterte took office, infrastructure development in the country remains slow.
“I have to be honest…medyo nabababagalan ako (I still find it slow). That’s why we really have to pass the emergency powers to make sure that these infrastructure projects would be expedited. No more delays because the reason why we called it emergency powers is its really urgent,” he said.
“So I have to be honest I feel a little bit frustrated why it has not really moved. Especially at the Lower House where we have a bigger problem,” added Ejercito.
“We have to understand. I hope we set aside personal squabbles and think of what to do better. Because if we are unable to lay down the big infrastructure programs in the soonest time possible, before they know it, 2020 is near and we might have done nothing at all. That will be embarrassing,” he further said.
Ejercito said the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has already made a commitment in helping out the Duterte administration fulfill its vow to improve the country’s infrastructure programs.
“So I’m hoping that at least we can have some guarantee with our railway system. We are 20 years behind in infrastructure development but at least that is one of the accomplishments that the President could say, that it was already started and laid down by his government. Still, I’m frustrated, it’s still slow,” Ejercito said.
“But at least they have already kicked off, and our economy still maintains its growth despite of all the troubles and challenges that the government is facing,” he said.
The senator said the Senate has already made sure that a mechanism for check and balance would be in place in the emergency powers bill to ensure that it would not be abused.
The senator also pointed out that the Senate has made sure that all provisions of the emergency powers bill would be Freedom of Information (FOI) compliant.
“We made it that way because the procurement process would be shortcut. With an emergency power in place, there would be exception from injunctions. Precisely because whenever we go through the process there is always a losing bidder that would file an injunction, delaying the whole project,” he explained.
“We have stipulated in the emergency powers that there’s still the Supreme Court, which would be the sole body that can issue an injunction to make sure there is check and balance in place,” he said.