Press Release
September 10, 2016

Include purchase of ambulances, tow trucks, police cars in trillion-peso traffic plan - Recto

Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto is urging the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to include in its P1.15 trillion wish list of traffic solutions the purchase of ambulances and tow trucks "so that emergency teams could rush to accident sites to help victims and clear traffic jam-causing road obstructions."

Recto made the proposal as he scored the glaring lack of "road safety items" in the DOTr's enumeration of must-do projects to end or lessen land-air-sea traffic congestion in Metro Manila and other urban centers.

Unlike "long-gestating" subways and airports that will take years to complete, Recto said the acquisition of ready-to-roll ambulances for emergency medical teams, or EMTs, and tow trucks for road clearing operations can be done in months.

Road safety, especially pedestrian safety, is an important component of any traffic plan, Recto stressed.

Aside from saving lives, EMTs can reduce the time when traffic is stopped and a road is blocked by an accident, Recto said. "And when perpetually-parked cars narrow the three lanes of a highway into two, a tow truck can restore that road's full carrying capacity in minutes."

"And this is more urgent in the Philippine setting where road accidents are a leading cause of death plus the sad reality that busy national roads are not fully utilized due to illegally parked cars," he added.

"Aanhin natin ang mga pinaluwang na kalsada at widening kung nagiging parking lot naman ito? Sayang ang perang pinampagawa at ang oras ng mga motorista na naaabala," the senator said.

By Recto's estimate, "hundreds" of mobile EMTs and tow trucks are needed. "Sa Metro Manila, kung gusto nating maibsan ang traffic sa national roads, dapat mayroong maraming roving tow trucks na ang crew ay taong-gobyerno, disiplinado, hindi nangongotong at ang layunin ay serbisyo at hindi negosyo."

He said the deployment of EMTs together with projects to improve road safety, like street lighting, should be considered in the master plan of projects that can be launched by virtue of the emergency powers being mulled.

"The rising human toll from accidents compel this, especially in Metro Manila whose streets have long been disaster zones," Recto stressed.

Last year, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) recorded 95,615 traffic accidents. "That's an alarming 262 incidents a day, or one every five and a half minutes," Recto said.

In MMDA's tally, accidents killed 519 persons, injured 17,103 others and caused 77,993 cases of damage to property. "On injuries, that's 342 buses filled with accident victims," he lamented.

Traffic accident data collection nationwide is spotty with different agencies giving varying estimates.

Based on 2013 data from the Philippines' Department of Public Works and Highway-Traffic Accident Recording and Analysis System, 1,513 died due to road accidents that year.

The World Health Organization issued a higher estimate of 10,379 fatalities in 2013.

On the other hand, data from the Philippine National Police's Highway Patrol Group showed 11,285 traffic accidents reported during the first half of 2015.

Recto said non-urgent projects in the DOTr list, like the construction of training rooms in one DOTr agency and the purchase of non-essential computers, could be put in the back burner and replaced by ambulances and tow trucks.

Under the list, the road sector was given a tentative budget of P58.6 billion, bulk of which would go to the construction of two bus rapid transit lines in Metro Manila and "none for road safety."

Noting the dearth of police cars in Metro Manila and in other major cities, Recto said the government should consider buying more PNP patrol cars "so that erring drivers can be pursued. Hindi lang anti-crime yan, anti-traffic violation pa."

"Kung may kotse na minamaneho ng lasing at zig-zag na ang takbo, kailangan mo ng patrol car para habulin iyon, at pigilan ang driver bago pa siya makabangga ng sasakyan o makapatay ng tao," he said.

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