THE Senate has opened a window for a bicameral conference committee meeting with the House of Representatives provided that both Congress leaderships will agree on simple amendments to the bill which seeks to abolish the Road Board as ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte.
“Ang usapan namin dyan dapat mag-agree kami, dapat mabilisan kami. Dapat paper bicam lang so it is just one day if magkaroon ng agreement ng parameters,” Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said.
Zubiri was tasked by the Senate to meet with his counterpart House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya to discuss the parameters of the bicam.
“In the discussion on the roadboard magkakaroon kami ng mini caucus with majority leader Andaya as soon as possible,” Zubiri said.
But the senator maintained that the stand of the Senate is to realize the abolition of the Road Board and transfer its fund to the national treasury.
“Kapag collect ng MVUC (Motor Vehicle Users Charge) diretso na sa national treasury and to be discussed every budget hearing where you appropriate during the NEP (National Expenditure Program),”he added.
He explained that while the Road Board is not yet abolished, its fund is supposed to be used in the construction, upgrading, repair, rehabilitation of roads and drainages, pollution control, solid waste management programs and facilities, and vehicle pollution control.
Agencies supposed to handle the budget item of the Road Board are the Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Transportation.
“Ang gusto ni Sen. (Ralph) Recto together with myself is dapat yang budget na yan lahat ng kinokolekta to the last cent be given to the national treasury to be used for any purpose,” Zubiri stressed.
It is imperative to have a meeting with Andaya to see if the House’s plans to amend the bill will run contrary to the goals of the Senate.
“Kasi kung marami sila planong i-amend na sa tingin namin sa Senado ay medyo kontrobersyal at baka matagalan pa ang measure na ito, we might just stick to our position to adopt the approved House version,” he said.
He insisted that the Senate’s list of amendments include only the complete abolition of the Road Board and reversion of the fund to the national treasury.
When asked if it is legal to hold a bicam when the bill is already approved by both houses, Zubiri explained that there is already a legal precedence.
“We have legal precedence, yung coco levy na may provisions na ayaw ng Malakanyang, binawi natin yun para mapag-usapan muli sa bicam so it can be done. Legally and procedurally we can do it,” Zubiri said.