Solons want malls held accountable for parking crimes

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    LAWMAKERS will force the management of shopping malls in the country to ensure the security of all parked vehicles in their buildings after a neophyte lawmaker lost valuables at the parking lot of the SM Centerpoint in Sta. Mesa last Monday.

    Bagong Henerasyon party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera yesterday filed House Bill No. 3215 seeking to regulate the paid parking system in malls by imposing a fine of P250,000 to P500,000 on top of the possible revocation of business permits and licenses on malls that will refuse to secure the vehicles of mall-goers.

    “While there are available parking spaces, safety measures are often undermined despite the imposition of costly fees. With the amount of collected payments, establishments must be responsible for the vehicles and the belongings inside the vehicle,” Herrera said.

    Still unidentified suspects smashed the rear windows of Rep. Rowena Taduran’s sports utility vehicle at the SM Centerpoint parking building and stole valuables worth a total of P240,000, including a laptop issued by the House of Representatives, a mobile phone and jewelry.

    Herrera said varied parking regulations of different cities and establishments only cause confusion to the people.

    “For the interest of the general public, the state shall prioritize public welfare and work towards creating a standard for establishments to follow,” she said.

    Valenzuela Rep. Wesley Gatchalian, for his part, filed House Bill No. 3262 which does not only seek to protect consumers against security threats in parking spaces but also to regulate the imposition of unreasonable and exorbitant parking fees by malls, hospitals, schools, and other establishments.

    The bill standardizes parking fees to P40 for the first eight hours, with an additional P10 charge for the succeeding hours. An overnight parking fee of P100 will be charged per vehicle.

    Moreover, the measure also proposes waiver of the parking fee of customers who have purchased at least P1,000 worth of goods or services, provided that they have used the parking space for not more than three hours.

    Like Herrera’s bill, HB No. 3262 mandates business owners and operators of parking enterprises to maintain and provide security in the parking spaces of their establishments.

    In addition, the proposed law will hold establishment owners accountable for loss or damage of property suffered by a customer while their vehicle is parked inside these parking spaces by prohibiting operators from invoking a waiver of liability.

    The Valenzuela lawmaker noted that the current practice of business establishments is to waive any responsibility to whatever happens to a customer’s vehicle while parked inside their parking structures.

    “What came out in the (committee) hearings last month is whenever you park your vehicle in an establishment, like malls, hotels, or hospitals, you’ll see it in the fine print of your parking ticket that the establishment is not responsible for anything that will happen to your vehicle. Sometimes there’s a message posted in parking spaces that you’re parking at your own risk,” he said.

    Based on the report submitted by the Philippine National Police, a total of 1,007 “basag-kotse” incidents have been reported from 2016 to October 2019. However, no mall owner or parking operator has ever been held liable for the damage and loss suffered by their patrons despite charging exorbitant fees.

    Under Gatchalian’s bill, the imposition of fees for the use of parking spaces and facilities in shopping malls, hospitals, schools, or other similar establishments, including vacant lots and buildings that are solely devoted for parking lot use, will be regulated to keep prices within reasonable bounds.