MANILA, Philippines – Two congressmen are in favor of implementing the provincial bus ban along EDSA, urging the public and their colleagues in the House of Representatives to "give it a chance" to address the perennial urban traffic problem.
This was the stand of Buhay Representative Lito Atienza and Surigao del Sur 2nd District Representative Johnny Pimentel during the House committee on transportation's hearing on Monday, May 20.
The panel was looking into the House resolutions filed by AKO Bicol, whose lawmakers want the House to oppose the provincial bus ban that has been heavily criticized by commuters.
"Now that government is doing something about it, I'd like to caution my colleagues in government. Dahan-dahan tayo (Let's not be hasty). We would like to consider the plight of our provincial commuters. We would like to understand the points of the sponsor of this measure. But on the other hand, we must also go slow," said Atienza, who is also the senior deputy minority leader.
"The government is trying to find a solution. Let's give it a chance! Because hindi ito puwedeng basta 'yung one side lang 'yung pakikinggan natin (Because we can't just be listening to one side only)," he added.
In a bid to ease traffic congestion in the metropolis, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) issued Regulation No. 19-002 in March, which effectively revoked the business permits of provincial bus terminals.
The closure is set to be implemented by June. But on April 22, the MMDA implemented a dry run of the policy. The dry run was soon suspended on May 6, however, because of public outcry against the policy, MMDA traffic head Bong Nebrija told legislators on Monday.
Pimentel argued that the MMDA conducted its own studies before coming up with the provincial bus ban.
"We are always barking at the government agencies na kung bakit hindi mabigyan ng solution ang problema sa traffic. It has caused [a] great effect on the economy and other problems. Ang akin lang, ito na nga, naghahanap tayo ng solusyon, may solusyon ang MMDA. Eh bakit hindi natin pagbigyan so that we could see [the outcome]? Because the issue here, I believe, are not the provincial buses, but the 47 bus terminals that are causing traffic along EDSA," said Pimentel.
(We are always barking at the government agencies on why they could not give solutions to the traffic problem. It has caused a great effect on the economy and other problems. For me, we're looking for solutions, and the MMDA has a solution. Why not give it a chance so we could see the outcome? Because the issue here, I believe, are not the provincial buses, but the 47 terminals that are causing traffic along EDSA.)
Provincial buses 'not main problem'
AKO Bicol Representative Alfredo Garbin, however, was not convinced.
Aside from the House resolution pending in the transportation committee, Garbin's party is challenging the constitutionality of the provincial bus ban before the Supreme Court.
A commuter himself, Garbin explained that the bus ban does not address the traffic congestion primarily caused by private vehicles and city buses plying EDSA.
"While the objective of the new MMDA policy is to ease traffic congestion in EDSA, in reality, it merely relocates the traffic elsewhere, permanently, burdening the local governments at the outskirts of Metro Manila and the commuting public coming to and from the provinces," said Garbin.
He said having integrated terminals for provincial buses is an added inconvenience for commuters, who would have to wait longer and pay higher fares.
"It will create so much inconvenience. Pahirap po 'yan sa amin. Karamihan ng mga mananakay mula sa Bicol Region, maraming bagahe.... Most of the city buses, walang kargahan. Saan niyo ikakarga 'yung mga bagahe ng ating mga mananakay?" said Garbin, who shared his experiences whenever he commutes to and from Bicol.
(It will create so much inconvenience. That's a burden for us. Most passengers from the Bicol Region carry a lot of baggage.... Most of the city buses do not have compartments for these. Where will you put the baggage of the passengers?)
"It would also prolong the travel time and the waiting time.... At the same time, this would cost more for our passengers," he added in a mix of English and Filipino.
This is not the first time Metro Manila mayors wanted to ban provincial buses along main thoroughfares. In 2018, they approved the ban on provincial buses along EDSA during rush hour, in a bid to ease traffic congestion in the capital region amid simultaneous road projects that year. This policy has since been suspended.