MANILA, Philippines – The Metro Manila Council has revoked the business permits of bus terminals, as well as other public utility vehicles' terminals along EDSA, but this regulation does not sit well with a congressman.
On Thursday, April 4, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Regulation No. 19-002 was published on newspapers, signalling the prohibition of the issuance of business permits to terminals and operators along the highway.
"The Metro Manila Council hereby prohibits or revokes the issuance of business permits to all public utility bus terminals and operators and other public utility vehicle terminals and operations along EDSA," it said.
The regulation, which is set to be effective 5 days after publication, will be implemented by local government units.
In a phone interview with Rappler on Friday, April 5, MMDA spokesperson Celine Pialago clarified, however, that the actual closure of the bus terminals will be done within June.
"So far, no announcement yet. But we will conduct a dry run after the Holy Week to prepare the bus firms, especially the drivers. By June, we expect the terminals to be removed along EDSA," Pialago told Rappler.
Pialago said that they expect the firms to use the terminals in Valenzuela City, the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange in Parañaque City, as well as those in Sta Rosa, Laguna.
This is in line with the Department of Transportation policy requiring provincial buses to end their trips at their respective integrated terminals if available.
Pialago noted that there is traffic congestion in areas where there are bus terminals.
"Operators are against this. We respect their opinion but in terms of volume count, they only constitute 3%. In areas where there are bus terminals, there is always traffic. Why? Because most of them violate policies," she said.
"When you arrive in Cubao, there's the chokepoint. They can't claim that they don't cause traffic. Second, taxis informally make the areas near the bus terminals as their own terminal to pick up passengers," Pialago said.
According to her, when the Duterte administration started, there were only 85 bus terminals along EDSA. In 2019, it increased to 96.
Calls for suspension
On Thursday, Catanduanes Representative Cesar Sarmiento, who heads the House committee on transportation, filed a resolution "strongly urging" traffic agencies to suspend the implementation of the new bus scheme.
"The House of Representatives, through the Committee on Transportation, strongly urges the DOTr, through the LTFRB, the MMC, the MMDA, and other government agencies concerned, to suspend and reconsider the implementation of the new terminal scheme," he said.
Sarmiento said the new policy "has caused grave concern from affected constituents, taking into consideration that it will have adverse effects on the commuting public."
Sarmiento also suggested that the MMDA "strictly" implement traffic rules and regulations, especially on illegal terminals and colorum vehicles to ease traffic along EDSA.
He also said that the DOTr should submit the route rationalization plan as affected by this policy, including the vehicle capacity of Valenzuela and Sta Rosa bus terminals.
The congressman also noted that the DOTr should conduct "thorough and inclusive" public hearings on these policies.
On Friday, Pialago said that they cannot immediately postpone the regulation on the terminals.
"We cannot decide now if we will postpone. We don't know yet. But we are just acting on the instruction of the President. Whatever the President orders, we just follow," she told Rappler.
Pialago said that they still need to discuss the matter with other traffic agencies.
In 2018, Metro Manila mayors approved the ban on provincial buses along EDSA during rush hours, in a bid to ease traffic congestion in the capital region amid simultaneous road projects that year. But the policy has since been suspended.