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Priority emergency powers

Two weeks ago I talked about speeding up infrastructure. But what is also needed is the emergency powers President Duterte requested, but which Congress has not acted on. Their reason: too much power without the necessary controls. They have a point; the Philippine government is not known for its honest dealings and  there have been far too many scandals in the past. Mr. Duterte wants a clean government and he has worked to achieve it (look at the senior officials he fired), but there’s still a long way to go.

So granting emergency powers to government officials introduces opportunities for scumbags to milk the system.

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One of the solutions is to pass the freedom of information bill, but that would only be partially successful given the difficulty of investigation and ability to cover up anomalies. For some unfathomable reason, the FOI bill is not moving in Congress either. It has been languishing there since the early 1990s. Maybe we should demand an explanation from our representatives.

I have a suggestion for Congress on emergency powers. Limit the measure only to projects of the highest priority; projects that we really need now, not a decade or two from now. There are 75 flagship projects that have been identified by the National Economic and Development Authority. We can start with about two dozens that we see as particularly important and urgent. These can be completed before President Duterte steps down in 2022.

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For Metro Manila and Luzon, these include the 12 bridges that will cross the Pasig and Marikina rivers, and the Manggahan Floodway; Bonifacio Global City-Ortigas Center Link Road; first three stations of the Metro Manila subway; Binondo-Intramuros Bridge; Quezon Province-Camarines Sur Expressway; Camarines-Catanduanes Friendship Bridge; Subic-Clark cargo rail; Manila-Bicol rail line; and Manila-Clark railway.

In the Visayas, top priorities are the New Bacolod Economic Highway; Metro Cebu Expressway; Panguil Bay Bridge  that will connect Tangub City in Misamis Occidental and Tubod in Lanao del Norte; Panay-Guimaras-Negros link bridge; and Bohol-Cebu Friendship Bridge.

In Mindanao, the priority are the Davao City Coastal Road; Davao City bypass project; Lanao del Norte-Misamis Occidental bridge, and the Mindanao railway. The government should focus on the railway’s first phase and commit to finishing it before 2021.

Congress sits for only 11 days before this session closes. The next one does not start until July 23, after President Duterte delivers his State of the Nation Address. It would be good for the country’s progress if they could pass this measure within that period.

The Department of Transportation has filed a bill to address this and was quite clear on what is necessary. It could be done within 11 days, but sadly I don’t think that is possible. At the very least it should be possible in the next session—from July 23 to March 22 next year. We have lost two years of swift action on infrastructure; it’s time to give the priority it deserves after nearly three decades of far too little action taken.

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of being stuck in traffic for hours on end. I was speaking to a young lady the other day; she spends three hours each way getting to and from work. Some spend longer hours on the road—time they could use to earn extra or be with their families. She’s not alone, there are millions suffering like her but no one should suffer like this.  It’s time for Congress to listen to their silent voices and relieve their sufferings. I want the bridges, roads and trains the administration has identified built before I die or before my kids die if the progress of the past is replicated.

Time for PEP: priority emergency powers.

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Read my previous columns: www.wallacebusinessforum.com. E-mail: [email protected]

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TAGS: infrastructure projects, Like It Is, Peter Wallace, priority emergency powers, Rodrigo Duterte
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