Public buses

DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco - The Philippine Star

Problema kasi transport officials do not understand the daily struggles of bus commuters. They make their new rules in the comfort of their air conditioned offices without consulting affected commuters. Also, they ride cars, perhaps with wang wang escorts, and not buses, so they are inclined to sacrifice bus riders.

That in a nutshell summarizes the complaints I have been getting about the regulation of provincial buses. It is  a long festering problem that our transport officials can’t seem to resolve.

There are two competing concerns: the metro traffic problems that the buses are blamed for   aggravating; and most important, the need to provide adequate public transport for all provincial commuters.

As usual, it is easiest to impose an elitist solution that punishes powerless bus-riding commuters. That buses carry more people than cars is often ignored. The proper mission statement for DOTr and its agencies must be: Move people, not cars.

The non bus-riding bureaucrats concocted the idea of stopping the buses in terminals outside NCR to alleviate traffic problems. What used to be one bus ride for a provincial bus rider becomes at least two rides, with the second ride often difficult to get.

The bureaucrats at MMDA threw a crumb and allowed the provincial buses to enter the city between 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. though a window hour scheme. The bus operators protested and decided to not operate during regular day hours and just do so during the so-called window hours.

Riz Supreme Comia of the Move As One Coalition said many commuters are inconvenienced by forcing provincial buses taking northern Luzon routes to terminate at the North Luzon Express Terminals (NLET) during daytime. The terminal is located beside the Philippine Arena in Bulacan.

The same complaint was also aired by commuters whose buses are required to stop at Santa Rosa Integrated Terminal (SRIT) in Laguna, Comia said in a radio interview with Ted Failon.

“Mainam lang po kasi yung mga integrated terminals na ito sa loob ng syudad, kasi ‘yung intensyon po dapat ay mapadali yong paglipat natin sa ibat-ibang ruta at ibat ibang uri ng transportasyon gaya ng bus, tren at dyip,” Comia said on the radio program Ted Failon at DJ Chacha sa Radyo5.

She urged transportation officials not to make their day-to-day travel more difficult.

“Panahon na para ang prayoridad niyo ay yong 95 porsyento na mga Pilipino na walang sariling sasakyan katulad ko at katulad ng buong pamilya ko,” she said. “Bigyan niyo po kami ng pagkakataon at ng karapatan namin para makagalaw sa siyudad.”

Here is another message I received from a reader of this column:

“Good morning Boo. Hirap intindihin ng authorities na ang mga garahe ng provincial buses are here in Metro Manila. Kaya sa tingin nila useless yung i-drop off ang mga passengers sa NLET then proceed sa kanilang garahe dito sa Metro Manila.

“It is lamentable na dahil sa situation ngayon, namamayagpag ang operation ng colorum vehicles.”

I asked Secretary Tugade to comment. I got several responses from Asec Steve Co Pastor, which I integrated into one to save on space:

“It is worth noting that the routes with starting points in Region 3 to Metro Manila are provincial commuter bus routes and not provincial bus routes. The current 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. window hour scheme being implemented by MMDA does not cover the said provincial commuter bus routes, as these routes only originate from adjacent provinces of the National Capital Region (NCR). In fact, buses operating along these routes are not required to terminate in NLET…

“Neither the department nor the LTFRB required these provincial commuter buses to terminate in NLET. They are allowed to terminate in Cubao or Valenzuela. In fact, a number of city bus routes in the Mega Manila area operates within Bulacan and Cavite (e.g., routes 1, 5, 20, 22, and 21 operates in Balagtas, Angat, Meycauayan, Angat, and SJDM, respectively).

“In short, this issue was solely created by provincial bus route operators…

“Further, we would like to put in context that they, the provincial bus route operators, are the ones who refuse to operate as an apparent sign of protest to the window hour scheme of the MMDA, significantly affecting the day-to-day travel of our commuters from farther provinces.

“The LTFRB has already issued a Show Cause Order (SCO) to these operators to deploy their bus units. As franchise-holders, it is their obligation to ply their routes and serve the commuting public.”

So there is a distinction between provincial commuter buses and those that travel longer routes in northern and southern Luzon, including Bicol, Visayas and Mindanao. If I understand the explanation, the prohibition only covers the buses that travel longer distances.

That still doesn’t make sense from the bus passengers point of view. After being on the bus overnight or longer, the last thing you want to do is transfer to another bus, specially if you have a lot of baggage with you. Why do we have to make it difficult for our fellow Filipinos who can only afford to travel by bus to the big city?

This is why Rep. Joey Salceda of Albay called on MMDA and LTFRB to drop its window hours scheme for provincial buses in Metro Manila as the policy is “inequitable, unfair, ineffective, and just completely useless.”

Salceda cited data from the Philippine Statistics Authority that only around 4,000 provincial buses use Metro Manila’s roads out of a total of 2.8 million vehicles.

Salceda also criticized the “finger-pointing” over which agency imposed the rule that caused confusion and inconvenience. All transport policies of the LTFRB and the MMDA should be properly consulted with commuter groups and should have a clear, scientific case,” the economist congressman said.

Salceda said he takes the bus from Bicol and is talking from experience. “The clear problem in Edsa is too many cars and not enough trains and buses,” Salceda said.

The other Bicol bus passenger they should have consulted is VP Leni. She regularly rides the bus to Naga. If she wins this election, LTFRB and MMDA had better be ready with a better plan.



Boo Chanco’s email address is [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco.


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