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Bacolod City, Philippines Tuesday, November 11, 2014
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Come to think of it
with Carlos Antonio L. Leonardia

The proof of Parking Space Act


Valenzuela Representative Sherwin Gatchalian got my attention when he filed House Bill No. 5098, also known as the “Proof of Parking Space Act” that requires individuals or firms planning to buy brand new cars to be mandated to execute an affidavit indicating the availability of an existing parking space for the vehicle to be bought.

His ambitious Bill has already met opposition among the narrower minds in Congress who have been calling it an “elitist bill”, saying it deprives the marginalized sector the opportunity of owning a vehicle. Knowing the masa-voter centric mindset of most of his colleagues in Congress, Gatchalian’s bill probably won’t make it to second base. After all, there are millions of potential car owners who would be sorely disappointed with their representative who would vote to restrict their right to irresponsibly clutter and congest the country’s roads when they purchase cars without even having any parking space.

Anybody who has seen the side streets of Metro Manila during rush hour would understand the significance of Gatchalian’s bill and see the size of his cojones in filing something that goes against the grain of the well-established squatter mentality of our people.

You see in Metro Manila and in most parts of the Philippines, people buy cars without having anywhere to park them because they know they can expropriate the public property that is the street to park their vehicles. They do it because everybody on their street does it anyway and they know that city and barangay officials are powerless to stop them from taking ownership of public property as their own private parking spaces. They do it because they feel entitled to a parking space and they don’t care if their brand new status symbol is causing traffic or making the narrow roads of their city even narrower.

This parking pandemic is one grand example showing us that we may get a squatter out of the slums, but the squatter mentality never goes away because our government actually encourages it when it allows people who buy cars they can hardly afford to park anywhere they want. Rep. Gatchalian gets my support for being brave enough to point out that we have a problem that we need to face.

If I could improve HB 5098, it would be to mandate the affidavit of parking space, not only for brand new cars, but for all cars during the annual registration. Imagine what it would do to the auto industry and the hundreds of thousands of squatter-minded car owners of the country if cars without parking spaces weren’t allowed to renew their registration and violators were prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

If cars had to have proper parking spaces and didn’t have to use public property for private purposes, how many hectares of road space would our government be able to reclaim and use properly to improve the flow of traffic? Why do we spend so much on widening our roads when we let parking squatters take over the moment the newly widened roads are opened?

If orphaned cars weren’t allowed to take over our side streets, we could probably solve the traffic problem without needing to build new road networks or skyways. We would have proper sidewalks and maybe even bike lanes.

If you really think about it, Rep. Gatchalian’s proposed bill doesn’t really have a chance. First of all, I bet a lot of his fellow legislators have more cars than they have garage space and use the roads outside their residences or place of work as their own private parking lots.

Secondly, too many of the car-loving but civic-indifferent Filipinos would be affected and they would surely make a lot of noise fighting for their “right” to overnight park on public property.

Thirdly, even if it does become a law, it should be doomed by the lack of enforcement, even if it should be quite easy to enforce from the barangay level if the city and barangay officials were really interested in winning back their streets. But if you look at where a lot of local government and even police vehicles are parked right now, you would see why I don’t think this law has any chance. The squatter mentality is simply too pervasive in Filipino society.

Would requiring cars to have parking spaces be elitist? Yes it might be. But why should a responsible government allow its citizens to park on public roads just because its citizens want to strut around in a private vehicle that they can hardly afford and cannot even build a garage for?

Give the Proof of Parking Space Act a chance.*




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