By Alexandria Dennise San Juan
The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) said it will seek help from the state legal counsel to appeal the decision of a Quezon City court, which stopped transport regulators from implementing the provincial bus ban.
“[The] LTFRB will comply with the injunction order however, we will ask the OSG (Office of the Solicitor General) to seek the Court to reconsider its order,” the Board said in a message.
The agency’s statement came after the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 223 issued on Friday a writ of preliminary injunction halting the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and the LTFRB to ban provincial buses along EDSA.
The court also imposed a bond of P1 million on the petitioners, composed of at least 18 transport groups and provincial bus lines.
The injunction effectively stopped the implementation of LTFRB Memorandum Circular 2019-001 which requires all provincial buses to end their routes at any integrated terminal exchange, prohibiting them from traversing or passing through EDSA, as well as the MMDA Regulation No. 19-002 which revokes the issuance of business permits to all public utility vehicle terminals and operators along the major road.
The court order stemmed from an appeal filed by provincial bus transport groups which argued that the ban would severely affect their livelihood.
In a 25-page order dated July 31, Presiding Judge Caridad Walse-Lutero said the court found that the memos issued by the two agencies affect the property rights of transport groups and bus companies and has “far-reaching effects” not only to their businesses but also to their employees and other sectors.
“While as a rule, the right to income or earning does not prevail over public welfare, in [this] case, the court has not yet been presented with a clear basis or sufficient justification for the issuances,” the court explained.
It also noted the lack of meetings and consultations between the two government agencies and the stakeholders which involved the petitioners.
The court added that the LTFRB and MMDA seemed to have “abused” their powers in issuing the circulars.
The RTC also pointed out that the conclusion reached by the LTFRB that provincial buses were the main reason for the traffic on EDSA was “incorrect,” citing a 2014 study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) which was also presented by the Board during hearing.
Based on the JICA report, buses occupied at least 31 percent of EDSA, while private cars constituted 72 percent of the road traffic.
Meanwhile, the court also granted the motion for extension of the OSG, legal counsel of MMDA and LTFRB, to file a consolidated answer.
The OSG was given a “final extension” of 15 days or until August 14 to respond to the order.
The MMDA has long been pushing for the controversial provincial bus ban policy in a bid to ease traffic congestion on Metro Manila’s major thoroughfare.
Following the court ruling, the supposed provincial bus dry run on Monday, August 7, earlier announced by the MMDA has been placed in limbo.
For the part of MMDA, assistant secretary Celine Pialago said they will come up with a statement on the court order after meeting with their legal counsel.
“We have no comment for now until after we assemble our legal team and OSG. We need the opinion of lawyers. But of course we will follow what the court says,” Pialago told reporters on Friday.