Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte has proposed a compromise proposal to the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority—that provincial buses be allowed to traverse Epifanio de los Santos Ave. during non-peak hours like after midnight till before dawn.
“Rather than totally prohibit provincial buses from traversing EDSA, the MMDA should consider a compromise formula in which these public utility buses [PUBs] are allowed on the National Capital Region’s main highway during non-peak hours,” said Villafuerte, one of the congressmen who attended the Senate Committee on Public Services Tuesday on the implementation of the provincial bus ban as well as on other traffic problems gripping Metro Manila.
Villafuerte, former Camarines Sur governor, first made this suggestion during this week’s Senate inquiry into this controversial MMDA project that has met separate legal challenges before the Supreme Court and a regional trial court in Quezon City.
Villafuerte earlier filed House Resolution 165 seeking an inquiry into MMDA Regulation Number 19-002, which seeks to prohibit provincial buses from traversing EDSA and to shut down these PUB terminals along this major thoroughfare.
The Bicolano solon had called on MMDA to junk its “failed experiment’ on a total provincial bus ban on the belief that this was an “anti-poor and anti-small business” project that would adversely affect commuters, especially those coming from the provinces who would be forced to cough up more money to pay for costlier transport alternatives in the metropolis like Grab and taxis.
“As a probinsyano, a simple compromise solution I believe is for MMDA to allow provincial buses on EDSA during non-peak hours such as 2 a.m. to 4 a.m.,” he said.
He said that buses in Naga City, for example, that leave at 8 p.m. arrive in Metro Manila the following early morning at between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. “That would allow provincial buses to come in non-peak hours, hence partially solving the traffic congestion problem buffeting EDSA.”
Villafuerte said the MMDA scheme smacks of a “double standard” because provincial buses would be prohibited on EDSA even as the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) allows 14,000 new premium taxis and 2,000 new point-to-point (P2P) buses to service passengers in the drop-off points in Valenzuela City, Metro Manila and in Sta. Rosa City, Laguna. “What’s the difference between a P2P bus and provincial bus?”
“My stand is this ban is anti-poor and kawawa ang taumbayan lalo na sa mga taga-probinsiya (this is bad for ordinary commuters, especially those from the provinces),” he said during the hearing of the Senate committee on public services chaired by Sen. Grace Poe Llamanzares.
“The MMDA should work on a comprehensive program that would really decongest traffic not only on EDSA but on other major roads in Metro Manila as well,” Villafuerte said in a statement, “as it waits for the courts’ final action on this controversial initiative.”
The MMDA’s experiment last week apparently flopped, prompting MMDA to put the “dry run” on hold after only five percent of the reported 2,736 affected buses joined the first day of the project.
It had pushed through with the “dry run” last week despite a writ of preliminary injunction issued two weeks ago by Quezon City RTC Branch 223 presiding judge Caridad Walse Lutero to stop the implementation of this EDSA provincial bus ban.
Villafuerte said the House would conduct a parallel inquiry hoping that lawmakers could eventually craft new legislation that would help authorities solve the worsening traffic congestion plaguing EDSA and Metro Manila’s other major roads.
“With this temporary relief coming from QC RTC Branch 223, the MMDA needs to wait for the final decision of the Supreme Court on the separate petitions seeking a permanent halt to this supposed traffic decongestion plan,’ Villafuerte said.“In the meantime, the House needs to go ahead on studying this MMDA directive with an eye on eventually writing new legislation that would help authorities come up with measures to genuinely decongest not just EDSA but other Metro Manila roads as well.”
Over at the Senate, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go has underscored the need to address the heavy economic and social damage wrought about by the “hellish” traffic in Metro Manila.
He lamented the daily loses incurred by the government due to heavy traffic which amount to billions of pesos.
Go aired his concern on how the government can solve this problem to reduce economic losses.
“In 2018, Japan International Cooperation Agency or JICA came out with the statement, showing that our government lose more than PhP3.5 billion daily in 2017 because if heavy traffic in Metro Manila,” said Go, vice chair of the Senate finance committee.
With seventeen highly urbanized cities and a municipality, and an estimated population of thirteen million based on the 2015 Census of Population, Go emphasized the need for great political will wherein transport needs of the people must be constantly met and provided as soon as possible as population in the metro is increasing.
“We must always place the best interests of the people in mind, for they are the reason that we are taking these steps in the first place,” he said.
Go said there are a lot of factors that contribute to the growing traffic problem.
“We are facing the problem involving not only the volume of cars. An example here is the issue of road obstruction, that is recently one of the most violated traffic laws,” he said.
During the Senate public service hearing to look into the proposed ban of provincial buses on EDSA, Go asked
members of the different government transportation agencies updates on the train cars that were ordered to be built and used immediately on the metro’s train system.
“The term of the PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte) has been there for years, what updates on the trains have we done,” Go asked and stressed that these train systems can be upgraded to the faster ones.
Go said he supports the goal of the committee, chaired by Sen. Grace Poe, which is to ensure the viability and connectivity of the integrated transport terminals, to ultimately encourage people to use public transport.
“Our goal is to have a good public transport system so we can contribute to solve the worsening traffic while taking into consideration the best interests of our commuters,” Go explained.
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