As the number of road accidents surged last year, Sen. Ralph Recto stepped up his calls for the effective use of billions in Road User’s Tax collections in keeping roads safe and in preventing road fatalities.
This as Recto called for the itemization of Road User’s Tax allocation in the national budget, saying that funds pooled from car registration payments “remain a lump-sum devoid of details.”
Recto said the Aquino administration’s last budget – estimated to reach P3 trillion and which will be submitted next month – must now detail how money paid by car owners will be spent.
Recto made the call after the Philippine National Highway Patrol Group reported “an alarming 20-percent jump” in the number of vehicular accidents, from 12,875 in 2013 to 15,572 last year.
But Recto said the Philippine National Police (PNP) merely “captured the tip of the iceberg.”
In the National Capital Region (NCR) alone, “there were 90,258 road accidents last year according to the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA),” the senator pointed out.
The MMDA said 16,665 of the accidents resulted in nonfatal injuries while 73,175 caused damage to property. 418 lives were lost.
With “one accident happening every 6 minutes, and with one fatality every 21 hours just in NCR alone,” Recto said Road User’s Tax “must now be optimized in the campaign to keep roads and motorists safe.”
Officially called Motor Vehicle User’s Charge (MVUC), the said tax forms bulk of the annual motor vehicle registration.
Due to a jump in number of vehicles on the road, to nearly 8 million as of latest count, MVUC collection is forecast to P13.7 billion this year from last year’s projected P12.16 billion.
Disbursements, on the other hand, will reach P11.8 billion, the amount authorized, but not itemized, in the 2015 national budget.
Following the formula set by Republic Act 8794, P9.918 billion in Special Road Support Fund is treated as an off-budget resource by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
The DPWH can also access P1.04 billion for “Special Road Safety Fund” projects.
The Department of Transportation and Communications can also tap P802 million for anti-pollution programs.
The above allocations are “over and above” the regular appropriations of the said agencies.
The “division of spending” complies with RA 8794 mandate that MVUC collections be placed in four special accounts in the National Treasury: Special Road Support Fund (80%), Special Local Road Fund (5%), Special Vehicle Pollution Control Fund (7.5%) and Special Road Safety Fund (7.5 %).
Recto said some quarters are advocating that spending under the Special Road Safety Fund, which will reach P1 billion this year, “must not be exclusively for the engineering or infrastructure kind.”
The Implementing Rules and Regulations of the law states that MVUC can also be used not only for “traffic signals, markings, lanes, traffic channelization techniques, traffic calming measures”, but also for “road safety education and training programs.”
This, according to Recto, can be invoked by authorities in buying “ambulances which can be stationed in traffic-prone highways, patrol cars which can run after overspeeding vehicles at night, and tow trucks to clear roads of stalled vehicles,” he said.
“Actually, all collections from road user’s tax must be spent for road safety. That’s the end objective.”
Recto has been prodding government to “plow back” to motorists a portion of MVUC “in the form of reliable emergency accident response teams.”
One lacking equipment, he said, are “jaws of life”, the metal-cutting or -prying devices which can extricate passengers out of mangled vehicles.”
“Sadly, what we have are tow trucks on the prowl. Pero sa EDSA na lang, ni isang well-equipped rapid-Emergency Medical Team wala kang makikita, e kung tutuusin daang milyong piso ang binabayad sa MVUC ng mga libu-libong sasakyan na regular na dumadaan doon,” Recto said.
He said MVUC payments should also be used to “light dark places especially tunnels and underpasses” and “rid our roads of confusing, unintelligible signs.”
MVUC collections, he added, should also pay for garage inspections of bus, taxi, truck, garbage truck companies that will conduct road safety seminars for drivers and “to check if tires are so worn-out that the vehicles on which they are installed are now accidents waiting to happen.”