By ARIS R. ILAGAN, Manila Bulletin
Officials of several motorcycle groups in the country recently expressed two interpretations of the Supreme Court decision on an order that bans all types of motorcycles from limited access highways such as the North Luzon and South Luzon Expressways. The order was issued years ago by the Department of Public Works and Communications (DPWC).
While one group expressed dismay over the SC ruling that affirms the validity of the ban, another group interpreted the order to mean that the expressways have been de-classified as "limited access highways" and therefore motorcycles can now use its roads.
In the first group, Retired Police Director Fernando Pace, founder of the Law Enforcers Riders Association of the Philippines (LERAP), was surprised over the decision of the SC, adding that the government authorities should recognize the growing number of motorcycle riders as an off-shoot of the never ending rise of fuel costs.
Pace, along with other top officials of the Philippine National Police (PNP) who are still in active service, joined the graduates of the PNP Traffic Management Group (TMG) riding school for their graduation rites in Subic Bay Metropolitan Area (SBMA) last weekend.
The convoy of about 50 motorcycles with engine displacements from 400cc to 1200cc passed through the North
Luzon Expressway amid news reports that the SC, in a full court decision written by Justice Antonio Carpio, upheld the old DPWC ruling that bans all kinds of motorcycles along the Limited Access Highways.
Among those who joined the motorcycle convoy were Chief Superintendent Errol Pan, director of the PNP-TMG; Chief Superintendent Isidro Lapena, chief of the PNP Directorial Staff ; Bureau of Customs commissioner Ralph Lantion; and Transportation and Communication assistant secretary and concurrent Land Transportation Office-National Capital Region (NCR) regional director Reynaldo Berroya.
Deputy Director General Oscar Calderon, PNP deputy chief of staff for administration, who was supposed to ride with the convoy, also has expressed concern on the effects of the Supreme Court ruling on motorcycle enthusiasts.
Berroya, who is president of the Lawin Motorcycle Club, was saddened with the decision of the Supreme Court but refused to comment on the issue. "I do not want to pre-empt the move of the Department of Transportation and Communication (DoTC) under Secretary Leandro Mendoza being chairman of the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB)," he said.
Sources said that officials of the TRB will meet with the management of the NLEX and the SLEX with regard to the recent SC ruling.
On the other hand, another group, the Motorcycle Philippines Federation (MCPF), interpreted the same SC ruling in a different light. They welcomed the High Tribunal’s move of "voiding the DPWC Order Nos. 74 (1993), 215 (1998) and 123 (2001) and the TRB’s Revised Rules and Regulations on Limited Access Facility (1997).
"With this sweeping decision, the North Luzon Expressway, South Luzon Expressway, and Manila-Coastal Toll Road and other highways have been declassified as Limited Access Highways, paving the way for all motorcycles to legally ply these roads," Frank Woolf, MCPF director of administration, said in a published statement.
The MCPF represents some 150,000 motorcyclists in 650 motorcycle clubs throughout the country.
The MCPF claimed that Department Order Nos. 74, 215 designated the SLEX, NLEX and Coastal Road as Limited Access Highways administered through the DPWC’s Administrative Order No. 1 (1968). Under AO No. 1, the MCPF explained that motorcycles are banned from Limited Access Highways.
On the other hand, the DPWH Department Order No. 123 banned motorcycles with engine displacement below 400cc while allowing those with large displacements to use the Limited Access Highways. Also, Department Order 123 was twice declared illegal by the Makati Regional Trial Court prior to the Supreme Court decision.
Last September 21, 2005, President Arroyo ordered DOTC Secretary Leandro Mendoza to look into the problem of motorcycles banned from tollways and to bring the Philippines in line with international standards.
"The motorcycle community has for many years been fighting the ban, put in place by misconceptions and lack of understanding. This forced riders out of the safer roads and into alternative roads that are some of the most dangerous in the country, which have been estimated to be 200 times more dangerous than the tollways," the MCPF said.
Based on their understanding of the SC ruling, the MCPF said that the High Court voided the old DPRC regulation on motorcycles and it gave the DoTC the authority to decide on whether or not to allow motorcycles to use the expressways.
The DoTC, they added, will also determine whether all motorcycles will be allowed access to the tollways or only to a certain range of engine displacement.
The MCPF, which has been asking government authorities to allow the motorcycles with engine displacement from 100cc and above provided they are wearing the required safety gear, has sought an audience with the DoTC officials with regard to the issue, sources said.