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Cablegate: Philippines: Distracted Driving Demarche Reply

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OO RUEHAST RUEHCHI RUEHDH RUEHFK RUEHHM RUEHKSO RUEHLN RUEHMA RUEHNAG
RUEHPB RUEHPOD RUEHSL RUEHTRO
DE RUEHML #0336 0500556
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 190556Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6629
INFO RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUEHZU/ASIAN PACIFIC ECONOMIC COOPERATION IMMEDIATE
RUEAUSA/DEPT OF HHS WASHDC
RULSDMK/DEPT OF TRANSPORTATION WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS MANILA 000336

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS
STATE FOR OES (NCARTER-FOSTER)
STATE ALSO FOR OES/STC (EPADGETT)
HHS/OSSI/DSI PASS TO OGHA (JMONAHAN/ACUMMINGS)
TRANSPORTATION PASS TO NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY
ADMINISTRATION

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON SOCI ELTN UNDP UNGA RP
SUBJECT: Philippines: Distracted Driving Demarche Reply

Ref: A) State 06703

1. (U) On January 29 Embassy delivered reftel demarche to Department
of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Assistant Secretary for American Affairs
Lourdes Yparraguirre and DFA Assistant Secretary for United Nations
and International Organizations Leslie Gatan. Post also contacted
the Land Transportation Office (LTO) of the Department of
Transportation and Communications (DOTC), the Public Safety Office
of the Metro Manila Development Authority and the National
Telecommunications Commission (NTC)to obtain requested information.
On February 17 DOTC Assistant Secretary Arturo C. Lomibao provided a
letter with information on the legal context, traffic accident data,
and public awareness efforts related to distracted driving. Neither
the DFA nor the DOTC expressed an interest in committing the
Philippine Government to international efforts on this issue.
--------------------------------------------
Distracted Driving Laws in Legislative Limbo
--------------------------------------------

2. (SBU) Two bills pending in the Philippine House and Senate would
restrict the use of mobile communication devices while driving
(while still permitting hands-free device use), exempting persons
performing "urgent, emergency and official functions". The House
bill stipulates fines of 5,000 Philippine pesos (approximately 109
USD) and revocation of driving privileges for the fourth offense,
while the Senate bill increases the fine to 10,000 pesos and adds
imprisonment for not more than one year. An aide to House
Transportation Committee Chairman Monico O. Puentebella told us,
however, that the bill was unlikely to pass the House this session.
The Senior Liaison Officer for the Senate Presidential Legislative
Liaison Office predicted a similar fate for the Senate bill. Both
aides said legislators were too preoccupied by the upcoming
elections to prioritize the bills' passage. (Note: Nationwide
polls are scheduled for May 10. End Note.) Mandaluyong City, one of
the seventeen municipalities that comprise Metro Manila, passed a
local ordinance in 2007 restricting the use of mobile communications
devices while driving.
3. (U) The Chief of the LTO's Traffic Safety Unit Daisy Jacobo told
Econ LES that although her office strongly supports the
aforementioned bills, to date her office has focused on the passage
of national safety legislation in four key areas: 1) the use of
helmets by motorcyclist, 2) driving while intoxicated, 3) mandatory
use of seat belts, and 4) speed management. To date comprehensive
legislation has been passed only with regard to seat belt usage.
4. (U) The Philippine National Police reported 592 road accidents
nationwide for the period 1998-2008 attributable to cell phone use.
No information is available as to the severity of the accidents.
LTO officials told us that they consider this figure to be under
reported.
--------------------------------------------
No Distracted Driving Awareness Campaign Yet
--------------------------------------------

5. (U) The LTO and the private sector are conducting general road
safety awareness campaigns, but have not focused on the specific
hazards of using cell phones while driving. The proposed House and
Senate bills do mandate an information and education campaign on the
consequences of distracted driving within six months of the bill's
passage.
6. (U) The Chief of the NTC's Regulation Department told Econ LES
that there were approximately 80 million cell phone subscribers in
the Philippines by the end of 2009, an increase of over 15 percent
from the previous year. This constitutes a penetration rate of
approximately 86 percent. No official statistics describing the
prevalence of cell phone use while driving are available, according
to the NTC.
Bassett

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