Start learning to drive on the left side of the road and from the right-hand side of your vehicle.
That will be number one on every motorists’ agenda as it has been just been revealed that the shift to left-hand traffic/right-hand drive will be implemented by April 1, 2016.
The shift is the priority mandate of the five-year Comprehensive Automotive Resurgence Strategy (CARS) newly-signed by President Benigno Aquino III and the High Standard Highway Network Development that is a joint project of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
It was not too long ago, March 10, 1945 to be exact, when the Philippines shifted from left-hand drive to right-hand. This was based on Executive Order No. 34 signed by former president Sergio Osmena, which stated that ‘WHEREAS such a change would bring about certain economic advantages to the people of the Philippines in that it would reduce the price of motor vehicles imported into the Philippines from the United States.’
The Aquino administration, which has prioritized and fast-tracked CARS, has invested US$600 million to kickstart the program and effectively repealed EO 34. This is due mainly to the president’s desire to make this change the legacy he leaves the Filipino people.
Vehicle manufacturers from Japan and Europe have expressed extreme satisfaction in the implementation of this shift as this will surely decrease the costs they incur from having to supply right-hand drive vehicles to the Philippines, the only country in the ASEAN along with Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar that require such a layout.
Big market countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the rich city-state of Singapore all require right-hand drive vehicles, which these automakers manufacture by the hundreds of thousands. Having to cater to small and emerging markets like ours cost a lot of money for training, parts, equipment and manpower. To be able to cut costs by making the same layout for an entire region will allow manufacturers to save money, which will translate to cheaper models sold in the Philippines.
As good as that sounds, the biggest benefit of CARS is in turning the Philippines into a manufacturing hub able to produce cars not only for domestic sales, but also for export throughout the region.
This creates more jobs for Filipinos, reduces imports, generates foreign exchange savings and effectively turns the country into a regional auto-manufacturing hub.
Contingent to all of the aforementioned is the infrastructure policy of returning the Philippines to right-hand drive/left-hand traffic.
"We want to go into a process with CAMPI, DOTC [Department of Transportation and Communication], Department of Public Works and Highways] to find out if the support mechanisms with this industry will go hand-in-hand," said Senate Committee on Trade, Commerce, and Entrepreneurship Chairman Paolo Benigno "Bam" Aquino IV today, April 1, 2015.
Japan’s extensive knowledge in highway building is the reason why the DPWH chose to partner with JICA to run the High Standard Highway Network Development, which entails drawing up a master plan of rerouting all roads in the country to left-hand traffic orientation within the next 8 months.
The cost estimate of configuring traffic lights, street signs and other necessary changes is at a whooping PhP 49.5 billion. That’s not counting the amount spent on buildings that will have to be torn down and rebuilt to properly align with the new system.
Of major concern will be the re-education of all drivers in order to limit the amount of accidents and casualties due to the driving reform.
Current motor vehicles will also have to be converted to right-hand drive.
70 years ago we moved from right-hand traffic. Changing back brings us full circle and creates an economic windfall through the automotive industry that will be felt for generations to come.