Gov Vi to call for dialogue with Star Tollway officials

By Arnell Ozaeta, ABS-CBN News Southern Tagalog

Posted at Jan 04 2011 01:13 AM | Updated as of Jan 05 2011 11:53 PM

BATANGAS, Philippines - Batangas Governor Vilma Santos-Recto and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan will again call for a dialogue with the Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (STAR) Tollway officials to map out plans in implementing additional safety features, following the vehicular accident that killed 7 people last Sunday.

Santos-Recto told ABS-CBN News in a text message that she was saddened by the incident and will immediately call for a meeting with STAR Tollway officials, the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Land Transportation Office (LTO), the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), and the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB).
“They have to add safety nets such as visible speed limits. But sometimes accidents cannot be avoided because a big part of that is the responsibility of the drivers,” Recto said. “They drive like king of the roads, mas mabigat na batas at parusa dapat sa mga irresponsible and reckless drivers.”
Recto said she will call for a meeting within a week. “Kahit STAR toll ‘yan we have a responsibility to call their attention and plan a more concrete matrix of program for our motorists’ protection.”
On the other hand, Vice-Governor Marc Leviste lashed out at STAR Tollway officials for inaction on recommendations made earlier by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.
“Despite the numerous and constant reminders to Star Tollway management to basically at least put up safety signages such as speed limits, no overtaking, proper use of seatbelts, prohibiting the use of cellphone while driving and apprehension of drunk drivers but they never implemented it,” Leviste said through a text message.
He added that installing closed-circuit television cameras can prevent accidents in the tollway.
Adolfo Dioquino, Jr. General Manager of Star Tollway Corporation, however, insisted that the Sunday’s accident was caused by human error and not from the tollway’s structure.
“For the past 3 weeks we have no recorded accidents here in STAR tollway until an out-of-line bus driver made a horrific history in our tollway,” Dioquino told ABS-CBN.
“Foremost of all, the accident was caused by a ‘Gasat’ bus recklessly overtaking at the point where a 'No Overtaking' sign was located, since the area approaches the bridge of Sabang,” Dioquino explained.
Dioquino added that the Gasat bus, based on his talk with LTO, has no franchise line at Batangas. “But at this point in time, LTO Batangas is validating if it was issued with ‘special permit’ to operate here in Batangas,” he said.
“Please be informed that all international tollroad informative and directional signs as prescribed by DPWH design and TRB were in place before TRB issues the Toll Operation Certificate for us to operate any segment,” he also said in a statement.
The STAR Tollway is a 4-lane road from Sto. Tomas town to Lipa City. Recently, an extension of the STAR Tollway was opened to motorists from Lipa City to Batangas City but the road extension was only a 2-lane road.
The Ibaan Exit, which gives access to Ibaan town from STAR Tollway, is located between Lipa City and Batangas City exits.
“If the traffic volume would meet with our requirement, we could continue the construction of the north-bound lane. But this will not guarantee an accident-free highway. The truth is, more accidents happened in Sto Tomas-Lipa segment compared to Lipa-Batangas portion,” Dioquino said.
Last Sunday, seven people, including a couple and their 2 sons aged two and 10, were killed and 4 others were injured when a passenger bus smashed into a Nissan Sentra and a passenger jeepney along the Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (STAR) in Ibaan town.
Fatalities were couple Francisco and Joselyn Festijo and their sons Laurenz, two, and Jermel, 10; Elizardo Festijo, Maricris Festijo and jeepney driver Zosimo Festijo, all residents of Cainta, Rizal, who were on board the passenger jeepney.
Injured were Frank Ace Festijo, Marilyn Festijo, Annabel Festijo, and Aaron Festijo. They were rushed to the Batangas Regional Hospital in Batangas Cit .
The black Nissan Sentra car's (SFB-447) driver, lawyer Genalyn Bagun, of the Laguna vice governor’s office, escaped unscathed from the accident.
Senio Police Officer 4 Nelio Lopez, chief investigator of the Ibaan police, said the southbound Gasat Express bus (with license plate TYK-287) was cruising the STAR tollway when its driver, Aurelio Doctora, tried to overtake Bagun’s car at Km 98 in Barangay Quilo, Ibaan town at around 12:30 p.m. Sunday.
The bus hit the rear of Bagun’s car and subsequently smashed into the oncoming passenger jeepney, killing six of its passengers on the spot.
The car and bus fell into a 5-foot-deep canal after the collision.