Main story: The Hidden Lives of Bus Drivers, Wrongly Accused as Philippines’s ‘Road Monsters’
Sidebar: For Provincial Buses, Physical Condition of Drivers — and Their Buses — Are Key to Safe Travel
MANILA — Public utility drivers in the Philippines lament the seeming lack of government support and regard for their sector, but the country’s statisticians at least seem to give them due credit.
“Transportation plays a vital role in the development of a country’s economy,” said Dr. Romulo Virola, secretary-general of National Statistical Coordination Board, in a report released late last year. “We need it to go to work and goods and services will not be able to reach consumers unless they pass through channels of transportation, be it by land, water or air.”
Transportation contributes to employment generation and, in terms of gross value added in 2008, it contributed 3.1 percent to the country’s gross domestic product. This was bigger than the contribution of mining and quarrying.
At present the most widely used mode of transportation in the Philippines is land, where the national roads are “improving in quality,” said Virola, who based his assessment on NSCB data that in 2008 less than half (45.8 percent) of national roads were already concrete roads, compared to just less than a fourth (23.5 percent) in 1986. But this still means that more than half of the country’s national roads are not yet made of concrete.
As of 2008, there were 5.9 million vehicles registered, or seven vehicles for every 100 Filipinos, close to half of which were motorcycles or tricyles. Since 2005, the share of utility vehicles in total motor vehicles being registered has been falling. Under the Arroyo administration, motorcycles/tricycles overtook the utility vehicles in share of vehicles registered in the country, largely because these were more affordable and practical in times of rising oil prices and worsening traffic.
For every 10 accidents recorded in Philippine land transportation, on average there were at least two fatalities, compared to an average of six fatalities for every 10 maritime accidents, noted the NSCB. But because traffic accidents are far more frequent on land, the total fatalities here is more than seven times compared to maritime accidents for the years 1998 to 2007.
More than four in every 10 motor vehicles reported to be involved in traffic accidents from 2006 to 2009 were motorcycles, based on data recorded by the Philippine National Police.
Buses comprised only 6.2 percent of all vehicles involved in traffic accidents in 2008. From 2006 to 2008, accidents involving buses and trucks have decreased, while those involving cars and jeepneys, and the already mentioned tricycles and motorcycles, were on the rise. The NSCB has not yet released the figures for 2009 up to present, but judging from the spate of accidents involving buses lately, their share in vehicles involved in accidents may be changing for the worse. (Marya Salamat/bulatlat.com)
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