What is this Ebola-like virus that has seeped deep into the national mindset? This virus has blinded our evaluation of what policies are good and bad for the broader society. Our national conversation, as a result, has been mostly devoid of rational analysis based on data, context and metrics.
On critical issues, the conversation has been mostly a poisoned one and the argument that dominates is mostly the one that denies fact, data and rational arguments. Take the case of the route rationalization policy for provincial buses which has been vilified by the MMDA and its clueless choir boys from the Metro Manila LGUs.
According to the MMDA the rationalization policy is the reason provincial buses have been jamming the major roads of the metropolis. The result, according to the MMDA: Monstrous traffic jams.
Wrong. Very wrong. The route rationalization policy of the DORC/LTFRB will drastically reduce the number of provincial buses entering Metro Manila once it is fully implemented starting October. Colorum bus operators will be weeded out as the incentive to ply the roads guerilla-like will be removed. Out-of-line operations will also cease. While the route rationalization policy was not conceived as a traffic alleviation policy, its net result would be a big plus for traffic alleviation.
What is sad is that Mr. Tolentino cranked up his media spin machine before reading the fine print of the policy. Or he read it, but he failed to grasp its deeper significance. The sadder thing is that most of the media believe in the correctness of the policy arising from the cluelessness of Mr. Tolentino, whose mission in life, as a son of privilege, is to make life hard for commuters under the guise of traffic management.
But we, the sweat-smelling commuters, have to fight back and maybe start the process of exposing Mr. Tolentino for what he is—a policy crackpot.
The route rationalization policy is centered on this move—give provincial bus operators until October to legitimize the short and medium-distance franchises that they have been using to serve Metro Manila under the flexibility rule. These are not even many. The LFTRB says that since these buses have been serving Metro Manila on a de facto basis for over a decade or so, the operators should now seek the legitimization of their franchises to serve Metro Manila.
But there is a quid pro quo for this gesture of rationalization. Starting October, all franchise violations will no longer be treated with leniency. Colorum operators, those who will still operate buses without franchised lines, will be fined P1 million for every violation.
A colorum bus is not even worth P1 million and the P1 million fine would be the forceful disincentive that would stop all colorum operators.
Out-of-line operations will also cease to be a practice as the flexibility rule will no longer be tolerated. The heavy fine of P200,000 for every out-of-line violation will also scare the daylight out of the franchised operators whose buses stray from their defined lines.
Mr. Tolentino, if he just read the fine print of the rationalization policy, would have realized that not a single bus franchise will be granted under the rationalization policy.
Franchises would be rationalized, not increased. And the net result of the policy is to weed out colorum and out-of-line operators. Just imagine Metro Manila roads without colorum buses and out-of-line operators.
Are Metro Manila roads suffocating from provincial buses? Here is the context, which Mr. Tolentino has conveniently ignored.
The DOTC stopped the granting of provincial bus franchises in 1992. It is 2014 and the moratorium on the grant of new franchises stills stands. The total of the provincial bus franchises across the country is good for a 1992 demographics.
We all know how the landscape has changed. No Uber then. No BPOs, no Twitter and FB. No smart phones either.
With just the basic numeracy, you can readily compute that the franchises fit for 60 million people, which was the population in 1992, cannot be in excess of the buses needed for more than 100 million people, our current population.
So where did Mr. Tolentino get his data that provincial buses have been jamming every nook and cranny of Metro Manila to the general inconvenience of his SUV-driving friends?
None. Maybe he is referring to colorum operators, the illegals which will be out of the roads starting October. Maybe he is referring to phantom buses. Most probably, he is making up figures and drawing up imaginary scenarios to pursue his singular obsession of brutalizing commuters.
His accusations are data-free. He has taken the media for a ride, knowing that media workers belong to the middle class or have middle class aspirations. Why is he MMDA chair? This is quite clear to those with elementary discernment.
He uses his post as MMDA chairman to bludgeon commuters. The daily sufferings of commuters at the Coastal Mall, old and sick people and pregnant women struggling to get a connecting ride to Manila proper because of the restrictions on straight trips imposed by Mr. Tolentino, is one of the reasons the poor people do not appreciate the reforms of the Aquino government. He has the number one reason why the silent majority has been chafing under the Aquino administration.
How can the silent majority feel the liberating impact of reforms when it is being bludgeoned on a daily basis by Mr. Tolentino?