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In 1995, the city government, through a resolution, requested the former Department of Transportation and Communications, now known as the Department of Transportation, and the Land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to issue a moratorium on the issuance of certificates of public convenience or franchises for public utility vehicles (PUVs) plying the Baguio City route following the reported proliferation of fraudulently-issued franchises causing the sudden increase in the number of motor vehicles in the city that contributed to traffic congestions.
The LTFRB eventually issued a memorandum order for a moratorium on the issuance of franchises for the operation of PUVs, particularly jeepneys and taxis, plying the city. This was observed to have abated the traffic congestions in the city’s central business district, more so, as the narrow roads in the city could not accommodate a huge volume of motor vehicles in these roads planned by American Arch. Daniel Burnham to be good for only 25,000 inhabitants
Despite the moratorium on the issuance of franchises for PUVs in the city, there were some enterprising members of the City Council who reportedly used committee reports of the Committee on Public Utilities, Traffic and Transport Legislation to endorse the franchise applications of numerous taxi and jeepney operators that again resulted to the drastic increase in the number of vehicles plying the city’s roads daily. The said vehicles were issued inter-regional or intra-regional franchises that allowed them to operate within the jurisdiction of the city.
In the past, the city government had been constantly reiterating its vehement objection to the issuance of franchises to operators of public utility vehicles and the circumvention of the franchising rules and regulations that would allow the operation of PUVs in the city even if their franchises are outside the city but the same will have to travel to any point of Luzon or the Cordillera.
The implementation of the moratorium, however, did not do good for the city because of this loophole which led to the unprecedented increase in the number of registered private and public vehicles in the city as shown by data from the Land Transportation Office. In 2017, there were at least 5,000 registered private and public motor vehicles in the city, drastically increasing to nearly 57,000 last year.
Ironically, the number of registered public utility jeepneys in the city is nearly 6,000, while taxis account for over 3,200. Garage vans are said to be over 2,000 while buses are less than 1,0000, among other registered motor vehicles.
In 2017, the City Council passed Resolution No. 422, series of 2017 favorably endorsing to the LTFRB central office the petition of taxi operators for the regulating agency to consider the late filing of the taxi units with expired franchises.
LTFRB officials who visited Baguio City right after the conduct of the May 2019 mid-term elections announced it decided to approve the opening of some 200 franchises for taxis on fleet management subject to consolidation in consideration of the implementation of the government’s PUV modernization program by June 2020. Thus, the said taxi units will have to be operated by a transport cooperative or corporation, aside from the opening of some 200 units for premium taxis with similar arrangement. The key word here is ‘operated by a transported cooperative or corporation’.
While knowing that the City Council came out with an approved resolution favourably endorsing to the LTFRB central office the revival of dead franchises, some city officials came out with pronouncements on alleged fraud in the issuance of the said franchises.
We certainly believe that as public servants, our city officials should be more discerning in appreciating historical facts as background to certain issues. Time and again, our officials must be reminded they should be the primary source of credible information and evidence-based analysis of issues to share with the public and help combat fake news, uninformed decisions, and produce smart citizens armed with facts, not rumours or half-baked conclusions.
What we, as clients of the transport business, need to monitor is the condition of our jeepneys and taxis. If dead franchises are to be revived, and new issuances on taxi units are to be approved, certain standards must be met on safety, cleanliness, driver behaviour, and other related matters, for the safety and convenience of the riding public. For instance, what must be looked into is the overcrowding in jeepneys. It seems the LTFRB does not actually measure the length of jeepney seats and just allow a standard maximum number of passengers. With the people now increasing in size, it is not practical to seat 9 passengers in a jeepney seat good for 8. If there are limits to the number of passengers in taxis to make riding comfortable, such standard must also be afforded jeepney passengers. It would be good for the employees of LTFRB to take regular jeepney rides for the experience of having to squeeze ones’ butt in a 6-inch space. Modernization of our transport system need not be new units but imposition of standards to assure safe and convenient travel for the clients. We look forward to this day which our city officials must also look into. Let us make public rides safe and convenient.