Another road accident claimed over 30 lives this week in Nueva Ecija province, right after a similar mishap killed 15 in February, most of them college students on their way to a field trip in Tanay, Rizal province.
The twin accidents demonstrate the incompetence of certain government agencies to strictly regulate the public transportation system in the Philippines, already beset by a poor road infrastructure. Police initially pointed to overloading as the cause of the Nueva Ecija mishap, after a bus plunged 24 meters into a ravine.
Road accidents are common in the Philippines, where transportation regulators allow old, badly-maintained buses—rolling coffins, really—to ply their routes. Often, public utility drivers are the culprit because of judgment errors and overwork.
The Senate Committee on Public Services conducted an investigation into the tourist bus accident in Tanay, Rizal after the vehicle slammed into a post on a downhill road. The investigation revealed that the tourist bus involved in the accident was 29 years old and poorly maintained.
Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board chairman Martin Delgra during that Senate hearing stressed the need to modernize land transportation to minimize road accidents. The transportation official cited that the Supreme Court had already upheld the Department of Transportation’s position that 15-year-old buses must be phased out.
Why Delgra’s agency did not implement the Supreme Court ruling and still allowed aging buses to run is puzzling. Clearly, something is amiss in the regulation of public transportation in the Philippines.
Commuters, in the meantime, face the risk of riding dilapidated buses or jeepneys that should have been taken off the road a long time ago. The government, especially the Transportation Department and its line agencies, should regulate public transportation system with an iron hand. Concerned agencies should also be held accountable for allowing rolling coffins on the road.
Too many lives have been lost because of the lax implementation of the law.