By Jason B. Neola
NAGA CITY --- In jovial mood, City Councilor Joselito SA Del Rosario recounted in his privilege speech last Tuesday the city government’s January 16, 2014 takeover of the operations of the central bus terminal, renamed Bicol Central Station (BCS).
The facility’s management shift, Del Rosario said, has resulted in better operations which were apparently not evident when it was operating under the contracted private management system.
“Amidst the currents of the evolution of new public management styles and theories that encourage the greater participation of the private economic sector in public service delivery, there may be certain situations wherein the opposite trend results in better governance,” Del Rosario said in his speech.
Records at the BCS and the City Treasurer’s Office showed that from net income of P26.1M in 2014 to P27M in 2015, the transport terminal proceeded to register a net income of P31.2M in 2017, from P28M the previous year.
The fiscal gains were met after the city government under the administration of Mayor John G. Bongat had implemented various improvements in the facility, specifically its operating system of the passengers’ buses, the terminal display system, upgrading of tarmac and beautification of comfort rooms and offices.
The physical development and the improvement in the operations of BCS “support the claim that the city has evolved into the higher level of governance after absorbing and learning from the private sector a management style that goes along with the city government’s desire for the bus terminal to be a viable, multi-function, and comfortable business hub,” he said.
The central bus terminal was an integral part of the city-wide development plan crafted by the administration of the late Mayor Jesse M. Robredo during his term from February 1, 1988 to June 30, 1998.
It was the time when the city government began to make strides to realize its overall vision of bringing the city from decades of old doldrums to a dynamic and rapidly growing city. Through ordinance 93-041, the Sangguniang Panlungsod showed its support to the development plan that paved the way for the creation of a new commercial center, now called the Central Business District II, the site where the central terminal for public utility buses was constructed. The plan was pursued with public approval through a citywide referendum.
It was in 1997 when the construction of the World Bank-funded Central Bus Terminal started. Through a loan obtained from the international funding institution’s Municipal Development Fund, the city government was able to build the P44 million-transport facility.
“At this point the country was only about years away from the re-institution of democracy after the EDSA People Power Revolution that toppled the dictatorship and restored the democratic political institutions of the Philippines including the crafting and application of a new Constitution,” Del Rosario recalls.
He said it was also the time when the country was on development strategy swinging away from oligopolies by way of privatization of major public services. The economic and political mood was then tilted towards the principle that the efficiency of the private sector in managing and operating social economic enterprise would lead to better service for the people.
The city government’s plan to assume the operations of the bus terminal came in 2013 when its contract with a private company was about to expire. The plan, however, was brought and discussed first before the members of the City Development Council (CDC) that deliberated on different options presented by the local government unit.
The city development council is composed representatives from different sectors including business leaders from different groups. It voted in favor of the city government’s plan to operate the bus terminal effective January 1, 2014.
Evolution of new administration
As it moves forward, the city councilor said, the city can therefore be said to have crossed the phase wherein private participation is required to enable the city to apply an entrepreneurial mode of management wherein the city hall itself has developed the capability to employ the principles of economic rationality to generate more income from its operations.
“Utilizing the good governance perspective, one can examine the source of such capacities from the social, political, and economic context that may be assumed to have evolved due to the initial political environment that veered away from traditional politics. This is aided by the application of people’s participation and transparency institutionalized by the Local Government Code of 1991,” he said.
Del Rosario also put emphasis on his speech on the political culture of the city, which he said, can also be cited as one factor in the evolution of entrepreneurial mode of public administration. He said that Naga is a host of institutions of higher education and active local media that put constant pressure for the government officials to be accountable for their own decisions.
He cited the establishment of the Naga City People’s Council and the institutionalization of the Naga City Development Council as examples of people’s organization that emit high level of public participation in governance.
The analysis of the current performance of the bus terminal reflected initial success to the entry of the city into the entrepreneurial mode of public governance which was boosted by the positive results of the survey conducted by Ateneo de Naga Research Center which was undertaken in the first quarter of 2015.
“The challenge upon us is to sustain such achievements. The test will be maintaining a high level of professionalism in the management and operations, given its monopolistic advantage and lack of competition,” the councilor said.
Del Rosario concluded his speech by thanking the city government officials and employees for the presence and guidance they showed on the eve of January 16, 2014 takeover and for the strategic plans they mulled to improve the day to day operations of the facility. He also thanked Mayor Bongat for his decisiveness to act that led to the triumphant operations of the bus terminal by the city government.