Alvarez: 'No doubts' on Tugade, but DOTr must step up

MANILA, Philippines – Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez still believes Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade has the capability to address the worsening urban traffic problem.

"Wala akong doubt dun 'no? Kaya niya, kaya niya. Ang sinasabi ko lang dito, gusto ko lang din malinaw, malinaw sa taongbayan kung para saan nating binibigyan 'yung emergency power [on traffic] na 'yun," said Alvarez during Rappler Talk on Tuesday, December 13.

(I have no doubts about him, okay? He can do it. What I'm saying is that it must be clear to the public where the emergency powers on traffic will be used.)

Alvarez expressed his trust in Tugade amid rumors that he would soon be offered the DOTr post. He denied receiving any offers from President Rodrigo Duterte and added that accepting a Cabinet position would be a "demotion" from being House Speaker.

Alvarez, however, has long criticized the DOTr for failing to address the traffic congestion problem in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, and Metro Davao.

He previously said it was the "uncooperative" department that is delaying the passage of House Bill Number 4344, which would be granting emergency powers for 3 years to the DOTr chief as "alter ego" of the President. 

"'Di naman ibig sabihin na request ng administrasyon ang emergency powers to address the traffic problem eh basta-basta bibigyan natin ng blanket authority 'yan. Kailangan alamin muna natin ano ba ang gagawin 'nyo, 'di ba? Ano ba ang plano? Para naman 'yung ibibigay natin sa kanila, kung ano lang 'yung kailangan," said Alvarez. 

(It doesn't automatically mean that when the administration requests for emergency powers to address the traffic problem, we would be giving them blanket authority just like that. We need to know their plans, right? What's their plan? So we can only give them what they need.)

He said that, to date, he has yet to see any concrete plans from the DOTr. "Wala akong nakikita (I haven't seen anything)."

The department, however, previously announced some of its plans, including opening up private subdivisions to motorists to ease traffic in Metro Manila and moving some government offices and factories in Metro Manila to nearby provinces, even volunteering his own office. 

Advice to DOTr

Alvarez previously served as transportation secretary under then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, now Pampanga 2nd District representative.  

The Speaker suggested that the DOTr rescind "highly disadvantageous contracts" entered into by the Aquino administration. He also wants the department to properly address terminals along EDSA and fast-track the delivery of new coaches for the Metro Rail Transit and the Light Rail Transit.

Should Congress grant emergency powers to Duterte, Alvarez is hoping that it will not include unlimited power to negotiate contracts for big transportation projects due to the threat of corruption.

"'Yun I really discourage. Dun ako nagdadalawang isip na bigyan ng power to negotiate contracts. Eh mahirap 'yun, mahirap 'yun. 'Yung mga big-ticket contracts, ine-negotiate mo? Parang 'di ako pabor dun," he said. 

(That I really discourage. I'm having second thoughts on giving power to negotiate contracts. That's difficult. You'll negotiate for big-ticket contracts? I'm not in favor of that.)

"The potential [for corruption] is always there. I'm not saying na corrupt 'yung mga officers diyan… 'Yung parang ordinary wear and tear, 'yung pagbili ng piyesa, mga parts, okay 'yun. Pero 'yung sabihin mag-award ka ng mga malalaking kontrata, ay hindi pupuwede 'yun. Kailangan sundin na 'yung normal course," Alvarez added.  

(The potential for corruption is always there. I'm not saying the officers there are all corrupt… I can allow negotiations for ordinary wear and tear, for buying parts. But for awarding big contracts, we need to follow the normal course.) – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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