It’s not enough for children to just sit still and behave inside a car. Now, they have to sit still and behave in a child seat.
The Child Safety in Motor Vehicles Act (Republic Act No. 11229) thus requires that, among other things, children 12 years old and below or are shorter than 4’11” must sit on child car seats appropriate for their age, height, and weight, strapped in using child restraint systems (CRS), and they must not be allowed to sit in the front, nor be left unattended inside a private vehicle.
The president of the Philippine (Auto) Parts Makers Association (PPMA), albeit welcoming the government’s move to prioritize child safety in vehicles, has expressed his misgivings, stressing that the production and sale of substandard child seats may proliferate as a result of the spike in demand. He urged the Department of Trade and Industry’s Bureau of Philippine Standards (DTI-BPS) to create product standards for manufacturers to strictly adhere to.
“The Department of Transportation should request the DTI-BPS to establish a standard. Otherwise, unsafe child seats and booster seats will flood the market. I can imagine some backyard seat upholsterers creating and selling their own child seats,” said Ferdinand Raquelsantos, PPMA president.
The DTI-BPS serves as the national standards body, and is mandated to develop, promulgate, and implement standards for all products marketed and sold in the Philippines, to promote standardization activities and ensure the manufacture, production, and distribution of quality products for the protection of the consumer. The Bureau was created in 1964 through RA 4109, the mandate of which is reiterated by RA 7394, or the Consumer Act of the Philippines, which declares that it is the duty of the State to develop and provide safety and quality standards for consumer products, including performance or use-oriented standards, codes of practice and methods of tests.
No local standards yet
“Right now, there is no local manufacturer of child seats. Note that a lot of testing is required to produce a child seat that passes ECE (Economic Commission for Europe) or FMVSS (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards of the United States),” Raquelsantos pointed out. He added that since the Philippines does not yet have its own standards for child seat production, the European and US standards are the benchmarks for appropriate child seats used here.
Raquelsantos also said, “There are a lot of imported child seats available, and I believe they can supply the demand. However, in the implementation of the law, there should be a grace period before it takes effect and becomes mandatory. The Philippine National Standard should be in place, care of the DTI-BPS, to specify what is applicable for the Philippine setting. New vehicles should be required to be fitted with Isofix, or old vehicles can be retrofitted. Whatever it is, we should embrace the need of having child seats to keep our kids safe inside the vehicle. But for now, while we are still in that process (of standardization), we still believe in having our occupants in the vehicle, especially our kids, to at least buckle up. Never let our child stand behind the middle row of the front seat, as a simple hard braking can throw the kid to the front windshield.”
No high demand then
As the president of AutoFIR Enterprises, a long-time manufacturer and distributor of automotive seatbelts and airbags for Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) in the Philippines, it is but natural for Raquelsantos to throw his support behind the new law. However, he observes that some finer points could be clarified to avoid public confusion. “I believe the implementation should focus on the height of the child rather than the age. There are Filipino adults that have the same height and physique of 4’11” kids,” he said.
“We had started to venture into the production of child seats for infants, and booster seats for older kids. However, there was no volume demand then when we started producing these seats four years ago.”
Raquelsantos recalled that three years ago, he was invited to Congress for the hearings on the proposed bill for CRS, chaired by Congressman Ruffy Biazon.
“At that time, Isofix, the anchorage fitted on vehicles, was the main concern. It was recommended, but even without Isofix, the seatbelt sufficed. Due to the variety of child seat sizes, we were still checking the market on which one could be mass produced. Moreover, we were still skeptical if the bill could really turn into a law,” he said.
Then, the bill did pass into law. Raquelsantos said he wasn’t surprised. However, he was hoping that the government could have issued “some notices before the actual implementation.”