Should vintage cars, or those at least 40 years old from the date of manufacture, still be allowed on Philippine roads just like any other motor vehicle? The Senate seems to think so, thus its decision to pass in early February its Senate Bill 2493, or the proposed law regulating the use of vintage, historical, classic, and collector motor vehicles.
It remains uncertain whether the approved bill will soon be enacted. However, there doesn’t seem to be any strong opposition to it from lawmakers, regulators, Malacañang, or even the motor vehicle industry itself. Numerous hearings on the bill were held, and most issues raised early on appear to have been already resolved.
I, for one, support the bill, being the owner of a 1975 model car. And while I don’t fully agree with all the provisions of SB 2493, I deem it a fair regulation in encouraging the “preservation, maintenance, occasional use, and registration” of vintage vehicles — “a motor vehicle, whether powered by an internal combustion engine, electricity, a combination of both, or other means, that is at least 40 years old reckoned from the date of manufacture, whose chassis, engine, steering assembly, and suspension assembly are either original or authentic and whose body has not been altered in general appearance…”
The more significant provisions of the bill, in my opinion, cover vehicle registration and allowable use, as well as exemptions from certain standards. While the latter may not sit well particularly with environmental groups, who may legally question the exemption as possibly contrary to the Clean Air Act, I still believe the bill’s compromise is a fair and realistic approach to regulation.
Section 5 of SB 2493 states that, “in recognition of their small number, their expected limited use, and the historical fact that the technology available at the time of their manufacture will not permit them to meet modern standards, vintage vehicles registered under this Act shall not be required to meet clean-air, anti-pollution, safety, road-use, and other standards that were not in force at the time of their manufacture, either as a condition for their registration and use on public roads or otherwise, the provisions of the Clean Air Act (RA 8749) and any other law or regulation notwithstanding.”
Section 5, however, also states that “vintage vehicles manufactured after Dec. 31, 1967 must be fitted with safety belts as mandated by Republic Act No. 8750 or the Seat Belts Use Act of 1999.” Meantime, the registration of vintage vehicles is proposed to be valid for at least three years. Such vehicles will also be issued special plates that indicate the vehicle’s year, model or date of manufacture.
But the bill also states that vintage vehicles are still “subject to inspection… in compliance with the minimum safety and roadworthiness guidelines established by the Land Transportation Office (LTO) in consultation with stakeholders. In no event shall the standards for safety inspection for vintage vehicles registered under this Act exceed or be more stringent than those that were in force at the year the vehicle was manufactured.” The LTO can also “random inspection of registered vintage vehicles on public roads and highways.”
Personally, I would have preferred that vintage vehicles are still made to comply with current emission, anti-pollution, and safety standards and conditions. However, recognizing as well that many vehicles aged 40 years or older are unlikely to meet or strictly comply with such standards, then a blanket exemption may be a better approach.
Anyway, the exemption is conditioned on “limited use” of such vehicles on roads. After all, for most owners of vintage cars, their special vehicles are collectibles and not daily drivers. As such, given the value of their vehicles, particularly those fully restored, and considering that these are generally not insurable, then these vehicles actually spend more time in the garage than on the road.
Registration of a motor vehicle as vintage, and thus exempt from certain standards, is subject to certain conditions. For one, “a vintage vehicle registered or otherwise benefitting under this Act shall be preserved and maintained in a historically correct condition, which… shall mean that its chassis, engine, steering, and suspension shall not have been replaced or modified except with original or authentic components, and its body has not been changed in general appearance.”
Also, a vintage vehicle that is “imported after the effectivity of this Act, or is registered under this Act, or otherwise benefits from any exemption or privilege under this Act shall be used only for personal purposes and/or leisure driving. A vintage vehicle shall in no event be used for commercial purposes, except only for motion pictures, advertisements, pictorials, weddings, and motorcades.”
I believe SB 2493 is a practical legislation in recognizing the “limited use” of vintage vehicles as a matter of circumstance, rather than having to actually legislate limitations on their use. After all, a well-maintained and well-running vehicle, despite being vintage in age, may in fact be more roadworthy than a newer but poorly maintained vehicle.
In the case of India, for instance, a new law on vintage cars approved last year requires a vintage vehicle to be at least 50 years old, counting from the day of its original registration. Moreover, vintage vehicles are allowed only limited use of public roads, for the purpose of exhibition, refueling, maintenance, and participation in vintage rallies.
At the end of the day, however, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Thus, while SB 2493 covers the broad strokes, the proposed law’s implementing rules and regulations will spell out and detail the actual terms and conditions for the registration and use of vehicles aged 40 years and older. One can only hope such rules will be just as practical, realistic, and fair as their enabling law.
Marvin Tort is a former managing editor of BusinessWorld, and a former chairman of the Philippine Press Council