MANILA - Lawmakers on Tuesday told the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) it should have taken action when a previous accident along the highway in Carranglan, Nueva Ecija left a barricade damaged, which could have prevented the bus crash last April.
At least 30 people were killed when a Leomarick Bus fell down a 100-foot ravine in Carranglan's Capitalan village last month. A local executive asserted that there should have been stronger road barriers and more prominent safety signs along the highway.
Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar earlier said the cement railing in the accident site followed international standards and was supposedly the strongest type of barrier.
During the Senate hearing, Assistant Secretary Raul Asis said the bus would still have fallen into the ravine even if the barrier was intact during the accident.
He explained that road safety is not just about a highway barrier. Authorities must also consider the condition of the vehicle and the behavior of the driver, said Asis.
"Sa pagde-design nitong barrier, talagang hindi dapat tibayan nang husto kasi kung napaka-tibay ng barrier, pag binangga yun, on impact, doon pa lang sa ibabaw, mamatay na yung mga pasahero, hindi sa baba," he said.
Asis also explained that the entire Maharlika Road is under a long-term, performance-based contract, in which the contractor was supposed to "rehabilitate it to a level that is acceptable to the standards of the department and in the next four years, they are supposed to do maintenance on that and there is a prescribed time within which they are to do repairs."
"Kung nasa long-term performance-based (contract), hindi ho binibigyan ng pondo ang distrito para doon dahil nga ho may ibang opisina, yung Project Management Office, that handles that," he said.
He conceded, however, that it should have been incumbent on their part to call the attention of the contractor when the barrier was not repaired months after the first incident.
Senator Vicente Sotto III emphasized that 9 months before the more recent bus crash, an accident happened in the same area in July 12, 2016 and the barricade was not repaired.
"That’s the reason why we should ask you the procedures on what to do. Kahit may ibang may dapat magpagawa niyan, ano dapat ang procedures na dapat gagawin ng DPWH para ma-repair agad yung mga ganito kasi some people believe, and based on the statements of Secretary Villar, it could not have been that worse kung buo yung barrier," he said.
"Nine months, Asec [Raul] Asis. I think it’s about time that you take one step backward and look at these procedures that are being followed by the DPWH in this case," he added.
Senator Joel Villanueva, meanwhile, urged the department to be more proactive in its stance towards accidents.
"Kung merong road sign, kung may malaking caution o kung may ginawa kayo sa 9-month lull na sinasabi ni Senator Sotto...Yung point namin dito, we wanted to be proactive. Hindi pwedeng we are passive. Imagine, nine months na yung nangyari na ganun," he said, recalling that he once lost a friend in a road accident.
Villanueva said he is not saying the driver of the bus in the accident was without fault, but the DPWH had a responsibility in making sure its roads are safe, as stated by Asis.
"As a whole, as a protocol, as a program of the government, hindi pupuwede yung nine months. It’s unacceptable. Hindi pupwede yung may nangyari na tapos bahala na, bahala na si Batman kung may mangyari ulit dyan. We’re talking about lives here."