“The world worries about disability more than disabled people do.” Warwick Davis
By Alex P. Vidal
If we follow the law, contractors of the old pedestrian overpass in front of a giant mall at the Iloilo City Diversion Road in Mandurriao district should have been charged in court for violation of Republic Act 7277 or “An act providing for the rehabilitation, self-development and self-reliance of disabled persons and their integration into the mainstream of society and for other purposes.”
For several years since it was built, the old pedestrian overpass, which has been replaced by a new one that will be operational this year, did not have elevators.
It’s mind-boggling how engineers managed to pursue the project without anticipating some loopholes that would give them legal headache.
The structure was not friendly to elderly and persons with disabilities (PWD). And nobody cared; not until a new and better-equipped pedestrian overpass was built early this year to replace it.
The late House sectoral Rep. Art Borjal, a many-time Iloilo and Negros visitor, once told us he would file charges against building owners, public structures and their contractors who did not follow the law on Republic Act 7277.
“Even hotels and malls are mandated by law to build a special area for their customers and clients that are PWDs,” Borjal told us then.
He would have protested the contractors’ negligence in the old Diversion Road pedestrian overpass.
Section 25 on barrier-free environment of Chapter 6 on accessibility, states that “The State shall ensure the attainment of a barrier-free environment that will enable disabled persons to have access in public and private buildings and establishments and such other places mentioned in Batas Pambansa Bilang 344, otherwise known as the Accessibility Law’. The national and local government shall allocate funds for the provision of architectural or structural features for disabled persons in government buildings and facilities.”
Section 26 on Mobility states further that “The State promotes the mobility of disabled persons. Disabled persons shall be allowed to drive motor vehicles, subject to the rules and regulations issued by the Land Transportation Office pertinent to the nature of their disability and the appropriate adaptations or modifications made on such vehicles; and Section 27 on Access to Public Transport Facilities states that “The Department of Social Welfare and Development shall develop a program to assist marginalized disabled persons gain access in the use of public transport facilities. Such assistance may be in the form of subsidized transportation fare. The said department shall also allocate such funds as may be necessary for the effective implementation of the public transport program for the disabled persons. The Accessibility Law,’ as amended, shall be made supplementary to this Act.”
In a related development, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has decided to put up elevators at the new pedestrian overpass in the same area which would cost some P20 million.
DPWH Regional Director Edilberto Tayao said
the new pedestrian overpass has its footbridge designed for the ease and convenience of PWDs and senior citizens.
“This is in keeping with the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons and Batas Pambansa 344,” the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) Iloilo quoted Tayao as saying over the weekend.
PIA said Batas Pambansa 344 seeks to enhance the mobility of PWDs by requiring buildings, institutions, establishments and public utilities to install facilities and other devices.
Tayao described the new overpass, 50.235 meters long and three meters wide and costing P19,302, 321 as “PWD-friendly and the only biggest project so far that the agency has built for the sector.”
The structure intends to reduce traffic congestion in the area so that mall goers do not have to use the roads in crossing, according to the DPWH.
Tayao further said: “The city government is encouraging the private sector to contribute to the development and maintenance of the project, through public-private partnership.”
We are happy that the DPWH has finally realized the need and importance of building elevators in the new pedestrian overpass.
The new structure connects the giant mall to the other side of the road where the state-of-the-art Injap Tower is located.
It’s not yet too late to correct the past mistake. As the saying goes, “better late than never.”