House eyes expanded MMDA powers

MMDA personnel remove a sidewalk obstruction. (MMDA photo)

The House committee on Metro Manila development chaired by Rep. Winston Castelo (2nd District, Quezon City) has created a technical working group (TWG) that will further study the two bills seeking to expand the powers and function of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), especially of the Metro Manila Council.

The TWG will scrutinize extensively the provisions of the two measures which seek to amend Republic Act (RA) 7924, otherwise known as “An Act Creating Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, Defining Its Powers And Function, Providing Funds Therefor And Other Purposes”.

House Bill 4642, authored by Castelo seeks to grant the MMDA additional powers and functions by amending Section 5 of RA 7924 to read as follows:

“(G) Reviews development permits for subdivision plans for residential, commercial, or industrial purposes and for other major land development projects with metro-wide transport and traffic impacts, issued by the city and municipal governments within Metro Manila, to ensure that they are consistent with MMDA’s development plan, and for this purpose establish a traffic impact assessment system; and

(H) Perform other related functions required to achieve the objectives of the MMDA, including the undertaking of delivery of basic services to prior coordination with and consent of the local government unit concerned.”

The bill also to insert a new section after Section 6 of RA 7924 to read as follows:

“Section 7. Effectivity of ordinances and resolutions. – (A) An ordinance or resolution passed by the council, in exercise of its rule-making power as provided for in Section 6 hereof, shall be posted in a bulletin board at the entrance of the MMDA building and in at least two other conspicuous places in the office of MMDA within 10 days from its approval and shall take effect 15 days after such posting.

(B) Ordinances with penal sanctions shall be published in a newspaper of general circulation within Metro Manila and shall take effect 15 days thereafter.”

Meanwhile, House Bill 5057 authored by Rep. Bayani Fernando (1st District, Marikina City) aims to strengthen the MMDA by amending its charter.

The bill seeks to amend Section 5 of RA 7924 to read as follows:

“(G) Enforce all traffic laws and regulations in Metro Manila through its traffic operation center as well as MMDA ordinances that may be issued relative to its metro-wide services and may deputize members of the PNP, traffic enforcers of local government units, duly licensed security guards, or members of non-governmental organizations to whom may be delegated certain authority, subject to such conditions and requirements as the authority may impose.”

The bill also seeks to amend Section 6 of RA 7924 to read as follows: “(b) It shall approve metro-wide plans, programs and projects and issue rules and regulations, resolutions and ordinances deemed necessary for the MMDA to carry out the purposes of this Act.

(d) It shall promulgate rules and regulations, set policies and standards and enact ordinances for metro-wide application governing the delivery of the MMDA’s scope of services provided, prescribe and collect service and regulatory fees, and impose and collect fines and penalties. MMDA ordinances shall be subject to ratification without amendments by the city/municipal council of each LGU-member of the MMDA no more than fifteen (15) days after its passage in the Metro Manila Council. The MMDA ordinance after its ratification shall have the force and effect of law.

The Metro Manila Council, as provided under the MMDA charter, is the governing board and policy making body of the MMDA composed of mayors of cities and municipalities of Metro Manila and the president of the Metro Manila Vice Mayors League and the president of the Metro Manila Councilors League.

In his sponsorship speech, Fernando said the bill, if approved, will give the MMDA the power to enact ordinances and resolution which will have the full force and effect of a law among its member local government units (LGUs) upon ratification.

He said the MMDA is beset with problems as it could not push forward its projects and metro-wide programs that can address the problems of traffic, flood, garbage disposal, and waste management, among others.

Fernando said the MMDA lacks the legal authority to implement ordinances and resolutions that is acceptable to the courts.

“The collective wisdom of the voting members of the Metro Manila Council composed of 17 elected mayors, the president of the Vice Mayors League and the Councilor Leagues, complemented by representatives from all national government agencies cannot be effectively used in light of the limitations of its power as provided in RA 7924,” Fernando said.

Fernando, who served as MMDA chairman for eight years, explained the MMDA is mandated under RA 7924 to lead traffic management efforts for the whole Metro Manila as well as to provide metro-wide services which are essentially services that have metro-wide impact and transcend local political boundaries or entail huge expenditures such that it would not be viable for said services to be provided by individual local government units (LGUs) comprising Metro Manila.

Since its creation in 1994, Fernando said the MMDA has conceptualized, proposed and implemented all types of metro-wide programs that has made life in the bustling metropolis easier, keeping at bay the chaos that threatens to overwhelm Metro Manila residents – be it traffic congestion, flooding garbage, pollution, and all other threats to public safety.

Representatives of LGUs said they are not against the measure, but since the MMDA is not a political subdivision, it is not vested with the power to enact.

But Castelo said when mayors convene as members of the Metro Manila Council, they are not acting as legislators but are being convened as elected executives in their localities.

“They are being convened as elected executives in their localities so if ever they would come up with an agreement, it would not arise from a function that is legislative in nature but they just convene there and find out and execute some ideas that would be consistent with their mandate as members of the Metro Manila Council,” said Castelo.

Rep. Edgar Erice (2nd  District, Caloocan City) said it is the sole mandate of the city council to approve ordinances and resolutions based on the Government Code.

“I don’t think there will be a basis for the Metro Manila Council to approve an ordinance. I don’t see any provisions of the law that would allow that,” he said.

Erice further said he was once a councilor and a vice mayor, and as such, he would not want local policy to be implemented in his city without the approval of the city council.

He proposed the creation of a Metro Manila government so that the government will have the legal authority to legislate and implement ordinances and resolutions that would address the problems of garbage disposal, traffic congestion, water waste and waste management, among others, in Metro Manila.

But Fernando believes it will take a long time to pass a law to change the present set-up and suggested instead they should contend with the bills that will give the Metro Manila Council power so that the MMDA can move to address the problems immediately.

Castelo also said the measure contains a colatilla that once members of the Metro Manila Council approve a certain policy, it does not automatically become a law.

To the question of Erice as to why enact a law when the proposal can be submitted to every LGU council and allow them to enact the ordinance proposed by the Metro Manila Council, Castelo said it is all a matter of uniformity of mind.

He said there will be confusion if there is no uniformity of law as there will be confusion if for example, cities will have different traffic codes.

“If there is a comprehensive, holistic traffic code that would be in effect in the entire Metro Manila, then we will be avoiding that confusion,” Castelo explained.