The government should focus on completing its infrastructure projects through the usual means rather than granting President Rodrigo Duterte emergency powers supposedly intended to fast track his faltering “Build, Build, Build” public works program, Senator Franklin Drilon said today.
The comments came after Albay Congressman Joey Salceda yesterday filed House Bill 5456, which seeks to grant special powers to the president to speed up the ambitious program. The House bill would also prevent any court, except the Supreme Court, from issuing a temporary restraining order or any other ruling that could stop the flagship projects.
Drilon today slammed the bill, which would purportedly allow the President “to urgently utilize all necessary government resources, exercise police power, and employ executive actions and measures.” The special powers would be effective for three years, or until Duterte ends his term in 2022, unless they are withdrawn sooner by a joint congressional resolution.
“We don’t need emergency power; maybe emergency attention. Just pay attention,” Drilon told DZMM radio in a mix of English and Filipino. “If we grant emergency powers, many [people] don’t trust what will happen [next].”
Launched in 2017, “Build, Build, Build” was billed as ushering in a golden age of infrastructure development, with plans to build subways, airports, and road networks across the country. But a plenary deliberation early this week revealed that after two years, only nine of its 75 flagship infrastructure projects have even started construction, leaving Drilon to declare the program “a dismal failure.”
Drilon today maintained that the government has “enough funds” and “enough regulation on the ground” to finish the projects without additional powers.
In an “open letter to Senator Franklin Drilon,” the Department of Transportation defended “Build, Build Build” by pointing to the completion of “64 airport projects under the Duterte administration, with 133 more ongoing” — though most of those projects have nothing to with Build, Build, Build. In a separate statement sent to the media, the DOTr enumerated several other projects said to be underway, including the construction and rehabilitation of railways, sea ports, and roads.
DOTr added that “at this midway point of the administration, President Duterte wants to ensure that the objectives of the BBB Program are met, not just for his term but for many years moving forward. What we need now is motivation and support, not undue criticism and misinformed allegations.”
Granting Duterte emergency powers has been mooted several times in the past, once to fix Manila’s traffic congestion, and more recently, to purportedly address the city’s looming water shortage problem. The Senate had blocked Duterte’s earlier pleas, saying additional trains, and not emergency powers, would solve Manila’s traffic problem.
Meanwhile, the president’s later threat to take over Manila’s water companies, according to his spokesperson, could happen “anytime.”
In both instances, the president did not substantively detail how his direct intervention would solve the problem at hand.