'Non-priority' of pedestrians, cyclists in proposed 2024 budget dismays group

James Relativo - Philstar.com
'Non-priority' of pedestrians, cyclists in proposed 2024 budget dismays group
A family rides a bicycle along a street in Manila on August 18, 2022.
AFP / Jam Sta. Rosa, File

MANILA, Philippines — Transport advocates urged the Philippine government to prioritize 94% of Filipinos who do not own private vehicles, this after the proposed allocation for active transport and PUV modernization next year was slashed.

The Move As One Coalition on Tuesday hit the 2024 National Expenditure Program after a "zero budget" for PUV modernization while the allocation for the Department of Transportation and its attached agencies was more than doubled to P214.3 billion.

“The UniTeam promised during the campaign that it would incorporate bike lanes into roads if elected. Despite the budget increase, the bulk of the DOTr budget will be spent mainly on two foreign-assisted rail projects," said Dr. Robert Siy Jr., transport economist and co-convenor of the coalition.

"While railways are part of the solution, they will still take many years before daily commuters can benefit from them. The Filipino public grapples with a transport crisis now, and the Coalition has said as much in every possible consultation on the proposed budget.”

The coalition's analysis showed that the budget for bike lanes and walkways was cut to P500 million in the 2024 NEP, a dramatic drop from P2 billion in 2022.

The lack of budget for the PUV modernization, according to the group, "implies a complete disregard" for the welfare of transport workers demanding a just transition.

Piston and Manibela earlier criticized the PUV modernization program aiming to replace traditional jeepneys and UV Express with "modern" vehicles costing up to P2.8 million per unit, a price too steep for many operators.

"When commuters come down from the train station, we walk, bike or ride a jeep and tricycle. Yet we see no meaningful budget to make these modes more safe and reliable for the 94 percent of Filipinos who do not own private vehicles," Siy said.

Hierarchy of road users

The Philipppine Development Plan 2021-2028, the state's roadmap towards economic and social transformation, said that "[p]edestrians and cyclists will be accorded highest priority in the hierarchy of road users."

But according to Siy, the NEP 2024 runs counter to the transportation policy statement.

Among the coalition's proposals to the government includes safer pedestrian lanes, protected bike lane networks, service contracting and PUV modernization program in the 2024 NEP.

A May 2020 to April 2022 survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) earlier revealed that there are four bicycle owners to every car owner in the Philippines.

The SWS likewise pointed out in a survey released in January 2021 that 87% of Filipinos agree that local roads will be better if public transportation, bicycles and pedestrians are given priority over private vehicles.

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