Make no mistake about it: motoring in the Philippines has never been so controversial.
There's a new law that rightfully punishes distracted driving, but didn't take into account the fact that we use navigation apps a lot. There's a proposal to make number coding a two day affair to anticipate the traffic from massive infrastructure projects. There are plenty of erring PUVs, trains get stuck, and buses seem to lose brakes at will. Many of us are driving with receipts as licenses and stickers as plates. Transport network companies are under fire while the regulatory board is in hot water. There's even a higher tax scheme for automobiles in the works to compensate for adjustments to income taxes; a tax scheme that could raise prices of aspirational cars to make them even more aspirational only.
Needless to say, given all these issues on top of our usual content, our keyboards have received quite a bit of wear and tear in the last few weeks alone.
Today, we won't be mincing words on the keyboard, instead we decided to go for a drive and see for ourselves. But we won't be alone; joining us on this drive will be the Department of Transportation's Assistant Secretary, Atty. Leah Quiambao.
Formerly from the private sector as a counsel for the country's top bank, Leah -as she prefers to be called- is the DOTr's Assistant Secretary for Legal Affairs. After the resignation of Cherie Mercado as the department's spokesperson, Asec. Quiambao became the de facto spokesperson of the agency.
It's not a position to be envied. At the time of her predecessor's resignation, the DOTr became mired in one controversy after another, particularly with the implementation of the Anti-Distracted Driving Act. The general public and many netizens know Asec. Leah Quiambao from that controversial interview; the one where she mistakenly mentioned that you can put your GPS device under the steering wheel. Her job wasn't just difficult; it was a baptism of fire.
Still she kept on, and she gave us a few hours of her time to ride shotgun with me in the 2017 Honda City and talk about her career, her job, the Department's plans for the future, PUV modernization, motoring issues, driver education, license cards and plates, and many more. A lot of the things she said many of us will like, but there are a few that many of us really wont; especially the part regarding plates.
And don't mind me. They say a camera adds 10 pounds, and there were four in the car.