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by Gideon Lasco

As we clamor for a more walkable Metro Manila, it’s important to review what are the laws that are already out there. This article is an overview of the relevant passages in national and local laws and ordinances, as well as proposed legislation, that will allow us to situate ourselves in terms of our legislative agenda.

EXISTING LAWS

Presidential Decree 1958 (1984), an amendment of the Land Transportation and Traffic Code of 1964, obliges motorists to give way to pedestrians in pedestrian lanes or “zebra lanes”.  Chapter IV (Traffic Rules), Article III (Right of Way and Signals), Section 42(c) states:

“The driver of any vehicle upon a highway within a business or residential district shall yield the right of way to a pedestrian crossing such highway within a crosswalk, except at intersections where the movement of traffic is being regulated by a peace officer or by traffic signal. Every pedestrian crossing a highway within a business or residential district, at any point other than a crosswalk, shall yield the right of way to vehicles upon the highway.”

However there are no specifications on the dimensions of the pedestrian lanes, nor a mandate to make sure that there are in fact pedestrian lanes in regular interviews. Neither is there any mention of sidewalks, and protecting them for pedestrians.

INITIATIVES IN THE SENATE AND CONGRESS

Senate Bill 1195 (2012), a proposed “Pedestrian Safety Law” filed by Sen. Manny Villar, called for the following:

a)  To make all public roads and sidewalks safe and convenient for the use of pedestrians:
b)  To improve the flow of traffic;
c)  To promote the right of the disabled to safe and convenient access;
d)  To authorize the appropriate local government units to institute the summary abatement of obstructions along public roads and sidewalks; and
e)  To provide for civil liabilities against those who endanger pedestrian safety or convenience by their acts or omissions.

It defines a sidewalk as: “all specific areas running parallel to both sides of a public road, with a width and elevation as may be deemed appropriate for safe and convenient pedestrian passage ‘,by the appropriate local government unit in consultation with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH): Provided, That for public roads which, for reasons of lack of land area, easement or legal right protected by law, may not be provided with sidewalks, the appropriate local government unit shall designate passing lanes which may be lesser in dimension than regular sidewalks but which shall, in every case, be adequate for safe and convenient pedestrian passage.”

Obstruction on the other hand is defined a “structure, permanent or otherwise, movable or immovable, erected along, standing on, abutting or in any manner impeding safe and convenient passage through any public road or sidewalk shall be deemed an obstruction subject to summary abatement under this Act: Provided, That property of the government including structures erected or installed for th~ purpose of regulating the flow of traffic shall not be deemed obstructions.”

Section 5 authorises the “summary abatement of obstructions”:

All local government units other than barangays, are hereby authorized to summarily abate any obstruction found within their respective territorial jurisdictions: provide, that where the obstruction is immovable, permanent and claimed by any person to be his private property, its abatement shall be done only after a non-extendible five-day period from notice to such person of the intended abatement within which such person may show cause why the abatement should not be ensue: Provide, further, that where such person files an action in any court against the intended abatement, he shall furnish a bond to the local government unit concerned, in an amount to thrice the estimated value, if any, of the structure but in no case not less than three thousand Pesos (P3,OOO), which bond shall be forfeited in the event the suit is found groundless.

House Bill 1752 (2013) or the “Pedestrian Protection Act” is parallel bill proposed in the 15th and 16th Congress by Rep. Emi Calixto-Rubiano that has provisions for “visually or mobility-impaired pedestrians”. You can see the full text here.

Neither the bills from the Senate or House has progressed into law.

LOCAL ORDINANCES AND POLICIES

San Juan in 2013 passed by the “Pedestrian Safety Ordinance of San Juan City” authored by Councilor Angelo Agcaoili, which has the following relevant provisions as reported by Manila Bulletin:

Section 2 of the ordinance requires that all persons driving any motorized vehicle must stop before traversing any pedestrian lane with at least one person already crossing. Drivers of motor vehicles are prohibited to traverse any pedestrian lane if there is at least one person already trying to cross the street on the lane.

Section 3 of the ordinance provides that if a pedestrian lane is located where there are traffic lights, no pedestrian is allowed to cross when the green light for vehicles is lit in the lane. If a traffic enforcer is manning the street, a pedestrian may only proceed to cross if allowed by the enforcer. The driver’s license of violator of the ordinance will be confiscated and will not be returned until payment of fine.

A visionary plan is that of Iloilo City, which in its 2011-2020 Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) called for a “pedestrianized downtown core.” Since its inception, many ordinances have been passed by the Iloilo City government calling for more pedestrian lanes, and even the closure to vehicular traffic or “pedestrianisation” of certain roads during specific times. This, together with Iloilo’s esplanades, bikeways, and walkways, signal a commitment to walkability that must be sustained.

Though passed by and applicable only to particular local government units, the ordinance in San Juan and the visionary plan of Iloilo City can serve as a model for other LGUs to follow not just in Metro Manila but throughout the Philippines.

Whether it is a matter of legislation or implementation, the various LGUs of Metro Manila and the national government should prioritise pedestrian safety and the laws should enable, not hold back, this initiative.

Written by Gideon Lasco

Gideon Lasco is a medical doctor, anthropologist, writer, and environmental advocate.

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