The House committee on transportation chaired by Rep. Cesar Sarmiento (1st District, Samar) created two technical working groups which will consolidate bills seeking to extend the validity of drivers’ licenses and to promote sustainable transportation systems.
The panel named Rep. Johnny Ty Pimentel (2nd District, Surigao del Sur) to head the TWG that will finetune the bills extending the validity of the drivers’ licenses to unburden the motoring public and ease congestion in the Land Transportation Office (LTO).
Sarmiento said the seven House bills seeking to extend the drivers’ license validity, from three years to five years, seek to streamline government transactions and address public complaints such as shortages of plastic cards, and legal issues surrounding the cards’ procurement, among others.
The proposal is contained in House Bill 2542 authored by Pimentel, HB 2294 by Rep. Romeo Acop (2nd District, Antipolo City), HB 1952 by Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto (6th District, Batangas), HB1996 by Rep. Angelina Tan (4th District, Quezon), HB 2152 by Rep. Enrico Pineda (Party-list, 1-PACMAN), HB 2817 by Rep. Estrellita Suansing (1st District, Nueva Ecija) and HB 4627 by Deputy Speaker Rolando Andaya, Jr.
Pimentel and Acop explained their proposals are in line with President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s directive to expedite the processes to address long queues, support the government’s anti-red tape campaign, and lessen irregularities still persisting during application or renewal of licenses at the LTO.
“This will remove inefficiencies brought about by more frequent application for renewals due to the shorter validity of licenses. It will also allow LTO to focus on processing the requests of first time applicants,” Pimentel said.
Pending enactment of the proposal into law, Sarmiento reminded the LTO to make its licensing processes more stringent and to seriously test the quality of the drivers so that only those who have road safety knowledge get to ply the roads.
LTO chief Assistant Secretary Edgar Galvante said their agency fully supports the initiative and in fact, has done action to support the President’s pronouncement by issuing licenses valid for five years, starting last October 2016.
Galvante also assured the committee that the examination and licensing procedures are presently under review to make them more accurate and appropriate for the different types of applicants and uses (i.e., for tricycles, jeepneys, buses, trucks, among others). While there is still a backlog in the issuance of plastic cards, he assured the agency expects to totally address said backlog by August.
Meanwhile, the committee chose Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte (2nd District, Camarines Sur) to head the TWG that will consolidate all bills on sustainable transportation systems which aim to promote environmental protection and public health and safety.
Up for consolidation are HB 582 authored by Deputy Speaker Pia Cayetano, HB 1203 by Sarmiento, and HB 4992 by Rep. Tricia Nicole Velasco-Catera (Party-list, MATA), which provide for sustainable transport systems and other modes of transport to improve the traffic situation, minimize air pollution, foster a healthier citizenry, and uphold the rights and welfare of persons with disabilities.
The most common suggestion under the bills is the use of the bicycle as an effective alternative mode of transportation. Separate bills were filed highlighting the use of the bicycle namely : HB 3954 by Velasco-Catera; HB 174 by Reps. Karlo Alexei Nograles (1st District, Davao City) and Jericho Jonas Nograles (Party-list, PBA), HB 263 by Villafuerte, HB 2276 by Rep. Lord Allan Jay Velasco (Lone (Lone District, Marinduque), HB 2300 by Rep. Winston Castelo (2nd District, Quezon City), HB 2983 by Rep. Michelle Antonio (Party-list, AGBIAG) and HB 4212 by Rep. Alfred Vargas (5th District, Quezon City).
The lawmakers agreed on the need to encourage the use of the bicycle as an alternative mode of transportation by establishing the necessary infrastructure, bicycle lanes, bike-friendly communities, and a National Bicycle Program complemented with strict implementation of regulations which provide for bicycle rights and the necessary funds for such purpose.
The bills likewise seek the adoption of a sustainable transport action plan and promotion of a seamless transport network through systems such as the bus rapid transit (BRT) and the like to minimize environmental impact and address climate change, and ensure safety, accessibility and affordability to all, especially persons with disabilities (PWDs).
Other PWD and pedestrian-related bills considered were HBs 168 by Velasco-Catera and HB 5165 by Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate (Party-list, Bayan Muna), requiring all traffic lights to be equipped with audible traffic signals and push buttons, and HB 2101 by Rep. Emi Calixto-Rubiano (Lone District, Pasay City), which defines pedestrian safety guidelines.
Villafuerte was chosen to head the TWG created which will consolidate the bills on sustainable transportation systems, including promotion of bikeways and walking.
Representatives from the different agencies invited to the hearing expressed full support for these legislative initiatives and extended their assistance to the TWG. Among the agencies represented were the Department of Transportation (DOTr), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), Public-Private Partnership Center, the Road Board, which revealed the existence of funds for such programs in the motor vehicle user’s charge (MVUC) in their agency, National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA), and University of the Philippines-Planades, among others.