Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Tragic Bus

As I have noted in previous posts, traffic in the Philippines if often a nightmare due to the recklessness and poor upkeep of public utility vehicles which include passenger jeeps and buses. In December, a bus fell off the Skyway, an elevated  roadway in Metro-Manila killing several passengers and the driver. The vehicle was speeding on bald tires causing it to hydroplane on wet pavement,  lose control, and flip over a guard rail crushing a van on the street below. Then this month, a bus  with switched license plates traveling in the northern part of the country fell off a mountain road into a ravine. Several passengers, including two foreigners, died in this tragedy which was evidently caused by mechanical failure.

And while not an "accident" as such, in 2010 a sightseeing  bus in Manila carrying Chinese  tourists  was hijacked by a lone gunman, a former police officer.  Several people died in the rescue attempt that was grossly mishandled, e.g. the failure of authorities on the scene failing to prevent bystanders from entering  the crime scene area while law enforcement personnel  were trying to get the hijacker to surrender, and immediately after the shootout  When the SWAT team finally stormed the bus to save the hostages, their attempt was disastrously haphazard and disorganized. This sowed only more confusion and delay during which time the gunman killed several passengers before he was finally shot and killed by police snipers.  The Philippine government paid damages to the victims' families but through now has refused the Chinese government's request for a formal apology on the basis that the gunman committed the crime as a private individual, not as an agent of the Philippine government. 

What all these bus incidents have in common is that they were the result of official ineptness The first two could have been prevented by closer supervision from the government agency,  the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, that grants the approval for businesses to operate public utility vehicles.  The LTFRB finally took punitive action against the Don Mariano Transit and the Florida Transport lines that were involved in the respective accidents after the fact. But for the victims by then of course it was too late.

In  the case of the hostage event, the Manila Police Department should have dealt with the crisis  in a more disciplined and professional manner with better trained personnel.  I formerly believed that the Philippine government  should not accept fault for incident on the above stated reasoning. However, after reflecting on the degree to which an official  agency lost and control and bungled ending the siege, perhaps an apology to China is in order after all. Similarly, anytime that tourists  in this country wind up as victims of harm or violence that is the result of civil authorities' negligence or inaction, the Philippines should pay damage their families and issue a public apology to the governments of the visitors' countries of origin as well. The international negative publicity  that repeated incidents of this nature generate may  discourage would-be visitors from this country. If that happens  to the point that such disregard by the Philippines for safety and human life while  tolerated locally is negatively impacting  foreign investment and tourism, that may be enough to  spur the  government to finally to take corrective measures in this area.Click here to see the reaction of one such foreigner whose father in law died in the Skyway accident.

The official Department of Tourism for attracting visitors here is "It's More Fun in the Philippines". But how much "fun" can it be for foreigners and their families if they come home in a coffin?