With a Manila congressman calling for its outright abolition, the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) now faces close scrutiny over its regulatory and supervisory authority over the delivery of services to the National Capital Region comprising 17 cities and one municipality.
Manila Rep. Joel Chua enumerated the reasons for his stand in a privilege speech.
One, he believes the MMDA has been encroaching on the jurisdiction of Metro Manila’s local governments and duplicating the work of national agencies.
Two, he claims the agency has a bloated bureaucracy, having expanded through the years from 6,812 personnel in 2011 to 9,767 personnel in 2021.
Three, he argues, the agency has been wasting billions in public funds with nothing to show for them.
He cited the MMDA flood control projects worth P635.5 million, of which 20 have not been completed as of 2021; and 49 other uncompleted projects costing P1.624 billion.
And four, the lawmaker also slammed the agency for “disrupting the lives of Manila residents through operations involving demolitions of homes, clearing of roads and sidewalks and traffic management and enforcement.”
He maintained the MMDA has not been coordinating its clearing operations with local governments.
Chua proposed the MMDA’s various roles and functions: development planning; transport and traffic management; solid waste disposal and management, sanitation, pollution control and flood control; sewerage management and sanitation; urban renewal, zoning, and land use planning and shelter services; public health; and public safety, be reverted to the Metro Manila Council as well as the national government agencies.
He pointed out that if there are major infrastructure projects in Metro Manila, “we have the Department of Transportation, the Department of Public Works and Highways, the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development and the Department of Information and Communications Technology [to handle them].”
MMDA officials themselves should respond to the lawmaker’s allegations point-by-point. They are in the best position to defend themselves.
On our part, we beg to disagree with the lawmaker’s call for the MMDA to be abolished for duplicating the work of national agencies.
His stand appears to be the result of an erroneous understanding of the role of the MMDA in relation to the Metro Manila Council.
As we understand it, the MMDA is under the direct supervision of the Office of the President.
It performs planning, monitoring and coordinative functions, and exercises regulatory and supervisory authority over the delivery of metro-wide services within Metro Manila without diminution of the autonomy of the local government units concerning purely local matters.
The governing board and policy making body of the MMDA is the Metro Manila Council, composed of the mayors of the cities and municipalities. The heads of the departments of Transportation, Public Works, Tourism, Budget and Management, Human Settlements and Urban Development, and the Philippine National Police or their duly authorized representatives, attend meetings of the council as non-voting members.
The Metro Manila Council is the policy-making body of the MMDA. It approves metro-wide plans, programs and projects and issues rules, regulations and resolutions deemed necessary by the MMDA.
Moreover, it promulgates rules and regulations and sets policies and standards for metro-wide application governing the delivery of basic services, prescribes and collects service and regulatory fees, and imposes and collects fines and penalties.
In other words, the Metro Manila Council is the policy-making body while the MMDA implements metro-wide policies.
The Metro Manila Council, therefore, cannot take over the day-to-day work of the MMDA, as the lawmaker suggested.
The city and municipal mayors as a group can only formulate policies for Metro Manila as whole. Individually, they cannot go around and dictate to other mayors and city and town officials what they should do to implement the letter and spirit of metro-wide policies approved by the Metro Manila Council.
Having said that, while we do not believe that the MMDA should be abolished and its place taken by the Metro Manila Council, we think the agency should clearly define the limits of its authority to avoid any conflict with elected local officials whose constituents want them to speak on their behalf whenever their rights and welfare are at stake.
But more on that in another column—and why the MMDA deserves all the opprobrium it is getting from all over.
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