SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
Members of the House committee on transportation chaired by Rep. Cesar Sarmiento (Lone District, Catanduanes) are determined to issue a subpoena to the officials of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) for not attending Wednesday's hearing about the status and timeline of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project.
During the hearing, Sarmiento said the BRT project is a very important issue because it aims to ease the traffic congestion and mobilize people in Metro Manila and Cebu.
“We need efficient mass transport system sooner rather than later. Nakatutulong ang BRT system sa paglutas ng problema sa trapiko katulad ng nangyari sa Bogota, Colombia which we had the chance to visit last month,” said Sarmiento.
He said the BRT system in Bogota was proposed by Mayor Enrique Penalosa in 2000 as a key element of his “mobility strategy.” The BRT system tagged as “TransMilenio” has 12 lines with a total of 112 kilometers running throughout the capital.
“It would take a great amount of political will to implement this needed project,” added Sarmiento.
But unfortunately, Sarmiento said DOTr Assistant Secretary for Road Transport and Infrastructure Mark de Leon, who was supposed to explain the project to the lawmakers, was absent during the hearing.
“I don’t see his shadow in the room. I don’t know if Asec Manuel Gonzales is in the position to give us accurate information about the BRT projects of the DOTR,” said Sarmiento. Gonzales was the DOTr representative during the hearing
Sarmiento asked Gonzales about the whereabouts of De Leon as well as Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade.
The committee nevertheless allowed Gonzales to give his presentation about the BRT 1 route, which spans 12.3 kilometers from Quezon Memorial Circle up to Manila City Hall. About 218 buses will pass through the 16 stations and a depot of the BRT 1 route..
According to Gonzales, the BRT 1 system with a budget of P4.8 billion is being funded by the World Bank.
Rep. Bayani Fernando asked what the plans of the DOTr are on the jeepneys passing on the existing route.
“Ano ang balak nyo sa mga jeepneys serving that line because it may cause some problem. Hindi sila pwedeng ma-displace,” said Fernando.
But Gonzales did not directly answer Fernando’s query.
Rep. Romeo Acop (2nd District, Antipolo City) asked Gonzales, in his capacity, to answer all the queries of the panel.
“For example, if I ask Asec Gonzales kung ano ang rationale kung bakit nag-decide ang gobyerno na we resort to this BRT project. Hindi po niya masasagot dahil hindi naman siya ang namamahala nito. So, maybe para maka-save tayo ng oras, we might as well skip this issue simply because we will just be wasting our time,” said Acop.
Rep. Winston Castelo (2nd District, Quezon City) said the committee would not be able to thoroughly and intelligently discuss all the subject matters in the agenda that would resolve the traffic in Metro Manila.
“Sila po ‘yung senior officials na merong decision-making powers. However, they absent themselves deliberately before this very important committee meeting,” said Castelo.
Castelo suggested to the committee to issue a subpoena because what is at stake are the millions of people suffering tremendously because of inefficiency, incompetence and delay.
The committee should make a strong stand and require the presence of the DOTr officials to attend the next hearing, equipped with the necessary answers, otherwise it would be useless, not beneficial and progressive, and it would not be able to answer the needs of the people, Castelo stated.
The committee scheduled in their agenda the status and timeline of the BRT project, fare hike and issuance of new fare matrix, rationalization of terminals in Metro Manila and the design and construction of footbridges in Metro Manila. | Eddie Galvez