Palace wants speed monitoring devices on PUVs

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

MANILA (Updated) -- Malacañang encouraged on Tuesday public utility vehicles (PUV) to use speed monitoring or limiting devices to prevent accidents similar to what happened last Monday at an elevated highway in Manila.

At least 18 people were killed when a passenger bus operated by Don Mariano Transport Corporation plunged from the Metro Manila Skyway and fell onto a van passing below on Monday morning. Overspeeding has been seen as cause of the accident.

[READ: 18 dead as bus falls from Skyway]

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., in a regular press briefing on Tuesday, said a speed monitoring device could benefit bus operators to ensure that bus drivers do not overspeed.

"Puwede ito gamitin as a monitoring or control device. It will also be for the benefit of bus operators. Pati ang pagsunod ng drivers to proper speed limits will also affect the fuel efficiency of their vehicles," he said.

But Coloma added it would be up to the lawmakers to pass a law on this similar to the Seat Belt Law.

"So, siguro hahayaan na lang natin ang ating mga mambabatas na suriin kung ito ay magiging kapaki-pakinabang dahil mas mainam siguro na ito ay isabatas para mas permanente iyong magiging resulta at improvements. Katulad na rin nung ginawa hinggil doon sa Safety Belt Law, na ngayon ay pinapatupad na sa ating public transportation," he explained.

Coloma also said that the government would rather allow the private sector to operate public transport, as it is more efficient.

The government's role would be limited to regulating the operations of the private sector, he said.

"Kung maaring gampanan ang paglilingkod ng private sector, mas mainam sila ang magsagawa nito with proper regulation from the government to protect and promote public interest," he said.

The Palace official also said Tuesday that agencies such as the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) and the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) will lead efforts to ensure the safety of the riding public.

"The Aquino administration has always prioritized the safety of the riding public. The objective is to prevent irresponsible operators and reckless drivers from obtaining government permission to operate unsafe vehicles that place the lives of the riding public at risk," he said.

Coloma said the LTFRB already suspended for 30 days the entire 78-unit fleet of Don Mariano Transport Corporation, while the Dole will closely monitor the compliance by bus operators of occupational health and safety standards.

The Dole had also imposed a two-tier wage system where bus drivers and conductors are entitled to a minimum wage and a performance-based pay.

Coloma noted that the Dole's order compels bus operators to secure a Labor Standards and Compliance Certificate as a requirement for renewing their franchises.

The government will also observe the principles of enforcement, engineering and education in preventing a repeat of the bus tragedy, he added.

Coloma said enforcement involves making sure people follow speed limits in thoroughfares, while engineering involves the safe design and safety features of roads, including closed-circuit television cameras.

Education aims to heighten public awareness on the need for road safety, he said.

'Overworked'

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said Tuesday that they are verifying reports that Carmelo Calatcat, driver of the ill-fated bus, had been working for 17 hours already prior to the accident.

"Nag-set tayo ng standards kasi nga may pag-aaral na kapag over and above ka ng 17 hours yata iyon. Very high na yung risk ng accident noon. Kaya natin ginawa yung standards. So dito i-examine namin kung compliant sila," said Baldoz.

Under their standards, the Labor chief said overtime duty can only be up to four hours, for a total of a 12-hour duty.

Baldoz said she will look into the compliance of the company with regard the benefits the driver and conductor are entitled to.

According to Dole record, Don Mariano Transit Corporation has an expired Labor Standards Compliance Certificate (LSCC).

Baldoz noted how the company was last inspected on July 3, 2012, and was issued an LSCC by the Dole on July 17, 2012.

"It has an expired LSCC and has not renewed its application," said Baldoz.

The Dole chief said the company has 78 buses manned by 79 bus drivers, and 107 conductors.

Relative to this, Baldoz said she has ordered Dole–National Capital Region (NCR) Director Alex Avila to conduct immediate assessment and inspection of the bus company.

This is aside from placing the bus firm among the list of "inspectionable" establishments in January, she said.

"In January, when implementation of our Labor Law Compliance System resumes, we will see to it that bus companies are fully compliant," said Baldoz.

To note, the LSCC is a requirement of the LTFRB before the bus company is issued Certificate of Public Convenience or permits authorizing the operation of public land transportation services.

Drunk driving law

The highway tragedy last Monday at the elevated Skyway also started calls for the immediate implementation of the implementing rules and regulation of Republic Act (RA) 10586, or the Anti Drunk and Drugged Driving Act of 2013.

Senator Vicente Sotto III, author of RA 10586, said the recent incident is already enough reason for the government to expedite the implementation of the IRR of the law, which criminalizes drunk driving or driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs.

Sotto added that the driver of Don Mariano Transit Corporation who is reportedly in critical condition should undergo some examination, as the senator asked the police to subject him to a drug and alcohol test.

He also expressed dismay that 15 days after the law was passed and was published in major newspapers, the IRR is not yet being imposed.

The senator added that if the driver fails in the sobriety test, "then it shall be the duty of the law enforcement officer to implement the mandatory determination of the driver's blood, alcohol concentration level through the use of breath analyzer or similar measuring instrument which was clearly stated in the law."

The law also states that those who refuse to undergo test would be charged and fined accordingly, Sotto said.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, for his part, revealed that one vehicular accident occurs every seven minutes in Metro Manila, as he urged the utilization of the portion of the multibillion peso road user's tax.

Recto said about P800 million representing the mandatory 7.5 percent of the P11.7 billion collected last year from the motor vehicle registration fees, is the minimum amount available annually for "road safety" programs.

"Actually, all collections from road user's tax must be spent for road safety. That's the end objective. But there's a provision in the law specifically setting aside 7.5 percent of what's collected for road safety," Recto said.

Recto was referring to RA 8794, which tucks in a Motor Vehicle User's Charge in every vehicle's annual registration, based primarily on vehicle weight.

Based on IRR of the law, the 7.5 percent of total collection shall be placed in a "Special Road Safety Fund" and allotted for roadway improvements and repairs designed to reduce conflicts in traffic flow and the likelihood and severity of accidents.

He added that IRR allows the fund to be used not only for traffic signals, markings, lanes, traffic channelization techniques, traffic calming measures, but also for road safety education and training program.

Recto said that this can be invoked by authorities in buying ambulances, which can be stationed in traffic prone highways, patrol cars, which can run after overspeeding vehicles at night, and tow trucks to clear roads of stalled vehicles.

Tasked to implement RA 10856 include the Philippine National Police and those deputized by the Land Transportation Office.

Penalties for DUI range from three months in prison and a fine of P20,000 to perpetual revocation of the Drivers license, a fine of P500,00 and longer prison term. (SDR/HDT/Camille P. Balagtas/Sunnex)

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