By Catherine S Valente/ Manila Times
Malacanang is now rejecting the proposed measure granting special powers to President Rodrigo Duterte to fast-track the implementation of the ‘Build, Build, Build’ programme.
In a statement, Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo said the “belated” bill filed by Albay Rep. Joel Salceda was “no longer a priority legislative agenda” of the president.
Salceda filed on Wednesday House Bill (HB) 5456, giving Duterte “Special Powers to urgently utilise all necessary government resources, exercise police power and employ executive actions and measures to ensure the effective implementation, reconfiguration, and harmonisation of national and local government projects.”
“While we respect the wisdom of Congress and laud the gentleman from Albay in seeing the importance of this flagship infrastructure programme of the current government, we consider this proposed measure belated and no longer a priority legislative agenda of the president, given that we only have less than three years left in office,” Panelo said.
Panelo, who also serves as Duterte’s top legal counsel said, Duterte would instead “implement and maximise what is presently available under our laws for this purpose.”
“One of the inherent powers of the State is the power of eminent domain where pertinent government offices, through the Office of the Solicitor General, may expropriate or initiate proceedings therefore to acquire private property for public use,” Panelo said.
“This power is particularly essential in securing rights of way, an issue that hampered the construction of vital infrastructure. The current agencies involved in the infrastructure programme are presently utilising this process,” he added.
The Palace official also said the ‘Build, Build, Build’ programme “is now rolling with 35 ongoing constructions; 32 projects about to commence construction within six to eight months; 21 in the advanced stages of government approval and 12 in the advanced stages of feasibility studies.”
“We expect 38 projects to be completed by 2022, 22 partially operational or at substantial completion, and while 40 are to be completed beyond 2022, all projects will be started within the governance of this Administration,” Panelo said.
Panelo’s latest statement came two days after he described HB 5456 as a good idea, noting that the emergency powers would address several issues that were causing delays in the implementation of the infrastructure projects.
“I think, Congressman Salceda’s proposal is a good idea. One of the reasons why the projects are experiencing delays is because of the problem concerning the right of way,” Panelo said during a Palace press briefing on Thursday.
“Some owners disagree and even seek a TRO. But with emergency powers, the implementation of the projects will not be hampered,” he added.
The filing of HB 5456 came after Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the administration’s infrastructure programme was a “dismal failure” since only nine of the initial 75 flagship projects have started construction.
Panelo, however, had dismissed Drilon’s claim as “baseless,” saying that projects such as the Metro Rail Transit 3 rehabilitation, Metro Manila subway, Subic-Clark railway and Mindanao railway were at various stages of development.
‘Build, Build, Build’ is the Duterte administration’s hallmark programme that promised to usher in the Philippines’ “golden age of infrastructure.”
Duterte had also asked Congress in his first State of the Nation Address in July 2016 for emergency powers to solve traffic in Metro Manila.
He said the emergency powers would allow him to open up blocked roads and construct roads and train lines.
But three years later and halfway through his term, no emergency powers have been granted to Duterte to solve the traffic problem in the metropolis.
In his previous speeches, Duterte has said he no longer wanted an emergency power and he would just “let Edsa rot.”
But Malacanang is still hopeful for the passage of a bill granting emergency powers to Duterte to improve the traffic situation in Metro Manila.
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