MMDA draws flak for policy on ambulance entry in EDSA busway

April 5, 2024 - 4:25 PM
Ambulances are seen parked outside the emergency room of Pasay City General Hospital (PCGH) on August 2021 (The STAR/Edd Gumban)

Filipinos stressed the importance of emergency vehicles after the Metro Manila Development Authority banned them from plying the EDSA busway even if they are to fetch patients in emergency cases.

The traffic authority refused the excuse of ambulances picking up patients for fear that other ambulance drivers with different intentions might use it to pass through the priority lane.

“Kung walang sakay na pasyente, hindi po pwede gumamit ng bus carousel. So, even ‘yung excuse na pi-pick up kami ng pasyente ay hindi ina-accept,” MMDA Acting Chairman Don Artes said to GMA’s “24 Oras” on Thursday, April 4.

“Otherwise, lahat na lang magke-claim na pupunta sila sa pasyente,” he added.

According to the report of “24 Oras,” four ambulances without patients on board were issued traffic violation tickets when they traversed the priority lane for the EDSA Bus Carousel.

“Tingnan niyo naman ang sistema ng traffic sa kabila. Kung dito ako dadaan, paano ho ako makakarating doon sa lugar, e umaano ang oras?” a barangay ambulance driver explained.

Another ambulance driver admitted that he was just new to the job.

“Humihingi po kami ng pasensya dahil bagong driver ng ambulance. May tawag lang sa barangay namin na pipick-upin na ihahatid, kaya nagmamadali po kami, dito kami dumaan sa busway,” he said.

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) said that the EDSA busway must only be used by buses operating on the Bus Carousel route, vehicles of the Philippine National Police and marked emergency vehicles like ambulances and fire trucks.

Marked vehicles that are not responding to emergencies but are still using sirens and blinkers will be apprehended.

Meanwhile, the MMDA’s comment about banning ambulance drivers without patients on the Bus Carousel lane earned questions from some Filipinos who argued about the vehicles’ importance.

“Wait. What if papunta sa pasyente??? E, time is of the essence nga??? Jusko. Ang bawalan [niyo] ‘yung mga lecheng wang-wang na pa-VIP. Talagang fine the SOBs,” an online user said.

“Wang-wang” refers to vehicles that constantly use sirens and blinkers when traveling to signify they be given way or priority on the roads.

“Paano ‘pag susunduin pa lang ang pasyente? So, wait na lang sila na mamatay bago masundo? Mukhang [diretso na lang] sa morgue mga ambulance nito at [hindi] na sa hospital ‘pag ganoon. Pero mga pulitiko na may wang-wang, pwede anytime?!!” another user wrote.

“Maling-mali ito. Emergency vehicle ito. Always assume it’s on emergency mode. Mas naisip [niyo] pa ang pagsisinungaling ng driver kesa ‘yung probability na baka nga may kukuhaing pasyente. Paano kung ‘di gumamit ng carousel, then pagdating sa location, too late na,” argued another Pinoy.

“Emergency vehicles like ambulances (empty or not) and fire trucks (responding to or from a call) should be allowed. There’s merit in allowing these vehicles even if they’re OTW [on the way] back from a call because it allows them to be available for the next one much earlier,” wrote another user.

“Dear @MMDA, this is a poorly thought-out policy, AT BEST. All emergency vehicles, regardless of their status, destination, or point of origin, should be afforded the courtesy of ease of passage, to ensure they are available for any eventuality,” argued a different user.

It was previously reported that the DOTr was intensifying its crackdown on colorum or unregistered ambulances and emergency vehicles using blinkers to evade traffic congestion.

“This not only harms and endangers the public, but also undermines the true purpose of ambulances,” the agency said before.

The use of EDSA busway was implemented to reduce commuters’ travel time and decongest vehicular traffic in the major thoroughfare.

It also serves as a route for authorized vehicles to pass through the highway — notorious for perennial traffic — faster.