Maico Buncio - the loss of a national treasure
AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman () - May 23, 2011 - 12:00am

Last week, the Philippine motorsports community stood still as they mourned over the passing of motorcycle racing champion, Maico Buncio.

Maico was the Philippines’ fastest man on two wheels. In 2007, he snatched the crown from then reigning 10-time Superbike champion Jolet Jao. From 2007-2009, he held the Superbike National Champion title. He was named 2011 Golden Wheel Driver of the Year. Last April, he was chosen by Team Suzuki Pilipinas to be the country’s representative in the 2011 Asian Road Racing Championship (Asia’s premier circuit racing championship for motorcycles) where he was supposed to use a Suzuki GSXR 600cc bike in the SuperSports 600cc category. He would have also participated in the World Superbike Championship and eventually the MotoGP.

Maico brought back the excitement of motor sports racing in the Philippines. At a young age of 22, he contributed immensely to the growth of motor sports in the country. He inspired the youth to go and follow their dreams.

Maico always advocated safety in driving. He even said, “Never race on the streets because it’s too dangerous, race on the race track because it’s safe.” He would usually advise potential bikers especially the kids to exercise self- discipline. He elevated professionalism in the field.

It is very heartbreaking then that on May 15 he died after suffering serious injuries from a crash — riding his GSXR 600 motorbike during time trials at the Clark International Speedway Racing Circuit in Angeles, Pampanga. His father said, “He was traveling at an estimate speed of 220kph when his bike slipped into loose gravel on the shoulder of the speedway. Maico was thrown off 100 meters from his bike, crashing into an unfinished barrier on the speedway where a protruding steel bar punctured his body and damaged his kidney and liver. He was rushed to a nearby hospital before being brought to the UST Hospital early morning of Sunday, but the doctors’ efforts was in vain, and he passed away at 3:57 p.m.”

How can I let this column come to pass without seeking justice for the death of Maico. He was a very dear O.B. Montessori, Sta. Ana alumnae. Maico who graduated in 2006 continued to visit the campus. He never failed to acknowledge his school in his professional endeavors and triumphs. He was very committed, very loyal and very professional.

This tragic incident is a loss of a national treasure to the Philippines. Maico was an instrument of God. He brought inspiration and charm to the sports community. He was like the Manny Pacquiao of the motorcycle sports world in the Philippines. He was the only Filipino who can compete internationally.

His death and the death of many like Chit Estella Simbulan have raised questions to the issues of road safety in our country, an area we fail to succeed in as there are many deaths in our roads everyday.

Maico’s death must not be treated in vain. Who should be held responsible for his death? Should it be the National Motorcycle Sports and Safety Association (NAMSSA)? Should it be Johnny Tan the owner and operations chief of Clark International Speedway Circuit (the activity organizers)? Or the gross negligence of the Aeromed Philippines the medics who came to the rescue and allegedly carelessly yanked him out from the steel bars that penetrated through his body and damaged his liver and kidney? You’d think that they would all come out, show concern and support to Maico’s family – instead they seem to be all on a defending mood. Susmariosep!

Surely, there will be more races to run and if we don’t do something to improve our roads or our race tracks for that matter, our races will all be a race to heaven.

His untimely demise may be very painful, but we can all agree that his death and the death of Chit Estella Simbulan should be instrumental to change.

“Like a comet, blazing ‘cross the evening sky – gone too soon. Born to amuse, to inspire, to delight, here one day, gone one night” (Michael Jackson’s song, Gone too Soon).

* * *

The Asian Development Bank, ASEAN and the Philippine government came up with a Philippine Road Safety Action Plan program in 2004. I wonder whatever happened to this project. In the report it stated that, “There is very little effort in terms of time and budget that the government allocates towards improving road traffic safety in the country. The only visible program is the Motor Vehicle Inspection System which has the objective of ensuring the operational roadworthiness selected classes of vehicles. The items under inspection include all the safety devices that road vehicles are supposed to have. Headlights, signal lights, brake systems, structural integrity of the vehicle are the main items considered. However, the implementation of this program is very limited in terms of geographic location and vehicle class. Not all vehicles are required to undergo this inspection and there is only less than a handful of inspection facilities operating nationwide”.

It further stated that, “A more recent development is the enactment into law of the Seat Belts Use Act of 1999.” This was supposed to be fully implemented in November 2000 but up to the present time there is still rampant violation of such law. In fact, the very buses that kill people have no seatbelts to protect their riders.

The World Health Organization and the United Nations joint forces in recently launching the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020. In line with this, P-Noy recently signed Proclamation No.159, which sets 2011 as the launch year of the Philippine Road Safety Action Plan for the next 10 years.

This is a very critical period for government to take aggressive action to address the road safety and traffic problems in the country. Let’s hope everything works out well for the common good.

Incidentally, six days after Maico died, the local police in the area apparently did not have a police report ready. The Motorcycle Philippine Federation representatives who assisted Maico’s dad in getting it had to wait for the report to be written. I was also told that the newly installed Clark Development Corporation president and chief executive officer, Felipe Antonio Remollo only knew about the accident two days later – is this true? What’s happening to this country – Sanamagan!

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