Government should find another way of decongesting Metro Manila’s major thoroughfare instead of aggravating the inconveniences of hundreds of thousands of provincial bus commuters, research group IBON said. Commuters’ welfare should be the primary consideration of the Duterte administration in addressing transport woes, said the group, but its approach should be comprehensive and regulation should cover private vehicles as well.
During a hearing conducted by the Senate Committee on Public Services, IBON supported calls to scrap the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA)’s Regulation Number 19-002, which aims to remove all provincial public utility bus (PUB) terminals from the entire length of EDSA in order to ease traffic. That provincial buses are instead directed to load and unload in integrated terminals in Sta. Rosa, Laguna for PUBs coming from the south, in Paranaque for those with terminals in Pasay City, and in Valenzuela City for those coming from the north, is inconsiderate of hundreds of thousands of commuters who have to take the provincial bus regularly, the group said.
IBON said that the MMDA regulation nitpicks on provincial buses servicing a big number of commuters without addressing the fact that private cars make up most of daily EDSA traffic and pollution. Based on MMDA and commuter network Move Metro Manila/ Komyut figures, IBON estimates that provincial buses move up to 425,000 commuters, while cars plying EDSA move at least 370,000. Cars, however, comprise 65% of traffic and also contribute more to pollution and carbon dioxide emissions, noted the group. Buses, meanwhile, 66% of which are provincial, take up only 3.5 percent.
Metro Manila’s transport system lacking a last-mile system makes relocating provincial bus terminals to limited spots more difficult for provincial bus commuters, IBON added. Memo 19-002 adds another layer instead of simplifying the transportation process for commuters. It not only aggravates their plight in combating traffic but even adds cost due to additional rides for example. IBON said that in other countries, last-mile solutions include publicly available shuttle rides or bicycle infrastructure that ensure seamless mobility from a central hub or terminal to a passenger’s final destination.
IBON said that the bus ban also disregards how many ordinary passengers live in neighboring provinces but work in the National Capital Region (NCR) for lack of job opportunities elsewhere. Taking the train is no viable alternative because the country’s rail systems and interlinkage remain quite underdeveloped to say the least, said the group. The public Philippine National Railways has not been restored to its full potential and only runs from Tondo to Laguna; the other public Light Rail Transit (LRT) systems operate only within Metro Manila. The private Metro Rail Transit 3, meanwhile, traverses EDSA but only partially, and has a record of multiple breakdowns and mishaps due to inefficient management regardless of fare hikes.
Looming public utility jeep (PUJ) phaseout worsens the scenario and not only for provincial bus commuters, said IBON. This is because PUJs currently play a proxy role in first mile and last mile functions, or in taking commuters to and from areas near central transport hubs.
IBON said that traffic solutions that are arbitrary and inimical to the public such as the bus ban should be rescinded. Instead, government should forge a pro-people solution to traffic woes that can start with conducting genuine consultations with affected sectors for all mass transport endeavors. The group added that congestion due to too many private cars can be checked, such as with a congestion tax, stricter street parking rules, and perhaps even curbing car ownership.
It may also be necessary, IBON said, to conduct an audit of road and rail safety including the accountability of corporations and agencies involved. As with other public services, privatization and the user-fees policy should be stopped in mass transport, said the group.
In its transport policy study titled “Mass Transport System in Metro Manila and the Quest for Sustainability”, IBON said that government’s direction should be to craft a sustainable mass transport system: It should be efficient – meaning shortest travel time, shortest possible distance, and least changes in transport mode. It should be reliable, where expected travel time is actual travel time, and unnecessary waiting is minimized. It should be accessible – meaning infrastructure is easy to access, and affordable as well as considerate of the specific needs of various sectors. It should be safe to prevent harm and ensure pedestrian-friendly conditions. It must also be environmentally sound using clean and energy-efficient fuels and promoting non-motorized transport such as cycling and walking. ###