MANILA, Philippines — Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said taxes paid for road use must end up in projects seen on the road as Metro Manila, the country’s “biggest car pool,” recorded one vehicular accident almost every five minutes last year, or a total of 116,906.
Recto stressed this point following the passage in the Senate of a bill setting a day to remember road crash victims and a bill almost doubling the road users’ tax in the House.
Today is the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.
“There is also another thing that the government must not forget: The duty to disclose where Motor Vehicle User Charge (MVUC) payments are spent,” Recto said as he linked the two issues in his vote speech marking a national day to remember road crash fatalities.
He added that the MVUC, which owners pay to register their vehicles with the Land Transportation Office, was envisioned as a “user-pay” levy that will be spent to maintain roads and promote road safety.
With road crashes becoming a national epidemic, Recto said the rising accident toll must be matched with an increase in projects that will promote road safety, “including the deployment of emergency medical units that will rush to accidents.”
“These should be funded by what motorists pay for the privilege to drive their cars on roads. The MVUC is supposed to be plowed back to them, in terms of better and safer roads,” he pointed out.
He said the 116,906 total vehicular accidents last year resulted in 17,891 injuries and 383 fatalities. Nationwide, road accidents claim four lives a day, based on a 2018 PNP-Highway Patrol Group Report.
One fund that could come to the rescue is “the mothballed” MVUC collections, which had an unspent balance of P46.25 billion as of end 2018.
However, the MVUC law – Republic Act 8794 – has been amended, with its “menu” revamped and the multi-agency Road Board governing it abolished. The Board’s powers have been transferred to the Secretary of the Department of Public Works and Highways who will itemize MVUC-funded expenditures in the General Appropriations Act.
“But when we buried the Road Board in the graveyard of unlamented agencies, we also pulled the plug on the provision earmarking percentage collections for road safety,” he said.
He urged the government to now use part of MVUC collections for projects that will guarantee pedestrian safety near schools.
“Through widened roads, ample sidewalks, elevated walkways, marked pedestrian lanes, we can create a ‘kid-safe zone’ around the schools and colleges where 25 million people, or one fourth of our population, go to daily,” Recto said. “We need engineering interventions that will wrap a protective cocoon around where our children spend most of their day.”
While this kind of project is outside the ambit of the amended MVUC law, “the increasing collections should compel government to increase funding for emergency medical services, even modernize trauma units in public hospitals.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian is pushing for a measure that would institutionalize the increase of the annual teaching supplies allowance from P3,500 to P5,000, a measure that would spare about 840,000 public school teachers from shelling out more money for classroom activities.
He said this budget could either increase or decrease subject to the proposal of Congress and the approval of the President.
In the passage of the 2019 budget, the proposed increase of teachers’ chalk allowance was not granted although the teaching supplies allowance, also known as chalk allowance, is provided for annually under the General Appropriations Act (GAA).
“The lack of an institutionalized allocation for teachers’ supplies allowance makes their financial conditions more vulnerable,” Gatchalian said in his co-sponsorship speech of Senate Bill 1092 or the Teaching Supplies Allowance Act of 2019.
While the current chalk allowance already saw a significant increase from the P700 that was allotted per teacher in 2011, the current P3,500 per year allowance means a teacher is only provided a measly P16 per school day as allowance for supplies.
Gatchalian, chairman of the basic education, arts and culture committee at the Senate, said this leaves teachers with no choice but to augment it with their own resources. He hopes that increasing and institutionalizing teachers’ chalk allowance would ease, if not alleviate, their financial woes.
“We tend to forget that teaching supplies are not often tallied like other items on education spending. While this may seem insignificant compared to other issues surrounding our education system, this is no less material to our public school teachers,” Gatchalian said.