Persecuted commuters find potent ally in Salceda

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It seems that Metro Manila residents and workers are not the only ones who are unimpressed with the Aquino Administration’s thoroughly asinine approach to transportation management.

On Monday, Albay Governor Joey Salceda, who, despite being an intelligent, practical, and results-oriented politician, is in fact an Administration stalwart, filed a petition before the Supreme Court asking for a temporary restraining order against the ban on provincial buses entering the city.

This was in reaction to the opening of an “integrated transit terminal” in Alabang, which is similar in concept to the Southwest Interim Provincial Terminal—otherwise referred to by the authorities as that slightly obscene-sounding acronym SWIPT, and described by some commuters as “a dehumanizing hellhole”—in the derelict Coastal Mall at the corner of Roxas Boulevard and Mia Road in Parañaque.

The idea behind the “integrated transit terminals” is that buses arriving from outside the Metro area will stop at the edge of the city, and their passengers transferred to local transportation. In practice at the SWIPT in Parañaque, which has been in operation since the beginning of the year, the plan is an utter, chaotic failure; commuters arriving from Cavite and Batangas are forced to contend with a confusing, unsystematic transfer to local jeepneys or FX taxis, and for about half of the arriving commuters, the only way to catch a second ride to their final destinations is to cross Roxas and Mia Road (fortunately, there is a footbridge) and brave the margin of northbound Roxas where pedestrians compete with vehicles in a place where the laws of man do not exist, and the laws of physics are ignored.


To add insult to injury, the ongoing construction of the new airport expressway, which will be elevated above Mia Road, and the recent implementation of the “one truck lane” scheme on Roxas Boulevard create traffic bottlenecks getting into and out of the terminal.

On average, the imposition on commuters is to exactly double the time and cost of their travel, which is why those who are aware of it avoid the SWIPT like the plague.

After having observed for several days during my own commute that buses bound for “Coastal Mall” were only one-third to one-half full while buses bound for any other destination were fully-loaded, I checked with a couple of bus operators, who, after making sure I wouldn’t mention their names out of fear of reprisals from Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Francis “How Do You Spell Commuter Again?” Tolentino, confirmed that my casual observations were correct, and that the lack of passengers had resulted in trips being reduced and even some drivers and conductors being furloughed.

Salceda’s contention, now that a second terminal will directly affect travelers from his bailiwick, is that travelers from Albay to Metro Manila are being unfairly penalized for the city’s traffic issues by Tolentino’s focus on what is actually the least of the metro’s overworked road system’s problems.

In a post on his Facebook page Salceda fumed, “Why pick on provincial buses whose registrations have fallen from 30,000 to 5,600 out of 7.8 million [it is uncertain where Salceda got the latter figure, however], thus composing the smallest number of vehicles. Moreover, provincial buses get and drop passengers only in their own terminals. And, they would at most make one round within Metro Manila, unlike jeeps, [and]UVs which make at least two trips.”

“So, this measure is injurious to poor rural people in terms of (1) additional inconvenience, (2) additional ‘minimum’ fare, (3) additional time to destination, and (4) double loading. So unfair as it concentrates and shifts the burden of easing NCR traffic to countryside citizens who compose 74 percent of the poor and must seek economic opportunity in NCR where it is concentrated.

This is beyond ignominy. This is premeditated injustice under the guise of policy insanity,” he added.

Salceda also expressed concern about the impact the “policy insanity” might have on tourism. “What happens to our domestic tourists? Or even budget foreign tourists? Pabababain at palilipatin sa another bus?” he asked, probably rhetorically, considering to whom the question was addressed. “And, if they would be differentiated (which is worse), how would you distinguish a local passenger from a domestic tourist?”

For his part, Tolentino, in a report by the Inquirer on Wednesday, defended his brainchild by saying Salceda “may have misunderstood” the scheme, claiming that the Alabang terminal was only intended as a place to divert “colorum” and “out-of-line” buses.

That explanation sounds like something Tolentino made up off the top of his head the instant the question was asked, because it is not the way the existing terminal at the Coastal Mall is operated. And it actually doesn’t make any sense; even under existing regulations (a part of Salceda’s petition is to halt the massive increase in fines and penalties for “colorum” vehicles, which, pending a good explanation from him as to why that should be so, is something I’ll have to disagree with), the terminal would serve the purpose Tolentino told the Inquirer it did for only as long as it took to sweep the illegal vehicles from the roads. Probably a day or two.

