By Ellson Quismorio
Time for a comprehensive traffic decongestion plan.
Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur 2nd district Rep. LRay Villafuerte had this to say Sunday following the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority’s (MMDA) “failed experiment” on their ban of provincial buses along EDSA last week.
“Rather than go ahead on this failed experiment, the MMDA should ditch altogether its provincial bus ban and work instead on a comprehensive program that would really decongest traffic not only on EDSA but on other major roads in Metro Manila as well,” Villafuerte said.
“Ditching its project to prohibit provincial buses from traversing EDSA and closing down their terminals along Metro Manila’s main highway is the best option for MMDA…as [the agency] waits for the courts’ final action on this controversial initiative,” the Bicol solon added.
He said it would be better for the MMDA to work with legislators on finding the best solutions to decongest traffic as both the House of Representatives and the Senate are expected to hold parallel inquiries into this proposed provincial bus ban, which has been met with strident opposition.
According to Villafuerte, the MMDA’s experiment last week apparently flopped, prompting MMDA to put its “dry run” on hold after only five percent of the reported 2,736 affected buses joined the first day of the project.
The agency opted to push through with the dry run despite the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction issued the week before by Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 223 presiding judge Caridad Walse Lutero.
In her order, Lutero said she found merit in the petitions filed by various groups because the MMDA and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) had apparently abused their police powers in altering the routes of the provincial bus companies and ordering the closure of their EDSA terminals without first conducting adequate consultations with the affected stakeholders.
Villafuerte, who last week filed House Resolution (HR) No. 165 seeking a congressional inquiry into MMDA Regulation Number 19-002, said the chamber should go ahead with this proposed House probe in the hope that lawmakers could eventually craft new legislation that would help authorities solve the worsening traffic congestion plaguing EDSA and the rest of Metro Manila.
The Senate is set to conduct its own inquiry this week.
Villafuerte said in HR 165 that only the affected local government units (LGUs) can implement the ban because Republic Act (RA) No. 7924, which created the MMDA, did not grant the body with legislative powers.
Under MMDA Regulation Number 19-002, the loading and unloading zones of the provincial buses will be moved to the integrated terminal in Sta. Rosa in Laguna for those coming from the south: to the terminal in Valenzuela City for those coming from the north; and to the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (PITX) in Parañaque City for those with terminals in Pasay City.
He said the ban does not seem like the apt solution to decongest traffic along EDSA, given that in 2017, MMDA data bared that public utility buses (PUBs) comprised only three percent of the total traffic, as private cars took up 67 percent of road space.
“Today, there are about 8,000 provincial buses or two-thirds of the 12,000 registered PUBs that will be affected by the ban,” Villafuerte said.
“I support the petition for review and prohibition filed by my fellow probinsiyano and Bicolano, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda before the Supreme Court that seeks to stop the implementation of the provincial bus ban on EDSA,” Villafuerte said.
“The governor (Migz Villafuerte) and I also have tens of thousands of fellow Bicolanos in our province who will be adversely affected by this proposed ban,” he said, referring to his son.
He said small entrepreneurs who rely on provincial buses to transport their goods to Metro Manila will suffer, and if given no choice, would be forced to ride more expensive travel options such as taxis or Grab cars just to be able to pass through EDSA to reach their final destinations in the metropolis.
Villafuerte and his governor-son agreed with Salceda that MMDA will overstep its legal authority and disregard the franchises issued by the LTFRB to affected provincial buses and the lease agreements between bus operators and terminal owners, should it implement the unpopular bus ban.