By Rey Panaligan and Nino Luces
Another petition was filed with the Supreme Court (SC) yesterday seeking to stop the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) from enforcing its regulation that bans provincial buses from plying along the Epifanio delos Santos Avenue (EDSA).
This time, the petition was filed by Albay (2nd District) Rep. Joey Salceda who told the SC that MMDA Regulation No. 19-002, in effect, prohibits the issuance or revokes all permits granted to provincial bus operators to maintain bus terminals and operate their units along EDSA.
Salceda said the regulation is “anti-poor” and “anti-computer” since only provincial commuters would be affected.
Citing MMDA’s 2007 figures, Salceda said there are 3,300 provincial buses, 12,000 city buses, and more than 247,000 private vehicles that pass along EDSA daily.
“Why pick on residents from the provinces to solve Metro Manila’s traffic,” he lamented.
Salceda said the regulation is not the right solution to the traffic problem of Metro Manila and would instead cause great economic disruption, inconvenience, expenses, and damage to commuters to and from the Visayas and the Bicol region.
Salceda added that the ban is unjust because it shifts the burden of inconvenience to provincial commuters, particularly students and traders and ordinary families with relatives in Metro Manila who will have to transfer to another mode of transport and shell out extra fares.
“The MMDA will ban 6,000 northbound and southbound provincial buses from plying EDSA but will, in turn, allow the entry of close to 20,000 assorted vehicles along the same route, among them some 14,000 new, black painted taxis, to service these provincial commuters. How then can it be called a solution to the traffic problem?” he asked?
Balance of interests
According to Salceda, the MMDA is set to implement the ban on June 1 to solve the traffic along EDSA while “Super terminals” will be opened in Santa Rosa, Laguna and in Valenzuela, Bulacan, for vehicles servicing South-bound and North-bound commuters, respectively.
“The state has to balance competing interests for national importance but must clearly have a bias for the majority – 50 million balance Luzon vs 13 million NCR – and the disadvantaged – 74% of poor are in the provinces. The idiocy of the EDSA provincial bus ban emanates from the acknowledgment of MMDA Traffic Manager Bong Nebrija that the MMDA thru the Metro Manila Council (MMC) formulated the EDSA bus ban without any public consultation in January 2019,” Salceda noted.
He also stressed several points on how the provincial bus ban would affect and aggravate traffic problem instead of decongesting it.
“The MMC was never advised that 72% (235,000 cars) of the 330,000 vehicles that use EDSA daily, were cars that had only the driver as the lone rider, yet the MMC/MMDA chose to penalize the riding public using public transports from the provinces which buses comprise only 2% of the total vehicles plying EDSA; The MMDA will enforce EDSA ban on 6,000 provincial buses on June 1 and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board will cancel all their franchises to enter EDSA but, to facilitate the transport of more than 50,000 passengers daily from the stop-off points (Sta. Rosa, Laguna from the South and Valenzuela City, Bulacan from the North), the MMDA has recommended the licensing of at least 14,000 new black painted Premium Taxis (the owners of which we don’t know), which will have a flag-down rate of at least P70, and add at least 2,000 new P2P Buses at both stop off points to enter EDSA and untold thousands of new UV Express vans also to and from both stop off points. How then will they reduce traffic when they will add an assortment of close to 20,000 new vehicles just so they can evict 6,000 provincial buses from EDSA? Add the Grab vehicles who will be paged by loyal riders to and from both stop off points towards EDSA and what do we have?” Salceda pointed out.
The first petition against the provincial bus ban was filed by AKO Bicol Party-List who likewise sought a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the MMDA regulation.
Through Reps. Ronald Ang and Alfredo Garbin Jr., AKO Bicol alleged that the issuance of the regulation is tantamount to an exercise of police power which the MMDA and the Metro Manila Council (MMC) do not possess.
“There is no single word or syllables in Republic Act No. 7924 (the MMDA law) that grants MMDA police power, let alone legislative power. Even respondent MMC has not been delegated any legislative power,” the party-list group stressed.
It pointed out that provincial buses are not the main cause of traffic congestion along EDSA but city buses and private motor vehicles.
Both petitions pointed out that the closure of provincial bus terminals along EDSA violates the Public Service Act and other laws which mandate public utility bus operators to maintain their own terminals.
At the same time, the two petitions stressed that there were no public consultations before the MMDA regulations were issued.
“For the record, there was no single public hearing conducted by Respondents MMC and MMDA prior to the regulation’s intended implementation…,” the petitions stated.
The SC is on its decision-writing period this month. Sessions in its three divisions and the full court will resume the first week of June.