By Gabriel Pabico Lalu
MANILA, Philippines — A lawmaker wants to push further the speed limits on certain closed expressway systems to 140 kilometers per hour (kph), but several government agencies are concerned if the current road conditions can allow that and if safety measures are enough.
The House committee on transportation on Thursday deliberated House Bill (HB) No. 4089 by Ilocos Sur 1st District Rep. Ronald Singson, which seeks to define what an expressway is and what the standard speed limits are for expressways across the country by amending Republic Act No. 4136 or the Land Transportation and Traffic Code.
In his sponsorship speech, Singson explained that vehicles nowadays and roads are better equipped to handle higher speeds over expressways, like those on the northern side — the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx), Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx) and the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEx).
“The safety features of the vehicles now provide that it can go faster safely. And also, the government has been spending so much, billions and billions of pesos to improve the infrastructure of our expressways […] we can move from point A to point B faster,” Singson said.
“Over NLEx it is understandable because traffic flow is heavy sometimes, even if you want to speed up, it is impossible. But over SCTEx and TPLEx, traffic eases. Unfortunately since the speed limit is at 100kph only, traffic flow is hindered. So the wide roads constructed are being put to waste,” he added.
Singson further stated that there was an emergency once and he tried moving a bit faster than the speed limit, and he was able to reduce travel time significantly.
“If you travel the entire NLEx, SCTEx, TPLEx, from Balintawak to Rosario (Pangasinan) with the speed limit of 100 kph, you’ll take around 3.5 hours. But there was a time that we had an emergency, we ran at 140 kph for the whole stretch at night, it only took us two hours,” he noted.
“So the facility is being wasted […] if we do not maximize it. So anyway, the aim of the bill is to introduce an optimal safety speed in certain areas of the expressway. Of course expressways lang ‘to dahil I think ‘yong mga local roads will be regulated by the individual LGUs (local government units),” he added.
The Department of Transportation (DOTr), which was in attendance during the hearing, failed to send a representative well-versed with the road sector.
However, both the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) and the Land Transportation Office (LTO) expressed support for the bill provided that the proposal be studied further, and that more safety measures be placed.
TRB Regulation Division deputy chief Joz Carlos Ordillano said that one concern is that the Department of Public Works and Highways have built road networks using an old law, which may not be usable for high speeds.
“The TRB hereby express our full support po sa initiative po ni Honorable Singson […] However po sir the range of speed limits being proposed are beyond the standards po of DPWH considering the fact that the designed speed limit of our expressways, they were built based on the specifications written on the 1984 design guidelines and criteria of the Bureau of Design of DPWH,” Ordillano said.
“But sir be that as it may, if ever the committee intends to pursue for a higher speed limit under the premise of safety, our officer would like to suggest that a technical study and a consultation with the DPWH Bureau of Design shall be conducted prior to the adoption of the 140kph for cars and 120kph for trucks and buses,” he added.
LTO’s Steering Committee vice chairperson Atty. Zoj Daphne Usita-Angustia said that they also support Singson’s legislation, especially since modern vehicles are equipped with engines that have a higher displacement.
“We would like to manifest our full support to the amendments being introduced by Rep. Singson regarding the amendments on specific provisions of R.A. No. 4136 especially since R.A. No. 4136 was enacted in 1964. So there are many changes nowadays,” Usita-Angustia said.
“Although is in coordination with DPWH and TRB, we also support the new maximum speed limits especially that there are bigger displacements of vehicles, so if it will be set to 140 kph or 130 kph, our concern in the agency is that we (need to) enact stricter rules as to road safety lang po,” she added.
This is not the first time that a bill seeking an increase in speed limit was filed before Congress. In 2013, similar measures were filed before the House, asking that the speed limit jump to 130kph for cars and motorcycles, and 110 for buses and trucks.
As of now, tollways — which are managed by private corporations — impose their own speed limits. NLEx and SCTEx which are managed by the Metro Pacific Tollways Corporation have a 100kph speed limit for cars and 80kph for trucks and buses — the same limits used by the San Miguel Corporation Tollways’ South Luzon Expressway and TPLEx.
As for the Skyway, there are portions where maximum speeds should not exceed 60kph, and in straight sections, at 80kph.