Andaya, Zubiri to settle issues over Road Board abolition on January 15

MANILA, Philippines – The majority leaders of the House of Representatives and the Senate are meeting on Tuesday evening, January 15, to help settle their conflict over the abolition of the graft-riddled Road Board.

House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr told reporters on Monday, January 14, that he will be meeting with Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri the following evening. 

"They want to have an idea what is the plan of the House on what to do with the Road Board," said Andaya in a press conference. 

One major issue that the Congress leaders need to address is whether or not to convene a bicameral conference committee to reconcile conflicting provisions from the House and the Senate. 

The Senate already approved a bill for the Road Board's abolition, adopting the same version of the measure that the House passed under ousted speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. But when Pampanga 2nd District Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo became the new Speaker, the House withdrew its support for the bill.  

A standoff between the two chambers of Congress ensued, until President Rodrigo Duterte himself clarified he wants the Road Board abolished. The House yielded, but Andaya said a new version of the bill will have to be passed.  

For Andaya, this means a bicam is still necessary. But senators have argued that because they merely adopted the previous House version, there is no need for a bicam anymore.

Zubiri clarified to reporters that a "paper bicam" may happen, meaning he and Andaya may agree on amendments to the Senate-approved bill and then both chambers will proceed with ratifying the measure.

"Now, kung makita naman namin na gano'n po ang gusto nila, na to simply abolish the Road Board and put the funds directly [in] the National Treasury – one or two maybe amendments na napakasimple– pipirmahan naming dalawa ng majority leader, then we can take it up on Wednesday, mabilisan, paper bicam," said the senator.

(Now, if we will see that they simply want to abolish the Road Board and put the funds directly in the National Treasury – maybe one or two amendments that are very simple to do – the two majority leaders will sign it, then we can take it up on Wednesday quickly, paper bicam.)

The meeting between Andaya and Zubiri on Tuesday will come after Duterte said he wants the Road Board abolished to allow a portion of the road user's tax to fund Manila Bay rehabilitation, needs of hospitals, and programs for victims of the recent Tropical Depression Usman.

The law which created the Road Board, Republic Act No. 8794, specifically states that proceeds from the road user's tax or Motor Vehicle User's Charge can only be used for the maintenance of roads and air pollution programs.

The Road Board has long been accused of corruption. The Commission on Audit earlier found that the agency misappropriated P90.7 billion worth of funds from road user's tax collections. In 2018, congressmen and district engineers requested for P1.958 billion worth of projects under the Road Board, but the money was not released to them. – 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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