We cannot just shrug our shoulders at the continuing series of lethal accidents in public transport carriers. It is now a leading cause of death in this country. And there are many reasons for it and most of them lie with the regulatory agencies. Now that the President himself has called for a meeting on this very serious affliction to the public, it is hoped that they will zero in on the true causes and the accountable parties.
One of the items is the viability of the vehicles used for public transport. Is it not time to stop the importation of used buses for service in our public transport system? If we can have new cars and they are being purchased, why can’t there be new buses too and the bus companies buy them, instead of taking the cheap investment way to make money on the public? Buses need to be in tiptop condition to serve as public transport. It does not seem to be the case when you hear every driver stating brake failure for every accident they figure in. Probably it was brake failure at too high speed for the circumstances. Then you can no longer brake. Is that what might be the case? Nevertheless, it is best to have optimum quality for any emergency including those caused by human error..
In countries where public transport regulatory agencies are on the ball, vehicles in public service are mandated to be phased out after a number of years in service with 10 years as the maximum. This is preventive maintenance, like preventive medicine, it avoids or at least minimizes problems. Yet what do we see on our roads, the most unroadworthy vehicles with overloading to boot. Which regulatory agency has jurisdiction here?
Then there is the bureaucracy that both transport operators and the general public have to endure from the regulatory agencies. We have to point to the LTFRB here again. It is the agency that hands out franchises and that seems to be about all. No follow up as to what happens next. For example, there are colorum buses all over EDSA, should they not step in and pounce on them? Why leave it to the MMDA? Or, the LTFRB sits on permits, franchises, requests. The transport company that used the Florida Bus to ply the Bontoc route had been waiting for a permit from the LTFRB for some time, did not want to lose the route and took the chance of using another bus. Shouldn’t LTFRB have said yes or no to the application instead of delaying it and leaving the operator dangling and panicking about the loss of the route? This is a sin of omission that may very well have much to do with the fatal accident that befell that bus. Here I reiterate how the LTFRB La Union Regional Office over the years has flooded the city of Baguio with an overload of taxis. Or, maybe they are colorum taxis but LTFRB ignores the situation in its usual passive sin of omission way. Meanwhile, Baguio taxis have unfair competition. This is not the best work of a regulatory agency.
I regret to have to belabor LTFRB but their record of passivity and omission of vital regulatory actions has brought us to this pass where traffic accidents of the most horrific kind from overloading, faulty equipment, drunken or overworked or underpaid drivers in multiple instances has spread fear and distrust of buses with the general public and contempt for their agency’s work.
Must I repeat that you do not just give out franchises and sit back, but inspect, correct, sanction and punish those who abuse the public in the operation of their franchises? It is not enough to hand out licenses, sign papers and even suspend franchises after accidents. It is required to have day-to-day, hands-on operations for an agency whose mandate has to do with safety and efficiency in public transport. Being in the Third World does not make lives cheaper or necessarily make us use accident-prone, second hand derelict vehicles no matter how brightly and attractively they are painted to hide their origins. As well as not vet the drivers and their working conditions for justice, efficiency and safety. That should be clear as clear water to a regulatory agency such as LTFRB. They are in charge, so if they do not use their authority in a way that fulfills their mandate which is to deliver public transport for the public good, they fail. So far, they have failed big time. Suspension of franchises, inspections, demanding standards after an accident, instead of before are not good enough. Damage has been done, lives have been lost, it is late in the day. Time to review, to regroup, to reflect. I hope that happens at the meeting that the President has called.