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Lawmakers push Bautista confirmation for crisis-ridden transport sector

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The problem-ridden transportation sector, recently described as a “broken system,” is expected to have a veteran crisis manager overseeing it with the endorsement by key lawmakers of the confirmation of Secretary Jaime Bautista of the Department of Transportation (DOTr).

No less than Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri late Tuesday endorsed to the Commission on Appointments the plenary confirmation of Bautista, who had drawn admiration in his long stint as head of Philippine Airlines (PAL), drawing awards for the flag carrier amid a myriad crises it underwent.

Presiding as concurrent chairman of the bicameral Commission on Appointments (CA), Senate President Zubiri described Bautista as a “responsible and reputable fellow” who “does not need to go through the learning curve.”

Bautista knows his stuff “even when he is sleeping,” added Zubiri. “He thinks about the transport problem in the country and we need him now because of the traffic congestion because of the Christmas season. We need him to focus on his job.” At the committee level hearing, Senator Cynthia Villar sought Bautista’s support for the establishment of three first border facilities in different areas of the country. Villar stressed the importance of the 2023 national budget-funded facilities in Bulacan, Cebu and Davao City. As chairperson of the Committee on Agriculture, Food, and Agrarian Reform she noted that funding was allocated for the project years ago but the Department of Agriculture failed to implement it due to lack of space in the Port of Manila.

Some agriculture stakeholders agreed to lend their land for the establishment of the first border facilities, according to Villar. “Our agriculture stakeholders are in earnest to build this because of what happened with the African swine fever and the avian flu. We don’t have first border facilities that’s why diseases easily enter the country to the detriment of the agricultural sector,” Villar said.

For his part, Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito asks the Department of Transportation (DOTr) if it could finish the two big-ticket railways projects in Metro Manila on time. At the meeting of the Committee on Transportation of the Commission on Appointments on the ad interim appointment of Jaime Bautista as DOTr secretary, Ejercito said he is one of those who fought for the restoration of the DOTr’s budget allotted for the Metro Manila Subway Project (MMSP) and the North-South Commuter Railway (NSCR) project in the 2023 national budget.

In his response, Bautista informed the panel that he already told the major contractors that they need to complete the projects on time and they all expressed their support. “Hopefully, we could get the needed budget to pay for the road right of way and taxes,” Bautista said Tuesday, December 13, 2022.

Meanwhile, Sen. Risa Hontiveros quizzed Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista about the government’s efforts in promoting and addressing active and intermodal passenger transport in the Philippines.

During the CA committee deliberation on Bautista’s ad interim appointment Tuesday, December 13, 2022, Hontiveros noted existing gaps between the different modes of public transport in the country, even as the government has been investing “tremendously” on railway projects.

She stressed the importance of ensuring “ease of travelling for Filipinos within the whole country,” adding that “this is so that people can walk, bike, or ride home, or go to train station without all the hassles and anxiety.”

Bautista, in response, said the Department of Transportation looks at working with local government units (LGUs) for the construction of bike lanes and walkways throughout the country.

PRIORITIZE THE WELFARE OF RIDING PUBLIC

Also at the hearing, Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go appealed to Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista to capitalize on the gains of the Build! Build! Build! Program of the previous administration to sustain and to complement the Build, Better, More Program of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Commission on Appointments’ Committee on Transportation, Sen. Go expressed full support for the confirmation of the ad interim appointment of Baustista as Secretary of the Department of Transportation (DOTr).

“The transportation sector plays a crucial role in economic development through a dependable and coordinated network of transportation system which enables safe and efficient movement of people and goods,” the administration senator said, stressing that “it is vital that this post be headed by a highly experienced and technical individual like Sec. Bautista.”

At the same time, Sen. Go reminded Bautista to always think about the welfare and what is beneficial for the riding public, especially underprivileged sectors of the society.

In response, Bautista expressed his gratitude to Sen. Go and vowed to continue and finish the projects that the previous administration started for the commuters and the riding public.

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