OpinionOn Manila’s partial bus ban
On Manila’s partial bus ban
July 30, 2013
July 30, 2013

I live in the South, specifically in Las Pinas City. Everyday, I take a bus to and from DLSU, just one bus with a P25 fare and a tricycle ride to our home. The travel time takes 45 minutes to one hour, max. Commuting like this is quite convenient and comfortable for me.

Last Tuesday, July 23, 2013, the newly elected city mayor of Manila Joseph Estrada implemented the bus ban – all city and provincial buses without terminals are prohibited to pass through the busy roads of the capital city. The objective is to minimize the traffic within Manila. This good intention to solve the traffic problem does not capture the approval of many commuters, especially people from the so-called South.

With this ordinance, I have to take three rides, one jeep from DLSU to Buendia or Gil Puyat station, another jeep from Buendia to the World Trade Center, and a bus from World Trade Center to Las Pinas.

To be honest, I for one do not find the ordinance as a bad thing because the travel time I spend on my way to school and back becomes shorter. I also have the chance to exercise by walking along the streets of Manila, despite the supposed threats to safety and the supposed fact that Manila is evidently polluted.

From the commuter’s point view, there is a lot of inconvenience in having to switch rides instead of taking just one ride home, and some find it even harder to get a ride at this rate. As an observer, it would actually take less travel time if other public utility vehicles (PUVs) become readily available to everyone throughout the entire journey, without an undue emphasis on the availability of buses. Moreover, many commuters have no choice but to walk, thus putting their health and safety at risk because of a higher incidence of theft and pollution along shady Manila streets. Some tricycle drivers also take advantage of the situation by demanding for an increased fare of ten pesos compared with a mere jeepney fare of eight pesos, forcing people to look for jeepneys to save on cost.

From the local government’s side, trying to solve the traffic problem is a good objective – it has been reported that many roads were more passable as this four-day old ordinance started. According to the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the partial bus ban looks to be an effective way to ease traffic because of improved traffic flow. However, the implementation is not intact because there are discrepancies and misinformation among the executing agencies. Even the legalities of the policy are questioned by some sectors.

On July 26, 2013, Friday, Mayor Estrada further clarified that only colorum buses are banned while franchised buses are still allowed to travel main thoroughfares, but as I have been commuting, I noticed that the franchised buses that I ride do not even enter the premises of Manila. Apparently, policemen catch them and fines amounting to as much as P500 await violators, collected starting last July 25. I talked to a bus conductor and he laments, “Prangkisa po ‘tong bus namin, ma’am; humihina na nga po kita namin.”  According to popular sentiment, the problem comes from the fact that Vice Mayor Isko Moreno’s word is different compared to Mayor Estrada. The police, apparently, follow Moreno.

More than this, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) claimed that the ordinance is illegal because they are the ones who issued the franchised buses; technically the passage of these buses is legal and should overrule the ordinance, making them hope for regulation and not ban. As mentioned earlier, it was clarified that the only colorum buses are barred. The local government overrules the LFTRB in this case.

Furthermore, the Philippine National Railway (PNR) expects to have an increase in passenger count because of this ban. According to GMA news, one need only spend a P20 PNR fare from Tutuban to Alabang. Meanwhile, Quezon City traffic has been experiencing difficulty due to this ban because the barred buses’ added traffic shifts the congestion towards Mabuhay Rotonda.

These generally prove that the ordinance lacks proper research and went through insufficient consultation despite some of the good effects it has brought about. The mentioned concerns may lead to bigger problems and conflicts in the future. Why didn’t the local government explore other ways of managing traffic? Didn’t they foresee the feedback?

Although personally I support Mayor Estrada because I think the bus ban has made improvements on the traffic problem, I think its benefit should still all boils down to the masses’. Based on my observations I think a good majority is still having a hard time with finding alternate routes, especially for the people commuting beyond Taft Avenue.

It’s a good thing to start something new, to make a difference and actually want to deliver something, but I hope Mayor Estrada thought of the bigger picture first, the possible reactions his actions may elicit, and that he should have studied his decision first before making such a large leap. In this era of information, people have become more vigilant on what they see and hear in relation to their needs.

We all want change but we also need to be critical of change. Transformation is not easy. It takes a lot of time, effort and compromise.