Review emergency powers amid patient deaths in traffic – Palace

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Review emergency powers amid patient deaths in traffic – Palace

Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) – September 11, 2019 – 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Reports about patients dying because the ambulances carrying them were stuck in traffic should prod lawmakers to consider passing the bill granting President Duterte emergency powers, Malacañang said yesterday.

The Agence France-Presse has reported that traffic congestion in Manila is costing lives because it lengthens ambulances’ travel time to hospitals.

According to the report, patients die on the way because of the failure to enforce special lanes for emergency vehicles, outdated infrastructure, and failure or willingness of some drivers to make way.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a press briefing, the situation highlights the need to study the bill granting the President emergency powers but stressed that the chief executive won’t plead on his knees for Congress to grant it.

“Ever since he wanted it but ‘if they don’t want it, then don’t,’ he said. In other words, he will not go down (on) his knees and plead. They should know what the President needs in order to solve the problems of the country, specifically with respect to this matter,” he added.

Panelo said the President wanted emergency powers to address Metro Manila’s traffic woes but decided to abandon it because of suspicions that it is prone to corruption.

“I think the position of the President remains; from the very start he wanted emergency power to solve the traffic problem… but when some senators issued statements against it and insinuated that there might be some abuse of power, he said, ‘All right. Go ahead, solve it yourselves… Let EDSA rot,’” He said.

Duterte previously lambasted Sen. Grace Poe for allegedly putting malice in his plan to look for funds to solve the traffic problem in EDSA.

The emergency powers bill is not included in the list of the President’s priority measures but Panelo said it is assumed that members of the Senate “know exactly the problems of the land.”

Senators are not keen on granting emergency powers to Duterte to address the worsening traffic congestion, saying the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and other agencies can address the problem without such sweeping authority.

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade made a pitch for Congress to grant emergency powers, which he said will propose a limit in scope and duration, at the resumption of the hearing of the Senate public services committee into the traffic crisis.

With such powers, the government can immediately adopt policies which would normally require amendment of existing laws and ordinances “rather than wait for the tedious and long process of legislation,” he said.

Sen. Poe, chairperson of the committee, told Tugade that it was not Congress’ fault if it did not grant the request, as the DOTr was vague in proposals, and gave lawmakers a long list of projects that needed immediate implementation and funding but had nothing to do with traffic alleviation in the context of emergency powers.

Poe cited some projects mentioned in the submission of the emergency powers proposal of the DOTr in the previous Congress, like facial recognition software, the repair of some fences in Subic, and purchase of ambulances for Clark.

She stressed there are a lot of things the DOTr can do under existing laws to solve the traffic crisis and speed up the implementation of transportation projects.

“Our existing laws are sufficient for the purposes of procurement and right-of-way acquisition. The Supreme Court already issued cases and circulars addressing the delays in these cases. Clearly, for all intents and purposes, under these existing laws, a lot could’ve been done with or without emergency powers,” Poe said.

Panelo said there should be “creative” solutions to the traffic problem pending the passage of the emergency powers bill. He proposed the use of helicopters to transport patients to hospitals. – With Paolo Romero