PH commits to halve road crash fatalities by 2030

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Stockholm, Sweden (CNN Philippines, February 23) — Despite its non-participation during the drafting of the new decade of action on road safety, the Philippine government has committed to reduce road crash fatalities in the country by 50 percent within the next ten years.

According to the World Health Organization, about 12,000 Filipinos die on the roads each year.

“Road safety is one of the priorities of the current administration… It [Department of Transportation] will take part in the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda,” DOTr said in a statement sent to CNN Philippines.

Last week, 80 ministers, other government officials, and civil society leaders from 140 countries gathered in Sweden to adopt the Stockholm Declaration, which outlines the global road safety goals from this year to 2030. It primarily aims to halve road crash fatalities around the world by the end of the decade.

READ: WHO official, advocates hope road safety gets urgent attention similar to coronavirus

However, the Philippines did not send any delegate to the event. DOTr Assistant Secretary Manuel Gonzales initially confirmed and was set to participate in a panel discussion on children’s safety on the roads.

CNN Philippines learned from multiple sources that the government pulled out Gonzales’ participation due to coronavirus-related concerns.

A copy of the official regret letter sent by DOTr was also obtained by CNN Philippines. In its explanation, the agency said it is “implementing travel measures to prevent risk of quarantine or confinement” that could affect its function.

Road safety advocates dismayed

Advocates who attended the road safety conference were frustrated over the government’s absence.

“I feel so bad. Hindi niyo talaga agenda ang road safety (Is road safety really not part of your agenda?)," Amy Rolloque, program officer of Safe Kids Worldwide Philippines, said in a side event in Stockholm.

“Feeling namin (We feel like), this is the best forum for them to understand the real situation of road traffic injuries, na sana sumasabay sila (they should be participating),” she added.

Rolloque is one of at least five advocates present in the conference who relayed their disappointment. She also mentioned the recent fatal crash in Makati City that killed a student. She said these incidents highlight the urgency of the matter. WHO data show road crashes are now the leading killer of children and young people aged 5 to 29 worldwide.

Rolloque was part of the core team that in 2017 created the Philippines’ Road Safety Action Plan, which serves as the blueprint of the country’s road safety initiatives until 2022.

"Sana (hopefully) the government will put funding for road safety," she said, noting that the government has yet to implement portions of the action plan launched nearly three years ago.

To allay advocates’ concerns, DOTr said President Duterte has issued numerous directives to address and prioritise road safety.

The agency also said it is making interventions, including strict enforcement of road safety laws like the recently passed child restraint and anti-distracted driving laws.

The agency admits it does not have sustainable funding source for road safety after the Road Board was abolished, but said Congress has appropriated P500 million to fund road safety initiatives this year.

Created in 2000, the Road Board was tasked to manage the motor vehicle user’s charge or the tax collected among all vehicle types in the Philippines.

Last year, President Duterte signed a law that dissolved the office due to issues of corruption.

Makoi Popioco is a former CNN Philippines correspondent. He is a fellow of the ICFJ-WHO Safety Program and Bloomberg Philanthropies.