Bicol solons blast bus ban in Manila

LEGAZPI CITY --- Albay lawmakers have joined hands to strongly oppose the plan of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to ban provincial buses along EDSA and the transfer of their stations to a transport terminal in Santa Rosa, Laguna.

Albay 3rd District Representative Fernando Gonzalez and Ako Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin on Saturday joined Congressman Joey Salceda to reject the impending ban of provincial buses from plying the EDSA routes.

Salceda in an interview said the MMDA ban on provincial buses is not an answer to the horrendous traffic situation in Metro Manila. Rather, he said, it would cause “great economic disruption, inconvenience, expense and damage to multitudes of commuters to and from as far as the Visayas and the Bicol region.” He branded the MMDA bus ban at EDSA as “anti-poor and anti-probinsyano.”

The solons recommended that public transport utilities, such as buses and trains be managed and operated by the government citing countries, such as New York, Canada, and Japan that have efficient public transportation systems.

Garbin said, “If the MMDA thinks that this (the ban) can solve the Metro Manila traffic problem, they are wrong because the only solution is for the government to provide for an efficient, effective, and affordable transport system.”

He added, “the reason why we have millions of private vehicles plying EDSA is because we don’t have a public transport being managed and operated by the government.”

Garbin said people bring their own cars because there is no public transport that provides effective, and efficient service.

Salceda, quoting transportation statistics, said, “there are 2.8 million cars in the National Capital Region versus 4,000 provincial buses: sino kaya nagpapatraffic (who do you think is, actually, causing traffic)?” he asked.

There are 1,500 buses from South Luzon, with another 2,500 north-bound. Of these south-bound buses, 236 are from Albay plying the Albay-Metro Manila route.

Gonzalez said he has already discussed this matter with Catanduanes Rep, Cezar Sarmiento, chairman of the House Committee on Transportation, where the committee has passed a resolution asking the MMDA to defer the implementation of the order until a hearing may be conducted by the committee on the controversial issue.

He added: “The ban is unacceptable and it will be chaotic for Bicolano bus riders and also those from the Visayas, and Mindanao.”

The MMDA claims that the ban, previously scheduled for implementation in April and moved to June this year by the MMDA is among the answers to the worsening traffic situation in Metro Manila.

Anti-poor: Salceda said the ban shifts the burden of inconvenience to provincial commuters, particularly students and traders and ordinary families with relatives in Metro Manila as they will now have to transfer to another inter-city vehicle, paying an extra fare.

Salceda said the ban is anti-poor since most provincial bus passengers are those who can only pay the ordinary and air-conditioned buses at lower than P1,000 amount, and worse, they can’t afford the more expensive air fares.

This measure is injurious to the poor from rural areas in terms of (1) additional inconvenience; (2) additional “minimum” fare; (3) additional time to destination; and (4) double loading.

Albayano traders and commuters, especially those who cannot afford more expensive air transportation, are being deprived of their mobility, he said.

Salceda said prohibiting provincial buses in the National Capital Region will not solve the area’s traffic problems. Instead, they should have managed the 800,000 utility vehicles, 400,000 cars, 120,000 trucks and 1.4 million tricycles fighting for every available space on the streets of Metro Manila.

Why pick on our pobreng probinsyanos to solve Metro Manila traffic? While each bus can carry 50, each car carries only five. So, theoretically, if you have 3,000 buses from the provinces, you are exchanging them for 15,000 more cars in EDSA.

Technically, instead of 1 provincial bus bringing in the 50 passengers, they would now need 4 jeepneys that ferry 12 persons each, said Salceda.

Transfer of terminals:

The transfer and opening of the terminal in the outskirts of Metro Manila were mulled several times in the past but were postponed due to lack of coordination among the agencies involved.

The plan has met strong opposition, mostly from operators and commuters, and the Provincial Bus Operators Association of the Philippines has dismissed it as a ‘band-aid’ solution to a serious ailment.