Will Motor Vehicle Inspection Reduce Philippines’ Traffic Woes?

Automologist Harold shares his views on the hot issue of the Motor Vehicle Inspection Centres being questioned now by the Senators, causing President Duterte to backpedal on his reforms to keep the roads safe. He had asserted that since over 12,000 Filipinos die each year from road accidents, more than those who died of COVID in the first year of the pandemic, motor inspection must be made mandatory.

Often, a popular decision is not necessarily the best nor the right one. This populist mentality came to the fore again in a recent Senate intervention on the implementation of the Philippine Motor Vehicle Inspection Program. In a knee-jerk response, Malacanang immediately backpedaled on this otherwise great but unpopular program of having all vehicles inspected for roadworthiness before allowing renewal of its registration.

Everyone wants the roads to be safe, not just people owning cars, but also pedestrians, elderly and children who walk the streets, commuters, vendors, traffic officers and street janitors. And, the Philippine roads are among the most unsafe in Asia. A report from the Metro Manila Accident Reporting and Analysis System showed that in 2019, a total of 121,771 road crashes were recorded in Metro Manila alone, or an average of 334 per day. From this, over 20,000 people died or were badly hurt. A major cause of these crashes is unroadworthy vehicles.

The World Health Organization reported 1.35 million deaths due to road accidents in 2018. And in the Philippines, more than 12,000 die each year due to road accidents, more than those who died of COVID in the first year of the pandemic. If we have locked down the Philippines, shattered the economy and destroyed livelihoods for fewer than 12,000 COVID deaths, why won’t we make a simple Motor Vehicle Inspection mandatory? Unless there is pressure on policymakers from certain parties protecting their business interests…

Look around. You see dilapidated jeepneys and buses, unroadworthy cars and delivery vehicles plying the streets. Then you hear the Department of Transportation’s centerpiece project of transport modernization. How in the world can you rationally and impartially remove unroadworthy vehicles and modernize transport without a proper motor vehicle inspection program? Filipinos have abused the word “anti-poor”. Anything, the government wants changed or reformed in our transport sector for better and more efficient service will always be branded as “anti-poor”.

Since the government does not have the money to set up over 200 Motor Vehicle Inspection Centres nationwide, it has rightly enticed the private sector to invest some P50 million per center or easily P10 billion in private capital to support this project. Now the senators are interfering. Now the private sector investors are threatened. Where is the Public-Private partnership approach?

Yes, there are birth pains. Some earlier inspection centers made operational blunders and maybe the rates are a bit on the high end (but aren’t private businesses covered by free trade and pricing dictum?). The solution is to revise and refine the implementation rules and regulations, moderate the pricing but keep the inspection mandatory. Is P1,000 a big amount to have your car or P500 for your motorcycle thoroughly checked for roadworthiness? C’mon, that is only your 2-day cost of gasoline/diesel, which you can recover in multiples by having a properly conditioned engine. Pricing should not be the issue.

Ensuring proper inspection processes is the one that needs refining and not making inspection optional.

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