MANILA — Lawmakers are enjoining bus companies operating in EDSA to form a consortium that will have a single dispatch system that can control the number of buses on the crammed thoroughfare, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority said Friday.
The MMDA, during weekends, is already testing the dispatch system that schedules the deployment of buses, said the agency's EDSA traffic chief Edison "Bong" Nebrija.
Activist leader Renato Reyes, however, pointed out that putting a schedule on bus firms is difficult because they are driven by "business interests, not public service."
"Paano mo iintegrate iyon, how will you put a schedule on these companies when ang iniisip nila, paano kami kikita?" he told ANC.
(How will you integrate that, how will you put a schedule on these companies when they're thinking, how will we earn?)
Nebrija replied that he recently received a call from House transportation committee chairman Edgar Sarmiento, who told him, "We're trying to pull everybody (bus firms)... [into] one consortium per route, they will be together, they will share the profit, they will own their buses."
"Medyo masalimuot ito (this is tedious)," said Reyes, secretary general of activist group Bayan.
"It would've been ideal for the state to have stepped in and be the one operating the bus systems para malinaw iyong magiging orientation niya and it could be easily integrated in other modes of transportation. But now, you have to deal with multiple business interests and that's the stumbling block towards consolidation, integration and predictability," he added.
TRAINS SHOULD BE SOLUTION'S 'BACKBONE'
The bus consortium should be just one option out of many, said Reyes.
"Iyong trains ang pinakaimportante. Iyon dapat ang backbone ng mass transport system natin," he said.
(Trains are the most important. Those should be the backbone of our mass transport system.)
All 3 of Metro Manila's railways bogged down last week, including the LRT-2, which remained on partial operations after a 5-day shutdown, that forced some 220,000 passengers to find alternative modes of transport, including free rides offered by the MMDA.
"It exposed a very serious weakness on our part, na when one mode of transportation gives way, wala tayong pangsalo. And that is the crisis: if commuters run out of options, if they rely on libreng sakay," said Reyes.
(It exposed a very serious weakness on our part, that when one mode of transportation gives way, we don't have an alternative. And that is the crisis: if commuters run out of options, if they rely on free rides.)
TRANSPORT CRISIS, EMERGENCY POWERS
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo earlier denied a transport crisis is gripping Metro Manila. Even a nationwide jeepney strike last Sept. 30, he noted, "failed in paralyzing the mass transport.
"If that's your threshold of a crisis, then we have a big problem kasi (because) there would be no sense of urgency," said Reyes.
He added that it would be "contradictory" and "quite funny" for the government to ask for emergency traffic powers for President Rodrigo Duterte after Panelo denied the supposed transport crisis.
Panelo took the public transport on Friday morning, riding 4 jeepneys and hitchhiking on a private motorcycle in his 4-hour sojourn from Marikina City to Malacañang.
New train coaches, the Metro Manila subway, the MRT extension and an integrated public transport terminal in North Avenue, Quezon City are among projects that are already in the pipeline, noted MMDA's Nebrija.
"It's not enough that you have a list of projects in the pipeline. Ang tanong (the question is), are these projects going to work harmoniously, are these infrastructure going to be integrated? Kasi kung hindi, wala rin e (because if not, that will be useless)," said Reyes.