The implementation of the Helmet Law is meant to protect motorcycle riders, according to authorities.
But for some habal-habal (motorcycle-for-hire) drivers, wearing a full-faced helmet required by the law will do more harm than good.
Both the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Land Transportation Office (LTO) were asked by local officials and the riding public to clarify guidelines in the new helmet law.
Mark Quiseo, a 27-year-old habal-habal driver of barangay Saac, Lapu-Lapu City, said wearing a full-faced helmet exposes drivers to danger because it hampers the drivers' hearing and vision.
“Your vision is limited because a full-faced helmet is bigger compared to an ordinary helmet. You can't just rely on the side mirrors so you have to turn your head to check the vehicles beside or behind you and you end up losing your focus on the road,” said Quiseo in Cebuano.
Because a full-faced helmet is heavier, it causes discomfort while driving, Quiseo added.
“When you have a full-faced helmet on, it feels like you're being choked and it causes some pain in the neck,” said Quiseo, one of at least 1,000 habal-habal drivers in barangay Lahug, Cebu City.
“A full-faced helmet doesn't guarantee safety. It's really up to the drivers to drive safely,” said Quiseo.
But what really discourages habal-habal drivers from purchasing the required helmet? The stiff price.
“I am not going to buy the required helmet. It is very expensive. We struggle to make ends meet with our meager earnings and now we will be asked to buy that expensive helmet? We'd rather sell our motorcycles than buy new helmets,” said another motorcycle driver Sonny Albino, 47.
Albino said from P800, the cheapest full-faced now costs P1,200.
“We cannot afford it especially that we will have to purchase two helmets,” said Albino.
Albino said they will be forced to operate clandestinely once the authorities start apprehending motorcycle drivers without proper helmet on.
“We'll just avoid plying the main roads. We'll operate in a place where they (traffic enforcers) can't see us,” said Albino.
“A lot of drivers have been complaining about the Helmet Law. Most of us here are still paying motorcycles and now the government is coming up with a law where we have to spend extra money,” said 51-year-old Mark Ondoy.
Meanwhile, Cebu City Councilor Ritchie Osmeña said it would also be more convenient for motorists if the Import Clearance Certificate (ICC) sticker is given during the purchase of new helmets.
Osmeña, a motorcycle enthusiast, said while he supports the national government’s campaign to require helmet use among motorists, there are more important problems to be ironed out before implementing the new helmet law.
“I disagree with Mayor Michael Rama's statement that the law is anti-poor. But please also make it convenient for the motorists,” he said.
Osmeña, who chairs the council’s transportation committee, said a friend from the US bought a helmet worth P40,000 but it wasn't included in the DTI list.
“Yet there are cheaper brands in the DTI list of recommended helmets. What gives?,” the councilor said.
Land Transportation Office (LTO) regional director Raul Aguilos advised motorists to confer with the DTI on the helmets.
While the law takes effect next month, Aguilos said full implementation of the helmet law is on December this year.
No arrests will be made by LTO enforcers and deputized agents provided that motorists wear full face helmets.
No military, construction and mountain bike helmets or inferior types will be allowed, Aguilos said.
The LTO will remind motorists to secure the required ICC sticker from DTI.
“Those imported helmets with no ICC markings, we don't need to argue with them. Just present it to the DTI for inspection,” he said. /Calvin D. Cordova and Edison A. delos Angeles