Senate sets plenary debates on Road Board abolition Featured

Senate sets plenary debates on Road Board abolition

The public works committee headed by Sen. Manny Pacquiao has prepared a committee report on Senate Bill 1620, which consolidated the three bills similarly calling for abolition of the Road Board filed by Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Joseph Victor Ejercito and Sherwin Gatchalian. Edd Gumban, File
MANILA, Philippines — The Senate is set to start plenary debates on the bill seeking to abolish the Road Board, which has been hounded by complaints about extortion and alleged misuse of billions of funds under its care.

The Senate committee on public works has recommended the abolition of the Road Board, a move that appears to be supported by most senators.

The public works committee headed by Sen. Manny Pacquiao has prepared a committee report on Senate Bill 1620, which consolidated the three bills similarly calling for abolition of the Road Board filed by Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Joseph Victor Ejercito and Sherwin Gatchalian.

SB 1620 seeks to amend Republic Act 8794, which establishes the Motor Vehicles User’s Charge (MVUC) and where the creation of the Road Board to manage and utilize the funds collected from vehicle owners is contained.

Under the bill, the Road Board would be abolished and the funds collected from the MVUC would be managed by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Department of Transportation (DOTr).

All the funds would be held in four special trust accounts of the National Treasury. The special road support fund, special local road fund and special road safety fund will be managed by DPWH. The special vehicle pollution control fund will be managed by DOTr.

Under the bill, the funds will only be used for road maintenance and pollution control programs as originally envisioned. None of the funds will go to the general fund to ensure it is not used for any other purpose.

“The MVUC fund shall be managed with full transparency and full public disclosure. The DPWH and DOTr shall make available all records of how the funds are utilized and disbursed in accordance with existing laws,” the bill stated.

The bill also provides that the DPWH shall absorb the personnel and secretariat of the Road Board.

In calling for the abolition of the Road Board, Pimentel cited how the board failed to carry out its mandate and has been embroiled in controversies based on Commission on Audit (COA) reports.

Pimentel said based on COA reports, the road fund, which has an estimated total of P90.72 billion from 2001 to December 2012, was used for purposes other than the mandated road maintenance and improvement of road drainage, installation of adequate and efficient traffic lights and road safety devices, and air pollution control.

He noted that the Road Board used P515.5 million of the road fund for payment of salaries, allowances and its maintenance and other operating expenses from 2004 to 2008.

The COA also noted that in 2001, a total of P62.52 million of the road fund was used for the engineering and administrative overhead expenses of the Road Board.

Ejercito, in his bill, noted how the Road Board has been challenged with issues of discrepancies and misappropriation and allegations of corruption.

Citing a more recent COA report, Ejercito said that as of 2016, the Road Board has yet to submit its liquidation reports so the status of the projects funded by the fund could not be established.

“The existence of the Road Board is redundant as its functions fall within the powers and jurisdiction of the Department of Public Works and Highways and the Department of Transportation,” he added.

Last August, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez alleged that the Road Board was engaged in extortion activities based on the claims made by some congressmen.

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