Panelo backs Tugade amid call for his replacement

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 12) —  Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Thursday backed Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade amid a call for his replacement as traffic congestion worsens in Metro Manila.

In a press conference in Malacañang, Panelo said that he does not believe that Tugade should resign.

"Hindi ako naniniwala doon (I don't believe that he should)," Panelo said.

Tugade continued to push for emergency powers to solve traffic woes on the metropolis' main artery EDSA, clashing with Senator Grace Poe, head of the Senate Committee on Public Services.

In a statement, the Department of Transportation (DoTr) said that the agency will not stop in finding every solution to ease congestion in the capital region.

"The transportation chief also stressed that he will not allow himself to be used as "props" for political theatrics, maintaining that the DOTr remains fully focused on delivering safe, comfortable and efficient transportation systems for the Filipino people," the department said.

It added a comment from Tugade, who defended himself by slamming the Senator.

"Sus, masyadong bilib sa sarili. Pati ba naman posisyon ko pinakikialaman nya? I only serve at the pleasure of the President. Not on the whims, caprice and theatrics of misguided politicians," Tugade said.

[Translation: She thinks too highly of herself. Why is she messing with my position?]

In a television interview, Poe said that Tugade should be replaced by a traffic expert.

"I hope that this administration will also look at the experiences of the past administration and see that if you don’t change leadership fast enough, you lose precious time," Poe said in an interview on ANC.

The economic cost of transportation in Metro Manila as a result of worsening traffic congestion has risen to ₱3.5 billion a day, and could rise to ₱5.4 billion a day by 2035 if interventions are not made, according to a 2017 study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency. The economic tag refers to the cost of vehicle operation and time spent by drivers and passengers on the road.

The problem has become more emotional amid reports that the gridlock is costing lives, with patients in emergencies stuck in ambulances due to clogged streets.