Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III slammed House members Friday for their “rescission” of House Bill (HB) 7436 that abolishes the Road Board.
The chairman of the Senate committee on trade, commerce and entrepreneurship branded the House move as legally questionable.
“The lower house cannot just inform us later that they changed their minds and tell us the House version has ceased to exist anymore,” the senator said.
“The Senate actually made adjustments and approved their version already because we wanted immediate passage of a law addressing the Road Board,” he said.
The Senate and the House also had opposing stands on the budgeting system as the upper chamber is supporting the Malacañang-proposed cash-based budgeting while the lower house wanted to maintain the obligation based system.
The budget impasse was resolved after a meeting between President Duterte and House leaders led by Speaker Gloria Arroyo.
Pimentel’s calls for the abolition of Road Board culminated with the passage of Senate Bill 1620 last February with a vote of 18-0.
The House, for its part, approved its own version, HB 7436, unanimously voting 172-0 in May.
Last 12 September, the Senate adopted House Bill 7436 and replaced SB 1620 with the lower house bill, thus dispensing the need for a bicameral conference between the two houses to reconcile disparate versions of the proposal.
Later the same day, however, Congress passed a motion that voided House Bill 7436. There were no objections to the motion and it was carried.
Pimentel stressed that the Road Board’s abolition was intended to be a major step in curbing corruption and properly managing the government’s financial resources earmarked for putting into place world-class infrastructure.
“What we continue to have instead is an agency ridden with corruption and inefficiency. CoA flagged the Board for such ills in its scathing 2017 report, precisely the reason why we speeded up the measure to legislate the Board’s necessary demise,” he pointed out.
“Let’s not be sidetracked and distracted. The signing of a law abolishing the Road Board should remain a priority,” Pimentel stressed.
Lighting project in limbo
Citing the most recent government audit findings, Pimentel said the P3.97-billion National Road Lighting Program (NRLP) that was supposed to set a “new standard for safety and sustainability” in lighting national roads became in limbo because the Road Board did not possess the technical capability to implement the project.
The CoA report likewise remarked that out of the 391 programmed projects for 2017, 122 projects costing P3.7 billion are still on-going, 78 projects costing P1.457 billion have not been started while 106 projects costing
P3.738 billion were not yet implemented and obligated due to the slow procurement process and failure to adequately coordinate with other government agencies and public utility corporations at the early planning stage of project implementation.
Furthermore, 121 other projects programmed in previous years and granted a total budget of nearly P1.316 billion have yet to be started.
Republic Act 8794 entitled, “An Act Imposing a Motor Vehicle User’s Charge on Owners of All Types of Motor Vehicle and for Other Purposes” took effect in 2000.
The law created the Road Board to implement the proper and efficient use of the special funds collected via Road User’s Tax (“Road Fund”) which are earmarked solely and used exclusively for road maintenance and the improvement of road drainage, installation of adequate and efficient traffic lights and road safety devices, and air pollution control.