Old vehicles are back on the road again

No, I’m not referring to dilapidated jeepneys dodging their long-overdue phaseout and retiring to give way to the government’s modernization program. I’m talking about the Vintage Vehicle Regulation Act (or Republic Act No. 11698), whose implementing rules and regulations were officially approved by the Land Transportation Office last Sunday. What this means is that cars that are older than 40 years will be granted several exemptions when they are registered. In short, old cars are in vogue once again—they can be freely used once more instead of just gathering dust in the garage.

Prior to this, the main issue of classic cars was their “roadworthiness,” or their lack of it. With the advancements in the areas of technology and safety, old cars were deemed unfit to be used on public roads. For one, a number of cars would never pass emission tests. Then again, since when has this prevented even poorly maintained cars from hitting our roads?

Thanks to the new law, cars made before December 31, 1979, are exempt from the seatbelt rule.

Because a special subclass is being created to accommodate vintage vehicles, these cars will be allowed limited driving hours—only “during daytime,” the press release says. They also can’t be employed as utility vehicles, and their commercial use is only for cinematic purposes or social events. In other words, their existence is to provide happiness in the automotive community. You could say the law will protect the country’s motoring heritage.

An interesting part of the IRR is the lifting of the ban on right-hand-drive vehicles that were manufactured on or before December 31, 1970. Yes, these cars may now be imported, registered and driven in the Philippines. Let’s just hope that those who will venture to operate these cars in Philippine traffic are competent drivers, because they will still have to follow motoring rules designed for LHD vehicles. I’ve driven RHD cars in RHD countries, and found the task quite challenging. Imagine doing that in a left-hand-drive environment.

Importation of vintage vehicles should be a big part of this development. Automotive aficionados will rejoice in the fact that importing old cars as well as parts now promises to be easier (not to mention legal). They will also welcome the lower tariffs imposed by the Bureau of Customs.

Already, talks are now discussing “restoration hubs” that will attract foreign companies to set up shop here. If they do it right, this could spawn a sustainable industry that will generate jobs. Of course, the operative word here is “right.”

A special license plate is said to be issued to these vintage vehicles, which is far better than the spurious vanity plates that are currently prevalent in our midst. Well, that’s good. But you have to wonder how an inept government agency that has consistently failed to provide regular plates to regular vehicles can pull this off. Maybe the LTO can be spurred into action if the car owners are loaded and willing to pay?

By the way, all of this has been done on our shores by rich car enthusiasts. What the Vintage Vehicle Law will do now is just to legitimize their hobby. Just saying.

The photos from the IRR signing event showed ecstatic politicians. I wish they were grinning from ear to ear because the Vintage Vehicle Law is truly good for the nation and not just for wealthy individuals and their expensive pastime.

FILL YOUR TANK: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19-20)

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