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DoTr chief’s fate DU30’s call

The President still trusts that Mr. Tugade has the ability to handle the traffic problem.

Kristina Maralit

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The Palace has put Sen. Grace Poe in her place after rejecting her demand for Department of Transportation (DoTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade to step down after getting into her skin when he said a “hidden” personal agenda was behind her unyielding denial of proposed emergency powers to solve the daily gridlock.

Poe said Tugade should step down for failing to solve the vehicular traffic mess.

The President’s spokesman Salvador Panelo informed Poe that only President Rodrigo Duterte can decide who stays or goes among those appointed to serve in government.

Panelo made the remark in reaction to Poe’s comment that it might be time for DoTr Sec. Arthur Tugade to step down over his perceived failure to untangle the traffic mess in Metro Manila.

“I don’t believe in that. The President still trusts that Mr. Tugade has the ability to handle the traffic problem,” Panelo noted.

“Mr. Tugade had laid out the table in the Senate. He is suggesting that emergency powers be given to the President,” he added.

The Palace official said that Poe should make the first move by suggesting solutions if she thinks she could do a better job.

“Maybe Senator Grace has a person in mind. Why don’t she come out with it,” Panelo stated.

“Everything will be considered — to solve the traffic problem in EDSA,” he added.

The President earlier this week asked the public not to point at him if no immediate end is in sight to the traffic congestion and pin the blame instead on Poe who has objected to giving him a free hand in dealing with the problem from the get-go.

He also stressed that he “will not beg” Poe or other lawmakers opposing his bid for emergency powers, since the remainder of his term is not enough to put permanent solutions in place.

Poe errs

The DoTr added that addressing the vehicular traffic problem is not even part of its mandate.

In a social media post addressed to Poe, the DoTr clarified that Tugade may have been designated as the country’s traffic czar in a proposed bill in 2016 that she had obstructed.

“We hope it’s clear. We are not washing our hands off the issue. We’re just telling the truth,” the statement read.

Tugade was not one to rest on his laurels following the DoTr’s completion of 64 airports, 220 commercial and social and tourism port projects, and one land port under his leadership — not including another 133 airport projects, 121 port projects, and six ongoing railway projects, the statement read.

The Transport chief’s push for 24/7 construction and enforcement of partial operability timelines of these projects also served as proof of his hard work and thrust for immediate relief of the country’s transport woes, the statement added

“Madame Senator, it is not a habit of Secretary Tugade to be lazy. That’s why the department is enforcing 24/7 construction and partial operability timelines,” the DoTr clarified.

The transport chief’s visit to Maguindanao as part of the DoTr’s Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) Modernization project in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), followed by a meeting with the BARMM’s Ministry of Transportation and Communication in Cotabato, was also mentioned as further testament to Tugade and the department’s diligence.

“‘That’s our Secretary. Work, action, and not all talk,” the DoTr said.

On Tuesday, Tugade and other DoTr officials attended the hearing of the Senate Committee on Public Services chaired by Poe on the proposed provincial bus ban on EDSA.

The grant of emergency powers to fast-track relevant projects was also brought up, but was disputed by Poe, saying lack of emergency powers should not be blamed for their failure to accomplish their tasks.

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