Despite the congressional recess, the House committee on transportation chaired by Rep. Cesar V. Sarmiento (Lone District, Catanduanes) recently convened to report on the outcome of its 11-day Western-Eastern Nautical Highway Expedition held from March 17 to 27, 2017.
The committee also scrutinized the plans of concerned government agencies and stakeholders in preparation for the upcoming Holy Week, including their contingency measures for the expected traffic congestion. These measures will ensure the convenience, safety and security of the riding public and the promotion and growth of local tourism.
At the start of the hearing, Sarmiento thanked the House leadership for making the First “Naval Highway, Roads and Ports Inspection” a reality.
“Let me thank the leadership of House Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez (1st District, Davao del Norte) and Majority Leader Rodolfo C. Fariñas (1st District, Ilocos Norte) for their support and for making this worthwhile endeavor a reality. This is historic because this is the first time that the Congress leadership, headed by the Speaker and the Majority Leader, undertook port inspection in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao,’’ said Sarmiento.
Likewise, Sarmiento thanked the chairpersons of other House committees who joined the transportation panel and other legislators in the roll-on, roll-off (RO-RO) inspections. He cited the valuable support and inputs of the lawmakers, among them public works and highways committee chairman Rep. Celso L. Lobregat (1st District, Zamboanga City) and Rep. Arnolfo A. Teves, Jr. (3rd District, Negros Oriental).
He also thanked the various agencies and stakeholders who were likewise present during the hearing.
The lawmakers joined the 11-day caravan in various parts of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao to inspect the nautical highway, roads, bridges, and tourist destinations. It started midnight of March 17 and culminated midnight of March 27.
Of the six House Leaders who returned in Manila, Sarmiento said only four, dubbed by Fariñas as the “Fantastic Four,” were able to complete the 11-day ports inspection, namely: the Majority Leader, Deputy Majority Leader Juan Pablo P. Bondoc (4th District, Pampanga), Sarmiento, and transportation committee vice-chairman Rep. Edgar S. Sarmiento (1st District, Samar).
Sarmiento said the results of the RO-RO inspection call for executive and legislative action, and among these are: 1) the number of franchised vehicles per land route, their capacity and condition; 2) the number of franchised vessels per sea route, their capacity and condition; and 3) the capacity of ports and terminal buildings, and the condition of existing port facilities.
“With this data and experience we had during the expedition, we can and we should come up with the needed development programs as regards our ports, our sea vessels and our land transport system. We already did half of the work when we inspected for ourselves the nautical highway. And it will be a big failure if the expedition inspection will not translate it into any improvement. Failure to do so will be a great disservice to our people,” Sarmiento stressed.
Other issues which were evident during the caravan and which the committee believed needs attention were: the remaining road networks in the nautical highway needing improvement; port congestion; free facilities for stopovers; facilities in ports, especially for Persons with Disability (PWDs), women and children.