By Arjay L. Balinbin, Multimedia Editor

THE Department of Transportation is in talks to join the International Transport Forum (ITF), ITF Secretary-General Young Tae Kim said.

“We discussed the current questions in the mobility sector in the Philippines, but more broadly, we also discussed the possible joining of the Philippines into the ITF community,” Mr. Kim told BusinessWorld on Tuesday, referring to the outcome of his April 24 meeting with Transportation Secretary Jaime J. Bautista.

The ITF serves as a policy think tank for all modes of transport. It is an arm of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

According to the ITF, only eight out of its 64 member countries are from Asia, including Cambodia, China, Japan, South Korea, and India. 

Last year, Cambodia became the first Southeast Asian country to join the ITF after being unanimously voted in by the membership during the annual summit in Leipzig, Germany.

“To make more balanced discussions and to provide more balanced solutions, we need to have more non-European countries, because out of 64, 44 countries are from Europe, so the Secretary (Mr. Bautista) thought about this positively, and we will further discuss how we can arrange the Philippines joining the ITF in the future,” Mr. Kim said.

The ITF, through its members, aims to set the future direction of the mobility sector. It also hosts the largest meeting of transport ministers every year in Germany.

“If the Philippines becomes a member, it can officially participate in the discussion to set the orientation for the future mobility sector,” Mr. Kim said.

“Also, the Philippines can participate in our research projects. We publish between 30 and 60 reports every year that reflect the expectations and needs of member countries.”

According to the organization, it is implementing a four-year sustainable infrastructure program in Asia running until 2025 to encourage the transition towards cleaner energy, transport, and industrial systems, particularly in Central Asia and Southeast Asia.

“Existing members can (also) learn from the Philippines, the new member, because every region has a different context and… specific elements, and we have to take into account all the differences in terms of diversity and in terms of the relevance of the policy implementation, and I think, in this respect, the Philippines might benefit a lot from working more closely with the ITF,” Mr. Kim said.

The ITF also said that it aims to disseminate best practices for fostering low-carbon freight transport systems in the Philippines.

“In the Philippines, I know that all the supply chain really depends on freight transportation, which emits a lot of CO2 (carbon dioxide), and we cannot change everything immediately, but how we can set up a relevant governance system to make all the things possible…, how we can build consensus so that people can change their behavior…, and how other countries are doing, we have to know,” Mr. Kim noted.

Asked to comment on the state of Philippine transportation, he said: “You see on the roads, unlike the case in European countries, you have a lot of motorcycles, and you have a very specific transport mode in the Philippines, and I saw at a gas station that you still have octane 91, and I think everything should be upgraded and improved, but how we can do it quickly, that’s an issue or a question, but I think, first of all, the government should prepare a good regulation.”

The 2023 ITF summit will take place between May 24 and 26 in Leipzig.

Discussions will center on the role of transportation in improving social welfare, providing benefits to society, and promoting inclusion, while minimizing externalities such as traffic congestion, air and maritime pollution, and road crashes, the ITF said.

The summit will also cover how transport stakeholders can promote system resilience.