Photographer: Taylor Weidman/Bloomberg

Duterte Seeks Emergency Powers to Resolve Manila’s Traffic Woes

  • Government may favor direct procurement over project bidding
  • Traffic congestion costs capital 2.4 billion pesos a day

With little over a week before he is sworn in as Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, the tough-talking strongman from Davao City, will seek emergency powers to fix traffic jams on Manila’s congested roads and transport problems in other areas that cost at least 2.4 billion pesos ($51 million) a day.

Congress will have to declare a transport crisis before the president can exercise the special powers under the constitution, incoming Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade told reporters in Davao City on Monday. These powers include opening roads in private subdivisions to the public and doing away with bidding for some infrastructure projects in favor of direct procurement, he said.

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“This emergency power is not without a precedent,” Tugade said, adding that lawmakers had given former President Fidel Ramos emergency powers in the 1990s to resolve an electricity crisis. “There’s already a draft bill being studied by our legal group. Hopefully when congress opens we can present our draft.”

Manila’s commuters are victims of a decade of neglect that outgoing President Benigno Aquino had sought to reverse with the capital’s biggest transport upgrade since the 1990s. Duterte’s victory in the May 9 election has been partly attributed to middle-class frustrations over public services including transportation.

The emergency presidential powers that could last two years would allow the government to deal with issues such as overriding court orders stopping the government from taking over private property for the benefit of the public, Tugade said. The government would also enforce strict parking locations in the cities, while prioritizing projects outside Metro Manila to create jobs to address urban expansion.

Any government actions won’t be confiscatory or unreasonable because private landowners will be compensated, he said. “We won’t have to endure hours of perspiring in heavy traffic that we hate everyday.”

Tugade is among a dozen designated officials of Duterte attending a business forum Monday and Tuesday to present recommendations to the incoming administration.

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