Transport groups call for temporary suspension of anti-colorum campaign
Photo shows enforcers of the Inter-Agency Council for Traffic conducting random checks as part of its enforcement of health protocols in public transport and campaign against colorum.
Release/Inter-Agency Council for Traffic

Transport groups call for temporary suspension of anti-colorum campaign

Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - April 8, 2021 - 2:32pm

MANILA, Philippines — It might be time for transportation authorities to rethink their intensified campaign against colorum, transport collectives said Thursday. 

According to the Land Transportation Office at a press briefing Thursday, health and capacity protocols are often violated in these illegal operations, which puts passengers at risk of coronavirus transmission.

As a result of the intensified efforts, 178 colorum vehicles have been apprehended since January of this year. The operation is simple: if enforcers suspect any illegal activity, they said, vehicles are pulled over for inspection. Vans and trucks that are found to violate colorum rules are charged a hefty penalty of up to P200,000.

But the operations against colorum — which include private carpool shuttles — have been going on since the start of a coronavirus pandemic that has severely limited public transportation. 

READ: In ECQ 'bubble', checkpoints for commuter safety harm hard-up drivers

"Because commuters can’t find rides, some private companies are taking the initiative to find ways to get their employees to their place of work and this, actually, helps the economy. We’re still studying the policy, because it’s also right to remind colorum vehicles that operate without franchises that what they're doing is contrary to policy," Primo Morillo, convenor of commuter advocacy group The Passenger Forum, told Philstar.com in a phone call.

In response to criticism over transport capacity, the DOTr presented supposedly rising figures showing that 76% of all PUV units may now ply their routes. However, individual units are still capped out at 50% restrictions, and not all units that are allowed to run actually choose to operate at a loss — all due to the fear that overzealous officers manning checkpoints strike in operators. 

Health reasons 

Retired general Manuel Gonzales, who chairs the I-ACT, said that enforcers are directed to "look at the correct wearing of face masks and shields and the correct capacity of riders in the EDSA carousel buses."

"We’re coordinating with the PNP through the highway patrol. Generally, they don’t see the illegal riders right away. So they really need to check inside to see the passengers they’re bringing. We’re deploying people but we really can’t see right away if there are any violators," LTO chief and transportation assistant secretary Edgar Galvante also said. 

"There are some who offer their services on social media. We have people who reach out to those and pose as customers who can be taken advantage of. We’ve caught a number of people doing this and inviting people to patronize them...if we see those posts, we reach out and have them explain." 

The campaign stems from Memorandum Circular 2019-003 issued by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board which reads:

  • Private vehicles must be covered by a long-term lease contract of not less than three (3) years between the lessee and the car rental company/owner 
  • The vehicle must be exclusively used and driven by the lessee or his/her authorized representative  

"We need the help of our passengers not to tolerate or ride in these colorum operations if they encounter these. Our operators continue every day regardless of the mode whether this is a truck or a van. If you are a colorum, we will apprehend you," LTFRB Metro Manila director Zona Tamayo said. 

Arrests on colorum drivers are among the more polarizing campaigns under an enhanced community quarantine that has significantly cut down on the capacity of public transportation. 

The health side of things is certainly a valid concern. Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade has called the practice "coronavirus smuggling," though no evidence yet exists that similar carpools are linked to the spike in cases. This was in response to reports of trucking companies and colorum vehicles that, he said, illegally transport COVID untested people into the so-called NCR+ bubble.

On the other hand, commuters have once again had to face long lines and cramped rides since the imposition of the second ECQ in a year, both of which leave the door wide open for coronavirus transmission. 

"We understand people need to get home to their families, but let's make sure they follow the rules so they don't bring the virus home to them," Tugade was quoted as saying Thursday. 

READ: Familiar transport woes show no lessons learned from last ECQ

Insufficient transport supply 

For transport groups, the shortage of transportation options calls for alternatives that the private sector can provide. 

Asked about the public transportation crisis in 2020, even the Palace called on private companies to find ways to get their workers to work. This call came at the same time that the campaign against colorum was in place. 

"Pre-pandemic, colorum PUVs take away from the income of registered transport options like jeeps and buses. But if the situation is like this, and we can see that there is an apparent shortage of PUVs, we ask that the government temporarily suspend the apprehension of colorums. It will help commuters, it will help some people find an income during the crisis, and it will help the economy," Morillo added in mixed Filipino and English. 

In a letter addressed to transportation officials, the Move as One transport coalition called for a temporary stop to the campaign for the time being. 

"People have resorted to organizing their own 'private' transport because of the severe public transport shortage; this is because people need to get to work in order to survive.  If public transport were safe, stable, and sufficient, there would be no demand for 'colorum' operations," the group said. 

"There should be a moratorium on all anti-colorum operations while there is a clear shortage in public transport...The overloading of vehicles is an indication that the public transport supply is seriously insufficient, which DOTr needs to remedy. It will not be solved by penalizing the transport operator or driver."

READ: LTFRB chairman Delgra urged: Act now on transport situation

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