Published in The Philippine Daily Inquirer
DAVAO CITY — Speeding, overtaking, and racing. These have been rarely seen on the streets here since the implementation of Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 39 (EO39), which put a cap on how fast vehicles can run in specified areas of the city.
In the first quarter of 2014, the year the order was implemented, a dramatic 41 percent decrease in vehicular accidents in the city had been noticed, according to Traffic Management Center chief Rodelio Poliquit.
Vehicular accidents, he said, decreased to 4,000 from January to September 2014 alone from 7,000 cases during the same period in 2013.
The speed limit has certainly slowed down the accident rates, but for jeepney and taxi drivers, it slowed down not only their vehicles, but their profits as well.
Taxi driver Rey (not his real name) has four kids and struggles to make ends meet with his average profit of P450 before EO 39’s implementation. With the speed limit, a substantial amount was lost because they can no longer speed up to be able to haul more passengers.
“Sometimes I earn only P200. How will we be able to meet our needs especially when the cost of living is very high? I can’t do anything about it, I can only work hard,” he said.
The recent reduction of the flag-down rate by 10, he said, added to the difficulty of meeting ends meet.
But for Rey, the speed limit was the big culprit. While he sees it as unnecessary, he could do nothing but comply with it.
“If I go against the law, I wouldn’t be able to afford to retrieve my license,” he explained.
Duterte has maintained that imposing the speed limit was timely to curb overspeeding drivers, who contributed to the sharp increase in the number of vehicular accidents here the past years.
He cited the September 2010 accident here, in which two people died and 16 others got injured. Most of the victims were students.
Under EO 39, which was described as “an order setting the speed limits for all kinds of motor vehicles within the territorial jurisdiction of Davao City,” all motor vehicles are covered by speed limit. Exempted are legitimate emergency cases such as those involving ambulances and law enforcement agencies.
The EO specified that the fastest that vehicles could run from Sirawan in Toril district to Ulas Crossing is 60 kph. The same rule holds true for those taking the Lasang to Panacan in the north; Calinan to Ulas Crossing and C.P. Garcia Highway-McArthur Highway to Panacan.
From Ulas to Generoso Bridge/Bolton Bridge in Bangkerohan; Panacan Crossing to J.P. Laurel Avenue-Alcantara; and Ma-a Road Diversion to McArthur Highway, vehicles have to slow down to 40 kph already. And within the city proper, vehicles have to travel at 30 kph only.
Jeepney driver Noel Panay says the 30 kph limit in the downtown areas was absurd.
“A bike can run faster,” he explained. “We can’t run fast to pick up more passengers,” he said, adding that the speed cap allowed jeepney drivers like him to make only four round trips per day.
This, Panay said, lowered their take home money.
Mass communication student Aivy Villarba saids that it took her a while to get used to the new routine of leaving home an hour earlier than usual, but believes that EO 39 should still be implemented. “Mayor Duterte’s aim was public welfare over welfare of other sectors,” she explained. “Also, there are no car racers anymore at midnight because if they race, they will get caught”, she added.
Gwena Caubang, who was originally from Baganga, Davao Oriental, thinks that the speed limit was “a great way to discipline drivers, especially in a populous place like Davao City.”
“It decreases the rate of accidents, and hit and run incidents especially along the highways,” she said.
Caubang said she wished a speed limit would also be implemented in her hometown, where many drivers were reckless.
For private car owners Steely Caballero and Prince Canda, the slow pace of travel in the city was “a hassle,” and they prefer that the minimum speed in the downtown areas is upped to 40 kph.
Manila-based entrepreneur Moje Ramos-Aquino, who writes a column for a national broadsheet, recounted her experience in coming to Davao, where she claimed that it took her an hour and a half to travel six kilometers.
“I’ll go back to Davao when they lift the speed limit. Meantime, I will bring my business and my money somewhere else,” Aquino wrote in her column once.
But Poliquit said business shouldn’t be based on the speed by which vehicles can travel in certain areas.
“It would be more inconvenient if people were not safe to walk on the road, such as the elderly, the children who are going to school, and the pedestrians. If the people were not safe here, then who would invest?” he said.
Social strategist Reymond Pepito thinks that even if EO 39 was unappealing to some, for the majority it was important.
“Others may say that it affects their business transactions but I felt like the implementation of speed limits is not a problem. Road widening and well-functioning traffic lights can address the issue of congested roads and traffic in the city. One should not compromise safety. I live in Tagum City where roads are less busy but I still wish for us to have our own vehicular speed policy to avoid road accidents,” Pepito said.