Managing a multi-modal transportation network across a physically vast and densely populated metropolis is not an easy job, and never will be, and simply eliminating the ill-conceived and despised “transit terminal” concept is not a solution if better alternatives are not developed. But the former mayor of a town with one traffic light and four paved roads chosen for his political personality rather than any hint of technical knowledge or experience is not the one to develop those, and never has been, because he has never grasped that his responsibilities are fundamentally based on moving people instead of just moving vehicles.

The continuing economic losses due to gridlock and lost productivity every idea Francis Tolentino has floated only seems to aggravate cannot be tolerated any longer; if Joey Salceda wanted to amend his complaint to add, “Compel the MMDA Chairman to go find a different job,” chances are pretty good support for that notion would not be in short supply.

ben.kritz@manilatimes.net.

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10 Comments

  1. This idea of ITS will work only if the metro transport system is effective and efficient. Otherwise,this will even add up more cars in the metro because all those people from the province will just drive their own cars to Manila than ride a bus to ITS then take metro bus or taxis or colorum fx which makes trips more costly and inefficient.

  2. victor m. hernandez on

    Which would we rather have: less expense bus rides or more expensive car rides? A Sngapore-style transport management system is more buses, and train lines, and less and more expensive car or taxi rides. This will decongest the Metro Manila roads, and cars which wish to enter the Metro Manila roads will have to pay more to enter the domain. Connect the ports to the railroad to transport cargoes. Increase the number of train coaches, and maintain the rails well. Hit the pockets of car owners, and we decongest the Metro Manila roads, and .Increase parking fees, too. If one can afford a car, he can afford higher tax to use Metro Manila roads. If not, then don’t buy a car. Let’s see whether the Metro Manila roads will not be emptied. The reality is, we don’t have enough roads for too many vehicles in Metro Manila. Building new townships and cities to decongest Metro Manila and attract migration to the provinces and countryside will take more time, but we should be heading that way. CALABARZON and Central Luzon (Bulacan, Pampanga, and Tarlac) should be the areas where people should migrate for work. live, study, and play.

  3. Dense leadership appoints dense people. Hopefully, this painful and very inconvenient experience will overwhelm the dense electorate to think real hard how they use their ballots the next time around.

    Or, we can entertain to dream, a suggestion I first floated more than a decade ago –

    All elected officials, from Mayors and all the way to appointed Cabinet Secretaries, must enroll their children to public schools and State universities, use government hospitals, and use public transport for the duration of their term of office. This is the only surefire way that public service will drastically and persistently improve.

  4. Ano ba yan! Lahat na yatang appointee ni abnoy e bopol! Ang hihina mag diskarte! Matibay Lang mang lamang sa kapwa at maghingi nang pork barrel or dap! Pwe!

  5. Gov. Joey has hit the nail on it’s head. We need more officials like him in government. He should have been in PNOY’s cabinet.

  6. Government big shots, who are all provided with cars courtesy of the taxes by the commuters themselves, always think from the point of view of those who can afford to ride in the comfort of their own private vehicles, I suggest they take a one day experiment to fill the shoes of an ordinary commuter by riding on public transport from either Cavite or Bulacan and experience the hell of multiple boarding and unboarding themselves and the attendant stress and manhours wasted for a shift in their thinking perspectives like Joey Salceda is doing.

  7. The only way to get any useless government in this country to make things actually better for commuters is to make them also commute. When they have to see the hardships faced day in day out by commuters then & only then will they see its a major problem that needs sorting out.
    Dont think for one second any politician has any sympathy for any commuter for either the extra time in the commute or the extra cost in the commute. If they had to coomute the extra cost would man nothing to them as it would come out of expenses & not out of a limited budget, but the inconvenience of everything would wear them down & they would soon get people to sort the problems out, but look they have only just realised the mrt should have had new coaches in 2003 & now they have decided to get rid of the old people in charge & have it government run. So 11 years to see something isnt right shows how useless successive governments have been & will continue to be in this country.