By Filane Mikee Cervantes and Mar Serrano
MANILA — Senator Grace Poe on Thursday backed the proposed amendments to the Road Board abolition bill, particularly the inclusion of funds from the road user’s tax to the general fund to ensure legislative oversight.
In an ambush interview after the relief operations in Legazpi City, Albay, Poe said the collections from the road user’s tax or the Motor Vehicle User’s Charge (MVUC) must be itemized in the annual national budget, subject to congressional scrutiny, to identify where the revenues will be channeled.
“Para sa akin, ang dahilan kung bakit nagkaroon ng hakbang para tanggalin ang Road Board ay dahil sa hindi na-mo-monitor; hindi talaga nakikita kung tama bang napupunta sa mga proyekto ang pera dito. So kung ano pa man ang gagawin ng Senado o Kongreso, basta dapat bantayan na ang road user’s tax ay talagang mapupunta sa benepisyo ng ating mga kababayan, na hindi manakaw ito (For me, the reason behind the move to abolish the Road Board is the lack of monitoring. It is unclear if the funds really go toward the funding of the right projects. So whatever the decision of the Senate or House is, it should ensure that the road user’s tax must be allocated to where it would benefit most people, and not be prone to corruption),” she said.
“Kaya ako’y sang-ayon kung gagamitin itong tax na ito, nakadetalye sa budget kung saan ba talaga pupunta hindi para bang allocation lang na wala naman talagang nakasulat kung sino ang nagbenepisyo dito (That’s why I agree with the inclusion of this tax revenue as a line-item in the budget to determine where it will be channeled, not just a mere allocation that does not identify who benefits from it),” she added.
Poe also said she welcomes the abolition of the Road Board provided that certain amendments proposed to the bill by both Senate and the House of Representatives that would dissolve the body, would be open for discussion and debate at the Bicameral session.
According to her, it is a welcome development that both the Senate and the House have agreed in “principle” to abolish the Road Board.
Poe, however, said she would strictly review the specific provision that would show where the body’s revenues would be channeled.
The proposed amendments would be subject for debate that would level up and conform to the specific differences proposed by the Senate and the House, she said.
“I would ask for a project’s details where the road tax funds would go, how much fund allocation was poured into it,” the senator said.
At present, the Road Board oversees the MVUC collections, which are earmarked solely for road improvements, maintenance, and safety.
The House of Representatives and the Senate ended the deadlock on the controversial measure after reaching a consensus to introduce “short and simple amendments.”
The new bill contains amendments that were agreed upon during a meeting among House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr., Senate Majority Leader Miguel Zubiri, and Senator Ralph Recto on Tuesday night.
“We have agreed in principle last night that the Road Board will now be abolished and that the funds collected from the road users’ tax will be transferred to the General Fund. Therefore, it will be now covered by the General Appropriations Act,” Andaya said.
While the previous version sought to abolish the graft-ridden Road Board, the management and control of the MVUC collections will be transferred to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Transportation (DOTr), and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Under the previous bill, the collections shall be allocated in four special trust accounts in the National Treasury: 40 percent each for the Special National Road Support Fund and the Special Local Road Support Fund under the DPWH, 10 percent for the Special Pollution Control Fund under the DENR, and 10 percent for the Special Vehicle Pollution Control Fund under the DOTr.
On September 12, the Senate adopted House Bill (HB) No. 7436, dispensing the need for a bicameral conference between the two Chambers.
On the same day, however, the House, now led by Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, rescinded its approval of HB 7436, leading to an impasse. (PNA)