With many restrictions of course

We've always been of the opinion that lawmakers like to file all kinds of bills for whatever catches their fancy. Believe us when we say that all it takes is 30 minutes of browsing the many bills filed in the upper house (Senate) and the lower house (House of Representatives) to realize that there is a bill for regulating, banning, or allowing something. 

One bill filed in the Senate caught our eye though: it concerns right-hand drive vehicles. Senator Lito Lapid apparently has a bill that seeks to allow vehicles with the steering wheel on the right-hand side of the dashboard into the Philippines.

If you're well versed in our laws, we have Republic Act 8506 from 1998 that specifically bans all right-hand drive (RHD) vehicles from being driven on any public road or private road. The penalties are pretty stiff such as a fairly big fine (PHP 50k which was pretty big when the law was being written) and jail time. There are only a few exceptions such as vintage pre-1960 automobiles or cars that are to be used for sanctioned racing events or special purpose vehicles like an off-roader.

What Sen. Lapid is proposing via Senate Bill 2062 (filed in February 2021) is that the list of exemptions is expanded by making some amendments to Republic Act 8506. He's not saying that he wants to allow anyone to import and use a right-hand drive vehicle on public roads; rather he is proposing that RHD vehicles be allowed for a limited time in the country.

Under his proposed amendments, privately-owned vehicles, motorcycles (with 2, 3, or 4 wheels), tourist vans, and tourist buses will be allowed in the country for 30 days with the issuance of a special permit for the vehicle and a special license for the driver. RHD delivery trucks and lorries can also be allowed into the country for 7 days.

The rationale behind the bill is the 2009 memorandum of understanding (MOU) that was signed by the 4 ASEAN countries known as BIMP: Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Out of the 4, only the Philippines is left-hand drive, and it presents a unique challenge given that the countries are working on roll-on, roll-off (RORO) ferry interoperability.

If granted, trade and the free movement of people and goods can improve, which is why the bill aims to grant the special permissions for vehicles from ASEAN member countries. This will be reciprocal; ASEAN member countries will also have to make certain provisions to allow LHD vehicles from the two ASEAN nations (the other is Vietnam) into their predominantly RHD roads.

The other limitation is that RHD vehicles will be limited to enter only via the international ports at two locations: Palawan and Mindanao. East Malaysia (specifically Sabah) would be closest while Indonesia is just a little bit further south. 

This is a proposal to help improve trade and tourism between the Philippines and its neighbors; it's not a free pass to import right-hand drive performance cars from Japan or the UK. Doing so still carries a fine and jail time.