‘Genuine’ abolition of Road Board, this time

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THE House of Representatives on Wednesday passed on second reading the bill “genuinely” abolishing the Road Board.

This, after the lower chamber reconsidered on second reading House Bill 7436 after reaching the consensus with the members of the Senate.

Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. said the bill will be approved on third and final reading on Monday. After the final approval on Monday, it will be transmitted to the Senate immediately.

“We will still work double time and have this tax measure, as amended, sent to the Senate by Monday. The plenary will take cognizance of the particular measure and we will introduce the amendments and recognizing it as a tax measure, and then putting in the proper amendments for the Senate to tackle on Monday,” he added.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri confirmed on Wednesday that the senators’ move to abolish the graft-tainted Road Board is “final.”

In a Viber message to Senate reporters, Zubiri reported that the majority of the senators “accepted the proposed amendments to the Road Board Abolition bill.

“Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto and I presented [the abolition bill to the senators] and they all accepted it,” said Zubiri.

The majority leader reported that from “a very long document…we boil down and agreed on a simple Road Board abolition,” adding that “of course, the MVUC [Motor Vehicle User Charge] fund are retained but will be remitted to the national Treasury; no more special fund.”

Zubiri affirmed that “the Road Board abolition is final [and] the money collected by the different agencies of government from MVUC will now go to the national Treasury, but it will also be utilized for road construction and bridges.”

He added: “Ibibigay naman lahat sa national Treasury so bahala sa Kongreso kung papano i-allocate [Everything will be given to the Treasury so it’s up to Congress to decide how to allocate the funds].”

To General Fund

Under the amended House bill, the MVUC will go directly to the General Fund. The projects funded by the MUVC will be itemized in the annual General Appropriations Act.

The measure will limit the controlling authorities of funds from a seven-man team to three departments, namely, the Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Transportation, and Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

“We agreed in principle last night 1) that the Road Board will now be abolished and, 2) that the funds will be transferred to the General Fund. Therefore, it will be now covered by the General Appropriations Act,” said Andaya.

“Common sense and real reform are winners in the agreement to genuinely abolish the Road Board. It is a victory for transparency too,” he added.

“We have long advocated for a real, and not the fake abolition of the Road Board. The version that was pushed by the previous House leadership merely created Three Powerful Road Kings,” he said.

According to Andaya, the present House leadership insisted on treating MVUC collections as part of the General Fund, and not as an off-budget, hidden account, controlled by a few, a status he claimed was retained by the previous bill.

“We have also stood our ground in earmarking MVUC collections for transport-related activities. The spurious Road Board abolition bill inserted a provision that would have diverted funds to waste segregation,” he added.

Help Bicol

Meanwhile, Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte appealed to Congress to allot funds from the Road Board to solve Bicol floods as committed by President Duterte.

In a statement, Villafuerte recalled that during Duterte’s visit to Camarines Sur early this month after Tropical Depression Usman, the President reiterated his desire for Congress to abolish the Road Board and committed the use of its MVUC funds to solve the perennial flooding in Bicol.

“This reported decision by congressional leaders—as disclosed by Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri—for both chambers to convene a bicam panel that would make ‘short’ amendments on the bill abolishing the Road Board and reverting the MVUC funds to the national Treasury, certainly is a welcome development,” Villafuerte said.

“However, I am appealing to the would-be bicam panel to consider in its upcoming deliberations the President’s directive and set aside a share of the multibillion-peso collections from the MVUC for flood-mitigation projects in the Bicol River and elsewhere in the flood-prone region,” he added.

He noted that solving the flooding problem of Bicol will boost farm productivity in CamSur, a top rice-producing province. “Despite the perennial floods, CamSur has emerged as the No. 6 rice producer,” he added. “We could easily become No. 2 or No. 3 if the chronic floods will become a thing of the past.”