by Gideon Lasco,
The news of the death of 14 passengers in a bus mishap in Bontoc, Mountain Province is a big tragedy that should not be forgotten. It is not just that we lost Alvin “Tado” Jimenez, a friend of the environment and the mountains, whose gift of laughter and joy our country will sorely miss. It is not just that two foreigners were among the victims and surely the incident will be mourned in their countries accompanied by a loss of trust in our tourism infrastructure. And it is not just that we lost the 11 other passengers whose lives were equally valuable.
It is also because at the heart of the tragedy are violations of the law. License plates getting switched, chassis numbers tampered with, and buses that are unregistered for commercial use: these are not mere acts of negligence, these are deliberate acts. By tinkering with the identity of their buses, they have made themselves impervious to the last resort or safety: inspections that could have detected faulty engines, misaligned wheels, and other factors that could precipitate an accident. With Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap, we also wonder why the regulatory system, particularly the LTFRB, has failed to oversee the safety of these bus operations.
It is faulty logic to argue that these regulatory violations have nothing to do with the accident. Accidents do happen, but if buses are ill-equipped and not properly registered and inspected, if bus drivers are not trained and disciplined, then they are accidents waiting to happen. There was no typhoon or landslide to precipitate the recent accident. Even if there were unforeseen circumstance, we deserve the best effort, the best chances of survival, when things go wrong.
Mountaineers and outdoor enthusiasts take public buses every weekend. One can go to Cubao and Pasay on Friday nights and see the congregations of mountaineers in the terminals of bus companies.The Manila-Bontoc route is taken by those going to Mt. Napulauan, Amuyao, and more. By virtue of our numbers, we are at risk in these kinds of accidents with every week that the LTFRB fails to regulate and these companies fail to comply. We, as customers – in fact as one of the biggest groups of passengers in many routes – have the right to demand for better services. Safety should be the most fundamental service rendered.
Needless to say, what is at stake here is not just the safety of mountaineers, but of all our loved ones, our fellow travellers and passengers.
As hiking grows in popularity, the safety of mountains have come under scrutiny, and the recent tragedies involving hikers have received media attention. But for as long as the roads are far more dangerous than the mountains, our basic mountaineering courses, our safety practices, will be powerless to prevent the tragedies that can happen even before we can set foot on the mountains. This is why we should take a strong stand against negligent bus companies and call for an overhaul of the regulatory system that engenders these unfortunate events.