Preventing prov’l buses from entering Metro discriminatory, says Salceda
MANILA, Philippines–Albay Gov. Joey Salceda asked the Supreme Court on Monday to stop national government agencies from preventing the entry of passenger buses from the Bicol region into Metro Manila and restricting them to a common terminal in Muntinlupa City.
In a petition for prohibition and mandamus, Salceda said that the bus scheme which, according to him was enforced without consultation, discriminated against ordinary rural folk who take the bus such as students, traders and those with relatives in Metro Manila.
Named respondents in the suit were the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) and its chair Winston Ginez; Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and its chair Francis Tolentino; and the Muntinlupa City government and Mayor Jaime Fresnedi.
The MMDA and LTFRB inaugurated on Aug. 27 the South Interim Provincial Terminal, a common terminal at the Alabang South Station for all buses coming from Bicol and Southern Tagalog provinces.
“They can’t just do this to us. They’re turning us into scapegoats. It’s as if being rural folk is something to be ashamed of. If you look at the government data, there are only 5,600 buses out of the more than seven million registered vehicles in the country,” Salceda told reporters. He noted that only 236 buses were plying Manila-Bicol routes.
The “abrupt and unconscionable change” in the routes of the buses, Salceda said in his petition, would cause “economic disruption, gross inconvenience and unnecessary expenses” for him and his constituents.
The Albay governor who was in Manila to take his oath as the newly elected chair for the Bicol regional development council before President Aquino, said that commuters from his province were being inconvenienced and must now pay more since they had to transfer to another vehicle upon reaching Alabang.
Bus companies are also fearful of reduced income, endangering the jobs of transport workers, he added.
Salceda noted that all buses in Albay have their own terminals in Metro Manila and have even entered into lease contracts for the lots they were using.
“The people who are riding the bus are the ones who can’t afford to ride in a plane. When you hurt the bus companies, you hurt the passengers. What do they want—that we all ride in planes?” he said.
Salceda said he himself takes the bus from Legazpi City or Polangui in Albay to Cubao, Quezon City, or Pasay City whenever his vehicle is unavailable.
“Why are people from the province being inconvenienced? Where is the concept of shared burden here? The buses from the province enter Metro Manila and then leave, unlike the other vehicles that just go around the metropolis. I’m wondering why they are going after us and not the 800,000 cars and 1.8 million utility vehicles,” he added.
Salceda said that the LTFRB, MMDA and other agencies should have studied the scheme well, adding: “They should be the first to know about the empirical bases of their policies. It seems they can’t solve the traffic problem so they are making us their scapegoats.”
The governor asked the high court to issue a temporary restraining order on the scheme as well as a writ of preliminary injunction while the case was being litigated.
Contacted by the Inquirer, Tolentino declined to comment on Salceda’s petition.
The setting up of common terminals for provincial buses is aimed at easing traffic in Metro Manila, particularly on major thoroughfares like Edsa.