Pangilinan: 'Ang commuter, tao hindi sardinas'
MANILA, Philippines – A senator wants to restore the dignity of commuters in the country, especially in Metro Manila where people have to endure long lines in transportation terminals, packed public utility vehicles, and bumper-to-bumper traffic nearly every day.
Senator Francis Pangilinan has filed Senate Bill No. 775 or the dignity in commuting bill which seeks to guarantee and protect the right of Filipinos to travel safely, conveniently, affordably, and with dignity.
"Wala nang dignidad ang ating mga commuter sa ngayon. Ang ating mga commuter, tao hindi sardinas. Pero araw-araw nakikipagsapalaran, ilang oras naiipit sa traffic, nasisiraan ang mga public transport systems natin," Pangilinan said in a Rappler Talk interview.
(Our commuters have lost their dignity. Our commuters are human beings, not sardines. But every day they take a chance, spending hours stuck in traffic, while our pubic transport systems break down.)
Pangilinan said that Filipinos do not deserve this kind of daily suffering. He added that the Philippines needs to catch up with its neighbors that have better transport systems.
In the 2018 Global Competitiveness report, the Philippines ranked 7th among 9 Southeast Asian countries in terms of transportation infrastructure. Singapore was ranked the best and Cambodia the worst.
"Malungkot isipin parang tinanggap na natin na wala na tayong magagawa dahil 'Ganyan eh.' Nais nating baguhin 'yun. Hindi natin dapat sabihin na 'Wala tayong magagawa.' At hindi natin dapat sabihin na 'Tanggapin na lang natin,'" Pangilinan told Rappler.
(It's sad to think that it seems like we've given up because we can't do anything as "It's aways been that way." We want to change that. We shouldn't say,"We can't do anything." And we shouldn't say, "We should just accept this.")
While on its way to becoming an upper middle income country, the Philippines loses at least P3.5 billion a day because of traffic congestion according to a study by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency. This figure could reach up to P5.4 billion daily by 2035 if interventions are not made, said JICA.
Pangilinan said an important feature of his bill is that Filipinos can demand accountability from government or private actors who violate commuter rights.
The measure seeks to protect the following rights of commuters:
- Right to adequate public transportation services
- Right to affordable public transportation services
- Right to alternative public transportation services
- Right to road safety
- Right to proper mobility infrastructure
- Right to a fair share of public road space
- Right to breathe clean air during travel
- Right to information for efficient and convenient travel
- Right to compensation for public transportation service breakdowns
- Right to participation in decision-making process involving mobility and public transportation services
Declaring that "dignified mobility" is a human right, the measure seeks to reduce waiting time at public transport stops to at most 10 minutes at peak hours.
"It has to start na kinikilala natin na karapatan natin 'yan, dapat makuha natin 'yan bilang mamayan. Dahil isa 'yang indikasyon na progresibo na tayong bansa, at nangingibabaw ang kapakanan at kaligtasan ang ating mga commuter," Pangilinan said.
(It has to start by recognizinf that this is our rights, and we need to acquire that as a citizen. Because that is an indication that we are a progressive country, and we put a premium on the welfare and safety of our commuters.)
SB 775 also seeks the construction of a continuous network of dedicated sidewalks and protected bike lanes in national and local roads, and consideration for the needs of the more vulnerable members of the society, among others. (READ: Manila Moves: Cycling through the metro's traffic)
The bill also provides for the creation of a national Office of Commuter Affairs, and local offices in each city or municipality under the supervision of the city or municipal administrator to implement the proposed law.
Pangilinan said the offices would act on commuters' complaints, and can also receive suggestions on how to improve their travel.
Under the bill, violators of the act may be fined P100,000 for the first offense, P200,000 for the second offense, and at most half a million pesos and suspension of franchise or license for a year for the third and succeeding offenses.
For government officials or employees who would violate the provisions of the measure, they may face administrative complaints apart from the penalties.
Pangilinan said that the bill was crafted with the help of Alt Mobility, a group that promotes sustainable transportation. One of Alt Mobility's platforms is the Facebook group "How's Your Byahe, Bes? (How's your travel, friend)?" which brings holds lively discussions on commuting, policies, and anything related to transportation.
Pangilinan hopes that his colleagues will be supportive of the measure. He acknowledged that it may be difficult to get enough support for it.
"Mahirap kasi marami pa tayong kukumbinsihin. May mga natatanong, 'Hindi ba suntok sa buwan yan?' Eh sabi ko, 'Dun naman nag-uumpisa lahat ng pangarap pero hindi ibig sabihin hindi natin itutulak,'" Pangilinan said.
(It's difficult because we need to convince more lawmakers. There are some who asked, "Isn't that like shooting for the moon?" But I say, "That's where all dreams start but it doesn't mean we shouldn't pursue it.")
Pangilinan's bill has been referred to the Senate public services committee which is chaired by Senator Grace Poe, who has filed her own version of the measure as well.
"Ang lahat ng batas, meron kang aspiration…. Kaya meron kang mga batas para mabigyan ng konkretong mga hakbang para mangyari ang kanilang mga pinapangarap. Ganun din sa pagba-byahe. Lahat tayo we aspire for an easier commute," Pangilinan said.
(All laws have aspirations. That reason why we have such laws is to give concrete steps on how we can realize our dreams. It's the same thing with commuting. We all aspire for an easier commute.)
At the House of Representatives, Quezon City 3rd district Representative Allan Benedict Reyes has filed a counterpart measure as well. – Rappler.com