Change is coming for vehicle owners

BIZLINKS - Rey Gamboa (The Philippine Star) - December 1, 2020 - 12:00am

Filipinos love their cars and for most, with the like sanctity of a marriage vow ‘til death do us part. Even after buying a second car, the old one becomes a spare; or because its resale price far “outweighs” benefits, is passed on to a son or daughter.

This would partially explain why the government has been having a difficult time enforcing a decades-old plan to impose stricter inspection of motor vehicles plying the roads.

For years now, a number of government agencies have been trying to bring the road worthiness of private motor vehicles up to world standards in terms of safety, as well as emissions. The public good has always been cited, but this apparently does not carry much credence.

No one really believes that old cars pose a danger to others, and many argue that the continued presence of those rickety jeepneys and buses still ferrying passengers could be more lethal. With so much skepticism, will the government’s plan work this time?

The Land Transportation Office (LTO), with the Department of Transportation, is now in the midst of accrediting privately owned and operated motor vehicle inspection services (MVIS) after earlier plans had failed.

Total waste

Previously, in 2008, during the last months of the Macapagal-Arroyo administration, the LTO purchased 11 sets of MVIS equipment worth more than P200 million. This was part of a bigger plan for the LTO to operate its own inspection centers, but dismally failed for many reasons, the biggest of which was the lack of a cohesive doable strategy.

Many of the equipment lay idle for many years, “waiting” for a building to be constructed before it could be used. For those that were partially operated, defects in the equipment were not corrected due to a lack of funds to maintain and operate them.

The plan, which intended to set up a nationwide network of motor vehicle inspection centers (MVICs) using automated inspection methods and linked to the LTO’s information system, was a dismal failure. In fact, in a 2017 report by Commission on Audit (COA), the plan’s poor planning reportedly led to a total waste of government funds, P437.9 million to be exact.

During the Aquino administration, the LTO and the Department of Transportation (DOTr) abandoned the plan in favor of a MVIS program under a public-private partnership (PPP) scheme. Final approval apparently was not secured.

Under the current administration, DOTr and LTO decided to operationalize MVICs to be fully privately owned. A total of 138 sites had been eyed across the country, with 32 planned to open by the end of August and majority to be operational by January 2021 despite the lockdowns.

Tougher parameter, higher fees

With the year ending, vehicle owners are getting antsy about the forthcoming operations of the new MVICs that would presumably usher in a tougher automated system guided by a 60-point vehicle inspection parameter, as well as higher fees that could go up to P1,800.

The computerized testing, according to reports, will check emission, light illumination, brakes, wheel camber and alignment, steering, speedometer, and even the noise level of the horn and exhaust. For many owners of old cars, that’s already one too many to check.

Filipino car owners have been too spoiled by an incorrigible system where inspectors can be cajoled to overlook a broken taillight or even unacceptable levels of noxious fuel emissions for a few pesos. The coming change will be too much of a shock.

Still, change is coming. The concerned government officials who are overseeing the transformation are going to need all the blustering expletives that can be spewed by the President to counter the onslaught of negative public opinion and complaints during the teething stage and whatever.

Ironing out kinks

Let’s give this time to sink in, most likely in a year or two, until all kinks are ironed out. The LTO will be at the center of this change as it attempts to ensure that all participating MVICs will operate smoothly and within compliance to standards.

Getting real-time interaction between the MVICs and the LTO will be a challenge, not just in allowing all data from the testing sites to be accepted by the government’s Land Transportation Management System, but in having stable and reliable internet connections.

And of course, the fees. While the amount may be paltry compared to other costs involved in maintaining a vehicle, the additional amount will still trigger reactions from those who will be asked to pay, no matter how trifle the raise.

Still, when the storm passes – and this will likely pass, the country will finally, and hopefully, have a motor vehicle inspection system that will keep only those that are safe for the roads, the public, and the environment running.

A reader’s concern

One of our readers, Raymond Tumao, shares his anxiety with this impending change. “I do not know if the vehicles made earlier than 1996 shall be required too of the test because in the Department of Motor Vehicle or DMV of the USA, the old vehicles are exempted including those two-stroke motorcycles and the newer models within two years.”

His other concerns include long queues due to limited testing stations, the fate of non-Euro compliant diesel-fed vehicles purchased from 1996 to 2006, and the possible stripping of a vehicle’s license plates if the owner is not able to successfully pass inspection.

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