DOTr project a flop?
DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) - December 17, 2018 - 12:00am

This time, DOTr made something happen fast. As soon as they inaugurated the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (PITX), DOTr made sure it flopped.

And to think the so-called flagship project of this administration was inaugurated with pomp and splendor. President Duterte said the PITX would help ease traffic in Metro Manila and make commuting more bearable for Filipinos.

When Duterte inaugurated it, he proudly said it “will offer passengers a safer, state-of-the-art, and convenient terminal experience that will hopefully contribute in addressing traffic congestion in Metro Manila.”

The President also said the PITX would help ease traffic by limiting provincial buses plying Metro Manila roads, specifically along Roxas Boulevard and the EDSA-Taft area.

How did DOTr sabotage its own project?

DOTr issued Department Order 2018-025 on Oct. 12 exempting around 160 buses from terminating at PITX, converting them to commuter units. This was further affirmed LTFRB Memorandum Circular-22 released on Nov. 21. 

The DOTr orders allowed the exempted units to load and unload passengers within Metro Manila. Since the buses/routes carry more than 50 percent of the passenger traffic out of the Batangas-Cavite area, the newly inaugurated landport is practically dead.

Probably, DOTr Sec. Art Tugade could not resist the political pressure from Cavite politicians and influential bus operators. Tugade is playing favorites by exempting some bus operators and not others.

Unless Tugade quickly fixes this mess, the government will lose its credibility among investors. What stupid investor will now take government’s word that their investment will be protected when concession terms are virtually and drastically changed the day after inauguration?

Megawide invested P3.5 billion for a 35 year concession to run the “landport.” They were banking on the 1,000 buses and up to 200,000 passengers using the terminal to help recover their investment. The concession agreement, after all, assured Megawide all provincial buses would stop at PITX. It is now serving only 2,000 passengers daily.

The concession agreement also calls for government to pay P100 million a year for 35 years, which Tugade publicly announced had been waived by Megawide at his suggestion. Megawide is now saying it remains part of the concession agreement.

The concept also calls for other profit opportunities to pay for construction and other costs like rented spaces for restaurants and other services. But the tenants will move in only if there are enough passengers using the terminal.

The PITX serves as a transfer point for passengers alighting from provincial buses from Cavite and Batangas, and transferring to in-city modes of transportation bound for Metro Manila’s southwest, and vice versa.

It houses departure, arrival, and bay areas for provincial and city buses, UV express and jeepneys, and parking slots. Park-ride facilities and maintenance areas for vehicle repair are also available.

Ironically, Tugade himself said the construction of the “world-class” transportation hub within the first half of the Duterte administration demonstrates the government’s resolve to provide “comfortable life” to Filipinos.

“Never before has this been done in the republic, so world-class that there are facilities that are beneficial to senior citizens and to persons with disabilities.”

The whole idea was part of a plan to stop the estimated 15,000 provincial buses from entering Metro Manila every day and contribute to the traffic mess. Transport officials thought having bus terminals outside or at the entrance to Metro Manila was a solution.

The PITX is one of three intermodal terminals that the government plans to build, the other two being the Taguig Integrated Terminal Exchange and the North Integrated Terminal Exchange in Bulacan. But with what is happening at PITX, Ayala may just drop the plan to have one of the terminals in their property in Taguig.

For nearby provinces like Cavite, bus operators claim they shouldn’t be classified as provincial because they perform shuttle services. I guess that’s the line they sold to Tugade. 

In an ideal situation, the main city commuter line to serve Cavite should be the LRT extension that is taking decades to get started. The provincial buses will no longer be needed once that LRT line is done.

On that basis alone, the assumption used by Megawide is already flawed. In a few years, if you believe Tugade, the LRT extension will be completed and only those from Batangas will be using PITX.

Right now, it is dog-eat-dog in that Cavite to Manila corridor. UVs are competing with buses and should be taken out. UVs should just be assigned on feeder routes. 

If DOTr officials know what they are doing, they should have addressed the problem of PITX users before they broke ground. The LTFRB should have revised franchises and worked harder to root out the “colorums.”

For PITX to work, one traffic expert who has experience in government thinks they need to totally eliminate the Baclaran, Pasay and MOA terminals. But that requires political will and despite Tugade’s usual bluster, he doesn’t have that.

But more than just the provincial buses, the mess at EDSA is also about the city buses with more than 50 owners and 120 routes. They fight tooth and nail for passengers. Hence traffic gridlock!

Indeed, when we suggested to Tugade to ask for emergency powers to fix traffic problems, it was never about exemption from regular bidding rules. It was to be used to once and for all fix the mess of bus franchises on EDSA. 

DOTr must get those operators to form just a few consortia based on routes. DOTr must also force the various consortia to end the boundary system and to start paying their drivers and conductors salaries and give them fixed work hours. 

It is terrible how government works. It took them years to get a project done and when it is delivered, it becomes an expensive white elephant because other things have not been attended to. Such a criminal waste of money.

Duterte must get truly qualified people to run his flagship projects and not just his friends. What happened to PITX should embarrass the President. It is such a horrible waste. 

With DOTr responsible for most of the Build Build Build projects, expect similar incompetence that will bring President Duterte  shame. 

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is Follow him on Twitter @boochanco

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