BATANGAS STAR TOLLWAY: Gateway To Death
Batangas Star Tollway hasn’t been quite in the last couple of years since it was opened to the public for use. The road that is supposed lead, bring and trigger economic developments to the Province turned out to become everyone’s access and gateway to vehicular accidents, resulting to injuries, and worst, deaths to motorists. Yellow should have been the most visible color in the middle and along the sides of the road, yet everything seem to turn red with victims’ blood splattered from one kilometer to another It appears like its solid rock pavements has been turning into quicksand traps, bringing Eternal Garden and Mount Zion graves closer to unsuspecting innocent victims. In any given day, one can almost always expect for an accident to happen. And that’s one of the best things about STAR Tollway.
Strings of Accidents
The beginning of year 2011 provided probably the best shocker for Batanguenos. After the smoke of New Year celebration has gone down, Batanguenos were caught in surprise with news of one fatal accident causing 7 deaths, including 3 minors, to Festijo family last January 2.
Reports said that a bus was hits a jeepney when it tried to overtake Nissan car in Kilometer 98, Brgy. Quilo, Ibaan, Batangas. The jeepney carrying 11 members of Festijo was on their way back to Manila after a family reunion. The car was also thrown out of the road though its passengers sustained only minor injuries.
Year 2010 proved to be a fruitful year for STAR Tollway.
As early as June 2010, 15 persons were injured when two ALPS Bus company collided with each other. Police Investigators stated that the Batangas-bound bus was in the process of overtaking when its rear hit portion of Manila-bound bus on the other lane, Brgy. Tingga, Batangas City. This caused both bus to swerve on different ways, jarring their passengers inside. The injured were brought to hospitals in Batangas City.
In October, 5 were killed when a passenger bus collided with a cargo jeepney and plunged into a ravine. It also caused injuries to 14 others who were rushed to Batangas Regional Hospital, 8 to St. Patrick Hospital and one to Golden Gate Hospital. Upon reaching Kilometer 98 (again), investigations revealed that a Jam Liner bus tried to overtake a vehicle ahead of it then lost control when a jeepney suddenly came rushing in on the other lane.
Meanwhile, year 2009 also takes a slice of the cake of STAR Tollway accidents. Before the end of the year in November, an ALPS Bus figured itself in an accident killing 2 victims and injuring 4 others. Initial reports said that, running at around 100kmph, Manila-bound Tamaraw FX’s back tire exploded along Kilometer 98. The vehicle lost control occupying opposite lane then slammed to fast-approaching ALPS bus. The impact hurdled the Tamaraw FX 60 meters away for the highway.
According to Highway Patrol Group (HPG), in 2010, out of 1,078 CALABARZON vehicular accidents, 544 occurred in SLEX. The STAR Tollway contributed 3 including that of January accident in Brgy. Quilo, Ibaan, Batangas. Records also show that the highest number of accidents last year occurred during the months of September, November and March with 127, 115 and 107 accidents respectively.
Death casualties also pumped the record high. Based on records, April has fooled most the motorists with 27 deaths in road accidents. This is being followed by the month of March and December, both claiming 22 lives, including the seven members of Festijo family who died in Kilometer 98 of STAR Tollway.
Saddened by January 2’s accident, Batangas Province Governor Vilma Santos Recto has decided to call again the attention of Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (STAR) Tollway officials to map out additional safety measures to be implemented. A meeting will also be called to talk with PNP, LTO, DPWH, and TRB for the same purpose.
According to Gov. Recto, “They have to add safety nets such as visible speed limits. But sometimes accidents cannot be avoided because a big part of that is the responsibility of the drivers. They drive like king of the roads, mas mabigat na batas at parusa dapat sa mga irresponsible and reckless drivers.”
Meanwhile, Vice-Governor Mark Levisted hit the tollway management for neglecting the earlier recommendations made by Sangguniang Panlalawigan pertaining to the safety of motorists. He also suggested that an installation of CCTV cameras can and may help prevent accidents on the tollway.
CALABARZON Police Director Samuel Pagdilao Jr., for his part, has ordered the Highway Patrol Group in the region to conduct a random inspection of buses plying the route. He will also coordinate and convene a dialogue with SLEX, STAR Tollway, LTO and DPWH management on how the rules against over speeding and driving under the influence of liquor can be strictly implemented.
What’s wrong with STAR Tollway?
Rep. Hermilando Mandanas of 2nd District of Batangas lambasted STAR Tollway and that the latter should also take the blame over the January 2 accident. The Congressman noted that while STAR Tollway 2 is designed to be a four-lane expressway, only two lanes have been constructed by STAR Infrastructure Development Corporation.
In a House Resolution 785 which he filed in the House of Representative, Mandanas stressed that the existing two-way traffic and poor road condition along STAR Tollway contribute immensely on the collisions of passenger buses and other vehicles. The Resolution also includes urging the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) to immediately review the STAR Tollway concessionaire’s compliance with its obligations –the construction, operation and maintenance of STAR Tollway 2, the Lipa City to Batangas City section. This is due to the fact that, based on the Vehicular Accidents Report of the Batangas Provincial Police Office, 135 accidents have already transpired in the said area from January to October 2010.
On the other hand, according to an article by Fermin Manalo Jr. of Philippine Daily Inquirer, STAR Tollway operators should be held accountable to numerous vehicular accidents based on the following reasons: 1.) failure to deploy an adequate number of patrol units to religiously monitor traffic and to strictly enforce rules especially on over speeding, under speeding, overtaking and vehicular lights; 2.) failure to install adequate number of signage warning/informing motorists of the rules, and; 3.) allowing slow-moving vehicles, sometimes with no tail lights to use. As mentioned in the said article, the third one “makes it very tempting to motorists to overtake other vehicles notwithstanding the risk”.
Adolfo Dioquino, Jr. General Manager of Star Tollway Corporation, however, insisted that the Sunday’s accident, the same with others, were caused by human error and not from the tollway’s structure
STAR Tollway is supposed to open gates for prosperity for Batangas Province. But with these incidents, their purposes have been averted the other way around. Human errors or structural frailties they may be, the riding public must remain watchful when plying the route. Everyone has everyone to blame. And we can’t pick up more dead bodies in STAR Tollway.
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