Like the revered jeepney, tricycles have become an icon in the Philippines. These two ubiquitous vehicles represent Filipino ingenuity and form the backbone of the country’s mass transport system.
Filipinos simply cannot go about their daily lives without using them. A majority of us may not know it but it was the late president Ferdinand E. Marcos that enacted the law in October 1985, by way of Instruction number 1482, which recognized tricycles as a primary means of transportation. Since then, that law has been abused and misinterpreted by tricycle operators. Tricycles have evolved into a road hazard, with the drivers cutting lanes, weaving in and out of traffic, many of them crossing the highway without regard for the safety of pedestrians and other motorists.
In a 2015 report by the World Health Organization, 1.25 million have died due to road accidents here and abroad, with motorcyclists comprising 23 percent. In the WHO’s Global Status Report of Road Safety, in the Philippines, 53 percent of reported road fatalities were riders of motorized two-and three-wheeled vehicles. An alarming a number of the deaths by three-wheeled vehicles or tricycles took place on national highways.
Data from the DOTC indicated that there are 5.9 million registered vehicles plying the streets. Of this figure, the LTO revealed that in 2012, 658,675 for-hire tricycles and motorcycles were operating in our country, accounting for nearly 67.9 percent of the total for-hire vehicle population. They currently outnumber the combined total for-hire cars, utility vehicles, buses, trucks, and trailers, according to figures from the National Statistical Coordination Board.
Enforce the law
Prior to these surprising numbers, a law was already in place which was handed down by the highest court of the land in 2000.
In a memo circular dated May 10, 2011, the late Jesse M. Robredo, then Secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), enjoined executives and officials of Local Government Units (LGUs) to strictly adhere and implement the guidelines and standards which bans tricycles and pedicabs from operating along national highways. “For the safety of the drivers and the passengers, please ensure that the ban on tricycles and pedicabs along national highways is strictly observed,” Robredo said in his directive to provincial governors, city and municipal mayors, punong barangays, sanggunian presiding officers and the ARMM regional governor.
Robredo’s circular stemmed from the complaints of regional and field offices amid reports that despite the decision from the Supreme Court’s Third Division, dated January 20, 2000 with G.R. No 131512, that says “ For safety reasons, no tricycles should operate on national highways utilized by 4 wheel vehicles greater than 4 tons and where normal speed exceed 40 KPH. However, the SB/SP may provide exceptions if there is no alternative route,” and the decision also cited the reason being “The devolution of the functions of the DOTC, performed by the LTFRB, to the LGUs, as so aptly observed by the Solicitor General, is aimed at curbing the alarming increase of accidents in national highways involving tricycles. “ These three-wheeled menace still use national roads in defiance of the law.
The DILG also pointed out that tricycles may be allowed to operate along national highways if there is no other alternative road network available, such as routes beyond the town proper, subject to the prescribed guidelines of the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC).
The same directive prescribed the minimum standards to be adopted by city and municipal governments in the formulation of a regulatory code for tricycle and pedicab franchise operation, including physical requirements/ equipage, fares, load/capacity limit and operating conditions.
Mang Totoy Buena, a tricycle operator of 25 years and a member of United Tricycles Entrepreneurs Network, explained that a vast majority of tricycle operators do not have formal education,” Gaya ko po, elementary lang tinapos ko at ito lang alam kong trabaho. Hindi ko nga po alam basahin yang mga signs sa kalye,” When asked how he was able to obtain a driver’s license, his response was,”Madali naman pong maglagay sa LTO. Halos lahat po kami non-appearance, nagbibigay po kami ng pera sa fixers.” Here lies the problem.
Most probably, the problem of tricycles plying our national road stems from ignorance of the law while LGUs with their deputized law enforcers simply do not enforce it because it has become a milking cow for corruption. There is also a matter of discipline. Must the government continue to ignore the frightening fatality statistics?