By Freddie Lazaro
LAOAG CITY, Ilocos Norte — Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee R. Marcos called for closer cooperation and a “hierarchy of control” among government agencies tasked with ensuring road safety in light of recent accidents in the Ilocos Region resulting in fatalities.
Speaking before the Road Safety Summit at the Provincial Capitol of La Union recently, Marcos said: “in many cases, the DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) and LGUs (local government units) have been unable to provide adequate safety precautionary measures to prevent accidents and fatalities.”
The summit conducted by the members of the technical working group (TWG) on prevention of vehicular accident in Region 1 led by the regional offices of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) is aimed at gathering the commitment of all LGUs and concerned agencies for the prevention of vehicular accidents.
As chairperson of the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC), the governor initiated also the immediate gathering of agencies and stakeholders of the transport and road sectors at the last RPOC meeting on April 18 in Lingayen, Pangasinan.
Although the trend on the occurrence of vehicular traffic incidents (VTIs) in Region 1 was decreasing from 2015 with 15,442 vehicular accidents recorded to 2017 with 13,802 accidents recorded, the VTIs are still considered alarming because of many deaths they caused in the region. The latest tragic vehicular accident in the region happened in Barangay San Jose Sur, Agoo, La Union on December 25, 2017, that resulted in the death of 20 persons and caused injury to at least 15 individuals.
Based on police records from 2015 to 2017, police recorded at least 1,400 fatalities due to VTI in Region 1. The VTI represented almost 50 percent of the annual crime volume in the region.
The prevailing causes of VTI in the region are influence of alcohol, overspeeding, traffic illiteracy, reckless driving, poor vehicle condition, poor road condition, use of bicycles, hand tractors and other agricultural machineries in the highways, and road obstruction due to unmanned/abandoned barricades of highways, use of highways for drying palay or corn, abused use of streets during festivities and road works and repairs.
Marcos pointed out “this has also been a real issue on account of many constructions, maintenance and repair efforts on the Manila North Road and other roads. Even as we welcome President Rodrigo Duterte’s ‘Build, Build, and Build’ program, these accidents have been rampant.”
She emphasized the need for cooperation among the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Land Transportation Office (LTO), the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), together with the PNP, DPWH and LGUs.
Road safety should be systematic, hierarchical
“It is important to come up with a safe system approach, with ‘system’ meaning ‘kabuuan’ – hindi lamang yung pulis na maghuhuli ng mga overspeeding, hindi lamang yung LGU na maglalagay ng barrier,” Marcos added, “It is time that we discuss a hierarchy of control.”
She pointed out that confusion over which agency has jurisdiction over various road safety issues would only lead to more accidents and fatalities. “Hindi pwedeng isaalang-alang at itulak ang responsibilidad ng road safety sa ating kapulisan lamang. Kailangang lahat tayo ay tumulong – lahat ng stakeholders, mga bus driver, bus operators, jeepney drivers and motorists, hobbyists, tricycles, at iba pa,” she urged.
The summit proper included presentations by representatives from the Police Regional Office 1, LTO-RO1, and DPWH-RO1 on statistics regarding vehicular accidents; traffic regulations, violations, and penalties; road obstructions and proper signages; and road safety tips.
Aside from representatives of the said agencies, other participants of the Road Safety Summit were heads or managers of different bus lines operating in Northern Luzon as well as provincial, municipal, and city officials from all over Region 1.
Marcos further suggested that LGUs be stricter in implementing anti-drunk driving measures and curfews. She also encouraged the media and academe to help in disseminating advisories and conducting pedestrian education.
In addition, she shared that tourism growth in the region would necessitate upgraded safety of passengers, especially youth, senior citizens, and persons with disabilities (PWDs).