Senators want vehicle inspection, roadworthiness program suspended amid issues

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 9) — Senators are calling for the suspension of the vehicle inspection and roadworthiness checks program, as issues continue to hound its implementation.

Hindi maliwanag sa akin anong batas, what law, tell me, authorizes you to do this, to privatize these testing centers? Meron bang batas? Ang tingin ko diyan overreach masyado 'yan eh,” Sen. Ralph Recto said during a Senate hearing. Recto is among the lawmakers urging the program's suspension until "we find a better way forward."

[Translation: It’s unclear to me what law, tell me, authorizes you to do this, to privatize these testing centers? Is there such a law? I think this is too much of an overreach.]

During the hearing, Land Transportation Office chief Edgar Galvante explained that they previously resorted to offering private entities the opportunity to construct new motor vehicle inspection centers due to the lack of funding then. Pre-existing centers, he added, had already been subject to wear and tear at the time.

The LTO chief likewise said they have tried asking the Senate and the now-abolished Road Board for financing. Recto said he does not recall the agency ever approaching the chamber to present such a request.

Advocacy groups and motorists have raised concerns on the hefty fees imposed by these centers, where an inspection can run from ₱600 to ₱1,800. Lawmakers echoed their sentiment that the implementation of the program amid a pandemic was ill-timed.

The Transport Department presented inspection fees in other Asian countries like China, South Korea, Japan and Singapore to contrast with fees charged locally, which the solons likewise criticized.

“That is not justifiable na mas mura rito. Iba naman siguro services dito, iba services dun. 'Wag po tayong ganon,” said Sen. Koko Pimentel.

[Translation: That is not justifiable just because it’s relatively cheaper here. Services are most likely different here compared to those countries. Let’s not be like that.]

Sen. Joel Villanueva, meanwhile, agreed with road safety advocate Atty. Neil Sia’s remarks during the hearing, where he said accidents cited by transport officials earlier have been caused mostly by reckless driving involving heavy vehicles like dump trucks and wing vans.

With the program's allowable maximum gross vehicle weight at 4,500 kilograms, these vehicles are currently exempted in their testing operations, Sia added.

Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption president Arsenio Evangelista also warned of corruption as he flagged the lack of a “thorough” public consultation on the implementation of the program. The LTO insisted its regional directors were ordered to conduct such consultations in their respective areas.

“However you look at it legally speaking, morally speaking, practically looking at this particular program, talagang kailangan i-suspend muna ito dahil kulang na kulang, sobrang kulang Madame Chair 'yung [there really is a need to suspend it because there has been an immense lack of] consultation, tapos yung mga [along with] complaints (from motorists),” said Villanueva.

Senate Committee on Public Services chair Sen. Grace Poe likewise recommended the suspension of the program's implementation pending the conduct of thorough consultation with the public and operationalization of the adequate number of testing centers in the country.

The lawmaker likewise sought a review of guidelines and parameters to ensure the inspection system follows reasonable standards for developing countries like the Philippines, along with transparency in the selection process of testing centers and accreditation of value-added services and machine and equipment providers.