Passenger safety in motor vehicles has become a bigger priority in recent years. As we speak, efforts are being forwarded to better safeguard children passengers, too. It is good news, then, that Congress and Senate have ratified the report on the two bills that seek to do just that.

House Bill 6938 (principally authored by Rep. Mariano Velarde Jr.) and Senate Bill 1971 (principally authored by Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito) both declare that there is a need to adequately, consistently and objectively require, regulate, promote, and inform the public on the use of child restraint systems in motor vehicles.

The measure states that it is “unlawful for the driver of a covered vehicle not to properly secure a child at all times aged 12 years old and below, in a child restraint system while the engine is running or transporting such child unless the child is at least 150 centimeters or 59 inches in height and is properly secured using the regular seat belt".  In addition, children seated in the front of the vehicle (whether stationary or in transit) is not allowed unless the said child meets the set minimum height requirement.

Governing above these provisions is the "child restraint system", which refers to a device approved in accordance with standards established by the measure and capable of accommodating a child occupant in a sitting or supine position. A child restraint system is designed to diminish the risk of injury to the wearer, in the event of a collision or of abrupt deceleration of the vehicle, by limiting the child's body movements.

The government will be mandating the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to use standards set forth in United Nations Regulation 44 and United Nations Regulation 129. This will include its evolving standards and other acceptable international standards in the approval or disapproval of child restraint systems that will be manufactured, sold, distributed, and used in the Philippines.

That being said, manufacturers, distributors, importers, retailers, and sellers who will violate the set standards shall be slapped with hefty fines of P50,000 to P100,000 for each and every child restraint system product manufactured, distributed, imported and/or sold found to be substandard or expired.

Additionally, any driver who allows the use of substandard and/or expired child restraint system or permits the use of child restraint system that does not bear the PS mark or ICC sticker and certificate shall be fined P1,000 for the first offense, P3,000 for the second offense, and P5,000 and suspension of license for one year for the third and succeeding offenses.

The Bills will encompass public utility vehicles as well. The Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the DTI shall formulate and implement a certification training program for product inspectors, law enforcers, manufacturers, distributors, and sellers on the regulation, installation, use, maintenance and inspection of child restraint systems.

A study will be conducted within one year of the effectivity of the measure and recommend to Congress the use of child restraint systems in public utility vehicles such as jeepneys, buses, schools buses, taxis and other motor vehicles used for public transportation. Should the DOTr determine that child restraint systems are not applicable in certain public utility vehicles, it shall recommend to Congress other safety measures and/or regulations for the safe and secure transportation of children in such vehicles.

In the name of proper implementation and enforcement, the DOTr may call upon any government agency, including the Philippine National Police (PNP), and non-governmental organizations to extend their full support and cooperation for this act.