"Commuters are suffering."
What was billed early on as one of the planks of a modern, traffic easing, efficient and seamless land transport system servicing the megalopolis (yes, Sir, Metro Manila and its influenced areas in the CALABARZON provinces is considered a megalopolis with a daytime population of close to 16 million and night time pretty much like 18 to 20 million) is turning out to be one big dud. A MESS by any measure.
Indeed, the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange, the first such inter modal transport facility, which is supposed to take care of the commuter traffic at the southwestern entry point of Metro Manila has hardly been used. It is almost like an abandoned gateway. Geared to servicing more than 250000 commuters daily, it has remained a ghost of its hyped prospect after almost a month of operation. This is a pity; it has become an interminable burden to the riding public it is supposed to serve.
Imagine the hassle of having to get up early from your part of Cavite or Laguna or Batangas to get to your Makati or BGC job on time only to have to stop at the PITX at the end of the Cavite Expressway near MOA; wait for 30 minutes if you are lucky to catch a ride to Baclaran which is just a spit away and then from there to catch the MRT3 or LRT1 for points further north or a cab as needed, stop at the Ayala intersection to catch another jeep or an angkas (motorcycle ride) to your place of work. That is a four or five transport transfer where before all you have to do is go to Baclaran, catch a ride to Ayala intersection and then off to your job.
You can probably bear with this hassle once or twice if you are just an office worker with no baggage to carry. What if you are going to visit a friend or a relative or on the way to job search so you have baggage to keep and handle. But having a five-transport transfer will definitely give you high blood pressure and move you to some spasms of anger. That is what this otherwise good move to ease commuters’ transport move has done and will continue to inflict on the riding public unless Transport Secretary Art Tugade, LTFRB Chairman Martin Delgra and MMDA Chairman Danny Lim intervene this early to tweak the system if they can.
Truth be told, the PITX can match the intermodal facilities elsewhere like in Singapore, Hong Kong and Melbourne, for example, if only the authorities have put in place the required connectivity with other transport means. Suppose to be this is the end point for all provincial buses from Southern Luzon whose passengers can then take the the MRT3 or LRT1, as the case maybe or the city buses which are the only ones allowed to ply the city routes or the jeepneys or taxis or UVs which will take the commuters to their final destination.
Unfortunately, the MRT3 and LRT1 are only up to Baclaran at this time tangled in a mess even as the contractors and concessionaires have been given notices to proceed. Equally tangled are the franchises of the buses and other PUVs as plying the messy routes within Metro Manila and those coming from the provinces.
What is even more condemnable as far as commuters and small-time PUV operators are concerned is the fact that the LTFRB issued an order exempting big time bus companies from the injunction that every provincial operator should unload passengers at the PITX and then turn around. As of last count, more than 300 buses from these operators have been allowed to unload at the PITX and then move to Baclaran or other end points within Metro Manila. That triggered a howl from all sectors which prompted the DOTr and LTFRB to back down.
This kind of “shooting-from-the-hip” kind of order making should be stopped. Rationality should come to the fore. This haphazardly issued order and the lingering connectivity issue so bedeviled callers to our Saturday morning show, Executive Session, over dzRH, that they peppered our good friend and co-host Governor Boying Remulla, with loads of complaints. So hysterical and justly so were the callers that we had to call LTFRB Executive Director Samuel Jardin who happened to be the governor’s classmate at the UP College of Law to clear a host of issues.
After admitting that indeed there have been a number of lapses, some bordering on out and out negligence, Director Jardin proceeded to outline a temporary solution to the mounting problems. The exemption given to big-time operators will be withdrawn, the moratorium on the issuance of franchises will be reviewed. In the meantime additional franchises will be issued, intensified drive against colorum vehicles will be undertaken and the LRT1 and MRT3 concessionaires and contractors will be required to submit an accelerated plan to connect the trains to the PITX. The latter move will take longer though and will probably require President Duterte’s and the court’s intervention.
That is something that needs to be done soonest to avoid this matter getting transformed into a political weapon when the campaign for the May 2019 elections get going. But we cannot afford to be mired in a business-as-usual kind of environment. Maybe it is time for Congress to revisit and fast track the approval of the “emergency powers” which the administration had sought early on to avoid being trapped in an even bigger mess.