Poor and inadequate transport safety systems and protocols

BIZLINKS - Rey Gamboa - The Philippine Star

One would think that extreme Philippine lockdowns, when even public and private mobility is severely restricted, would result in less transportation accidents. Not so, that is, if we take into account the data reported by the Metro Manila Accident Reporting and Analysis System (MMARAS) in 2020.

Last year, MMARAS recorded 65,032 accidents, of which 337 resulted in fatalities and 14,465 in injuries. That’s an average of 178 road crash accidents a day.

To put the 2020 MMARAS data in perspective, the reported road accident-related deaths and injuries in 2019, a normal no-pandemic year, was about twice the number in deaths and injuries when all of Metro Manila’s private and public vehicles were competing for road space.

How so many accidents could happen in 2020 – at a time when almost all of Metro Manila’s buses, jeepneys, and tricycles were not allowed on the streets, and private cars were only permitted to leave homes for emergency and essential reasons – is extremely baffling.

The Safe Travel Alliance (STA), which claims to be a coalition of public and private stakeholders, states that data “highlight the (a) poor and insufficient state of systems that currently maintain and ensure transportation safety. And (b) inadequacy of safety protocols in all modes of transportation in the Philippines.”

Slow legislative action

The continued high incidence of transportation accidents in the country, not just on land, but even at sea, has prompted STA to remind lawmakers to act on a bill that proposes the establishment of a Philippine Transportation Safety Board (PTSB).

Both the House and the Senate have already passed their versions on third and final readings. All that is left is for the respective bodies’ bicameral committees to be constituted, the bicameral conferees to be manifested in the plenary, and the joint bicameral committee to reconcile disagreeing provisions before the final version is sent to the President for his assent.

The pressure by the STA to move lawmakers to act on the proposed law creating a transportation safety board before the 18th Congress recesses in a few weeks’ time is understandable, given that the measure was initiated over two decades ago.

Unfortunately, the proposed law, while advocating for a solution to the worsening record of transportation accidents in the country, is not likely to see any action by lawmakers who are already busy preparing for the coming May 2022 elections.

Farcical accident investigations

As the STA has noted, many questions are raised when accidents happen, but answers are rarely given that could provide for valuable lessons, and more importantly, initiate remedies to prevent similar accidents from happening again.

“Historical numbers and statistical data show us the investigation methods and references used by accident investigators in the Philippines very rarely result in policy corrections that prevent future accidents, especially in land transportation,” the STA stated.

Definitely, how our accident investigators conduct many of their inquiries could make for laughable attempts more fit for comedic, rather than thriller science documentaries. Not only don’t we employ scientific tools for investigation and analysis, the process for drawing conclusive evidence and lessons is haphazard and half-hearted.

Lastly, any important finding is not incorporated in a process that would compel corrections or improvements in transportation regulations. A clear example is the law on child car seats in private vehicles, which undeniably saves lives of children during vehicular accidents, but has once again been postponed for implementation.

Land-based vehicular accident investigations should really be improved. As the STA pointed out, there are just too many fingers that spoil the pudding. Road accidents that involve public utility vehicles are under the jurisdiction of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), but other government agencies or bodies – like the Philippine National Police, the Land Transportation Office, and the Metro Manila Development Authority – may also do their own sleuthing.

Worse, some of these agencies have been accused of harboring conflicts of interest that ultimately impede the adoption of institutional reforms embracing improved safety measures.

Marine safety reforms

While solutions to improving road safety are urgently needed, given the continued growing number of “coffins-on-wheels” on our roads, equal attention must be given to reforming current marine safety rules and regulations.

Sea-based travel accidents continue to be a major concern among smaller vessels that have been left to ply Philippine waters despite the lack of compliance to safety measures. Many operating bancas are poorly maintained, and the pilots manning them without proper certifications.

Last year, according to STA, maritime accidents were lower in numbers of incidents, but the number of fatalities, injured persons, and loss of property was more.

Our system of weather tracking and reporting has, likewise, not fully benefited operators of small inter-island boats, who may risk sending out their outriggers without early advice of approaching storms or other weather disturbances.

The Maritime Industry Authority, which has the capability to form inquiry boards and investigate major maritime disasters, has already made substantial progress in bringing reforms for the safety of the big inter-island shipping vessels, as well as those carrying petroleum products.

MARINA, however, can and should do more to bring safety reforms that will also ensure the safety of the many people who rely on the smaller sea transportation vessels that bridge travel from smaller islands to other islands or the main ports.

Facebook and Twitter

We are actively using two social networking websites to reach out more often and even interact with and engage our readers, friends, and colleagues in the various areas of interest that I tackle in my column. Please like us on www.facebook.com/ReyGamboa and follow us on www.twitter.com/ReyGamboa.

Should you wish to share any insights, write me at Link Edge, 25th Floor, 139 Corporate Center, Valero Street, Salcedo Village, 1227 Makati City. Or e-mail me at reydgamboa@yahoo.com. For a compilation of previous articles, visit www.BizlinksPhilippines.net.

  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with