Welcome to Inquirer Mobility

With a myriad of problems facing the nation, it is easy for important issues to become buried by the incessant noise coming from aggrieved parties. The way democracy works in this country, everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. And most of the time, the one who talks (or types) the loudest is the one who corners media airtime and public sympathy.

That is why the bandwagon effect is such an effective tool in putting forth an agenda in this country. The ill-informed populace is kept gullible enough to serve the vested interests of the rich and powerful. 

It isn’t over yet
Just last week, the issue of passing Private Motor Vehicle Inspection Center (PMVIC) tests for roadworthiness prior to vehicle registration was hogging the headlines. Noise barrages, press conferences, even incendiary and oftentimes illogical social media posts have captured the fancy of a ticked-off populace. 
Already reeling from loss of income due to the pandemic, the additional expenses that the PMVIC directive the Land Transportation Office and the Department of Transportation imposed on the public has not sat well with the daily driver. 
No matter how well-meaning the measure is, a vehicle’s roadworthiness is essential  to safe and proper road use, not to mention required by law. But the ill-timed implementation and the additional burden that comes with it, is endangering the program. 
Unfortunately, knowing how issues in this country have a  way of inevitably sorting themselves out by being overtaken by the next scandal, it will most likely be only a matter of weeks if not a couple of months until the PMVICs’ existence will become an accepted reality.  But only if we bend over and do nothing. 

Get real
Another reality that is staring us in our face is the LTO’s implementation of the face mask mandate for drivers and passengers of private vehicles. 
In the same way the LTO has caused confusion back in May last year when it released its Memorandum Circular 2020-2185, or the COVID-19 guidelines for areas under General Community Quarantine, the agency continues to defend its vaguely written memorandum circular without issuing a clarificatory document stating the specific conditions of face mask wearing. 
To this day, the public relies on television interviews where an LTO official goes on record to state the obvious. And just last Monday, one LTO official even added more fuel to the fire of disdain and mistrust in the agency when he made a tasteless remark on  Republic Act 11229, or the Child Safety in Motor Vehicles Act. 
When asked by a television news anchor how a tall 12-year old will fit in a car if he will be required to sit on a booster seat as required by the new law, LTO Regional Director for NCR Atty. Clarence V. Guinto replied “in jest” that motorists should consider getting a bigger vehicle. 
Somehow, the joke is lost on us daily drivers who can hardly make ends meet, much less pay the monthly dues on our cars. But what is not lost on us is how this  has been the story of the LTO really for the past few decades – it has been out of sync with reality. Perhaps because the law that enables its existence is likewise outdated? Or perhaps the people who run the agency are mere political appointees and bureaucrats rather than certified experts in transportation and urban planning? Or maybe the real motivation of some people in this office is not our welfare? Your guess is as good as ours. 
Seasoned motoring journalist and lawyer, Atty. Robby Consunji, has been keeping an eye on the agency’s day-to-day affairs. “The LTO always has a solution, but the motorist cannot see the problem sought to be solved,” shares Consunji. He adds, “Where the public experiences a problem, the LTO has yet to do a solution.”
“The LTO is supposed to be the expert on land transportation,” says the former Car Awards Group, Inc. president. “The LTO should regulate based on  proven data and statistics. The regulation books are filled with stillborn regulations gathering dust in archives. The LTO should have more resources for consistent enforcement of regulations. He opines, “Their “One Time Big Time” Campaigns are not effective; (these) are proof of seasonal and arbitrary enforcement of regulations in pocket areas of the country.” And as the kind lawyer reminds us, “Seasonal and arbitrary enforcement is violative of the constitutional guarantee of equal protection of law.”
Woe is the hapless motorist who can only suck it all up because he does not have a voice, or worse, a choice. Fortunately for us, the enforcement of this new law has been deferred. 

Fret not
There is  a glimmer of hope, however. At least 9 versions of the Magna Carta for Commuters Bill have been filed in the House of Representatives. And a Senate version, Senate Bill 775, or the Dignity in Commuting Act, has been authored by Senator Francis Pangilinan. 
In its various iterations, these bills aim to ensure that we commuters are guaranteed our rights to safe, sanitary transportation services, special attention during service breakdowns and deficiency in service, and of information for effective and convenient travel. 
AltMobility Ph, a group of policy advocates pushing for sustainable and inclusive transportation,  is working with lawmakers to have these bills consolidated. If the bill is passed, it would mean that the government will be finally compelled to actually plan towards prioritizing commuter welfare. 
According to a Social Weather Stations survey conducted last November 2020, at least 85% of Filipinos agree that roads would be better off if public transportation, bicycles and pedestrians are given priority over private vehicles. The good thing is, there is a clamor. Now we wait with bated breath if Congress, in all its wisdom, will be able to pass this measure and give us commuters and motorists the mobility we deserve. 
We are still in  this together, right?
And talking about what we deserve, remember back in April, when the lockdown was in full effect? We got to see clear blue skies and breathe fresh air over the capital region for a change. And after decades of being obscured in soot, the Sierra Madre Mountain range was for a brief few weeks, visible in all its resplendent, albeit denuded, glory. 
They say you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. The good thing is, Senator Lito Lapid filed Senate Bill 1938, and a similar bill in the Lower House, House Bill 8337 or the “Mandatory Tree Planting for Every Motor Vehicle Sales Act”, was submitted by  Congressman Luis Raymund Villafuerte, Jr. Both versions of the proposed act call for car dealerships to plant ten trees per vehicle they sell. But why only limit the requirement to four-wheeled vehicles? 
In 2020, a total of 248,171 cars and commercial vehicles were sold. In contrast, the motorcycle industry saw total sales of 1.25 million units just in the first three quarters of 2020 alone. This despite the COVID-19 lockdowns that cost the auto industry a 40% year-on-year loss, and the motorcycle industry a 32.2% drop in the first three quarters alone compared to 2019. With more than a million brand new motorcycles sold each year, imagine how many more trees at 10 per motorcycle sold will be planted if this law is passed.
If our lawmakers were really sincere in making every motorist  contribute to the government’s reforestation efforts, this law should encompass all new vehicles sold, whether two-wheeled or more. Better yet, makers and sellers of PUVs and their diesel-fed ilk should likewise be obliged to plant their fair share of trees. Most of the black soot and smoke are emitted by these vehicles anyway. 
As you can see, motorists, commuters and road users are all faced with a multitude of life-changing issues each and every week. It is our job to sift through the rubbish and pot-banging to present to you facts that will help you form a proper opinion and make an informed stand. Contrary to popular belief, mob rule does not result in meaningful change. It is only through learned discussion, and a culture of respect and mature acceptance of dissent, can we progress as a nation. 

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