A worried transport sector in limbo
The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board’s (LTFRB) March 8 decision to allow provincial utility (PAA) buses to operate on interregional routes has not lifted the spirits of bus operators whose bottom lines are languishing in the red.
It could have been a welcome development for a pandemic-battered industry, if only the government had also allowed them to use their own bus terminals located in Metro Manila. Worse, such restrictions could also prove torturous to the public now that commerce is slowly returning to pre-pandemic operations.
Former Senator Nikki Coseteng contacted BusinessWise in reaction to the February 10 column we wrote on the matter. “I actually plead for the same reasons cited by thousands of commuters affected by this flawed government project in your column,” she said, “[although] I have no interest here. I am not a bus operator nor am I running for a government position.
The former senator said serving the public didn’t stop when she “retired” from public service. “You see, I don’t value the services that I render to the public in a private capacity. I don’t usually seek publicity for what I do, but I simply can’t turn down people who ask for my help especially if their grievances warrant action.
Coseteng described government policy as ruthless. “It is not only flawed, but insensitive to the predicament of the transport sector and users.”
In LTFRB Circular No. 2022-023, all PUB operators with valid Certificate of Public Convenience (CPC), Provisional Authority (PA) and Special Permits are permitted to resume operations and use only designated terminals to and from Metro Manila. .
Coseteng said this recent policy does not change anything as provincial buses are still banned from using their respective terminals in Metro Manila. She explained that commuters have to make multiple hellish journeys to reach their respective destinations, which is demonstrated in a video she sent to BusinessWise. The video showed her several times changing public vehicles – from a jeepney to a tricycle just to reach the government-designated bus station in Bocaue, Bulacan, from Cubao. She said what makes it even more revolting (as shown in the video) is that the terminal designated by the LTFRB was empty of buses.
“I repeatedly challenged the Secretary of the Ministry of Transport [Arthur] Tugade and all government officials must get out of their luxury cars and SUVs and use public transport instead for 30 days to feel how they are punishing the public on the move,” Coseteng fumed. “It will make your blood boil to see how much commuters suffer from this poorly thought out traffic solution. What if it rains? What if the temperature soars, now that summer is upon us? Just think of the burden commuters have to endure just to get to their respective offices and schools. »
Despite repeated pleas from bus operators, Coseteng added, Tugade’s intransigence in enforcing the provincial bus ban along Edsa is disastrous.
Earlier, the Nagkakaisang Samahan ng Nangangasiwa ng Panlalawigang Bus Sa Pilipinas Inc. (NSNPBSPI) – an organization made up of legitimate provincial bus companies – claimed that routes previously assigned to them had been taken over by “colorum” vehicles. The group laments that this development has damaged the financial viability of legitimate provincial buses.
In 2019, the LTFRB issued Memorandum Circular 2019-031 which calls for the creation of three government-built integrated terminals to serve as provincial bus terminals instead of their own. Northbound provincial buses were ordered to pick up and drop off passengers at Sta. Integrated Terminal of Rosa (Laguna) in Laguna and the Stock Exchange of the Integrated Terminal of Parañaque (City). Buses coming from the north have been ordered to use the North Luzon Express terminal in Bocaue, Bulacan.
Tugade justified this decision as necessary to relieve traffic congestion along Edsa. He said bus terminals were one of the main causes of heavy traffic on Edsa.
Coseteng said the LTFRB’s policy is “anti-business”. She said bus companies had spent millions building their terminals; and, despite the provincial bus ban in Edsa, heavy traffic persists. “It just proves the plan isn’t working and they need to think of other ways to balance the need to reduce traffic and keep the transport sector on the same footing.”
In 2019, the NSNPBSPI won the lawsuit it filed in the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (QCRTC) against the Metro Manila Development Authority and the LTFRB. Presiding Judge Caridad M. Walse-Lutero issued a writ of preliminary injunction against LTFRB Memorandum Circulars 2019-031 and MMDA By-law 19-002.
On February 26, 2021, the Interagency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases released Resolution 101, which further restricted the movements of provincial buses. Bus companies have felt the economic pain to the full force of the law under this public health emergency law.
The bus companies claim their financial losses were compounded by the repudiation of the decision by the LTFRB and the Land Transportation Office of the QCRTC. With law enforcement improperly shutting down bus companies plying provincial roads, only 10% of provincial bus fleets could operate, even if they hold state franchises, pay registration and operating licenses , and operate above the edge. These bus companies denounce the way the government turns a blind eye to non-franchised vehicles – which pay no tax to the government – which now use Edsa and cause similar bottlenecks before the pandemic.
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