Everything started with the best of intentions and the gravest of needs. A study by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency had stated the problem in stark terms: Metro Manila was losing P2.4 billion a day in possible income due to the heavy traffic that eats away at the daily productivity of 14 million commuters. Last year, President Aquino signed Executive Order 67 calling for the building of three new centralized transportation hubs by 2016. By severely limiting or perhaps even banning the entry of provincial buses into Metro Manila, the EO sought to cut down on congestion in the big city.

But the horrific traffic situation has gotten so bad that last July 16, Mr. Aquino issued Administrative Order 40 mandating the establishment of three “interim” terminals for provincial buses. These were intended to help ease the congestion until the permanent terminals are finished.

Under the purview of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, the Southwest Interim Transport Terminal (SITT) was the first of the temporary terminals to be completed. Located at the Uniwide Coastal Mall in Parañaque City, the SITT is where Metro Manila-bound buses from the provinces of Batangas and Cavite are to unload their passengers.

The SITT was unpopular from the get-go. “It seems that those who want this centralized traffic system implemented [did not conduct] a proper study to back their plan,” observed Elvira Medina of the group National Center for Commuter Safety and Protection. “They probably did not realize the possible repercussions [on] commuters and traders…” Still, the SITT began operations last Aug. 6, with MMDA Chair Francis Tolentino saying he expected “some confusion” at the start. “But we promise the public that the transition will be smooth.”

Well, the transition has been anything but smooth. Commuters waited in interminable queues for idle buses; others found themselves completely stranded. The complaint of student Cedyqueen del Rosario summed up the weary commuters’ travails: “There were only a few PUVs (public utility vehicles) going to Lawton (in Manila), and they were not organized. There was no proper queue, so even those who got here later than the others were able to get their next ride first.” And not only was her ride longer and more complicated, the trip now cost more: “I used to pay only P40 to get to Lawton. Now I would have to pay P33 just to get to Coastal Mall, and more for the UV Express.”

“I knew about [the opening of this interim terminal]. I just didn’t expect it to be this chaotic,” she said.

The complaints haven’t stopped, and more problems have since cropped up. A strike was called by supposed renegade bus drivers even as the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board warned that bus operators caught participating in strikes could lose their franchises. The MMDA suggested a cut in the fare for buses using the SITT. The bus operators were not amused.

“We would like to question the legality of the administrative order issued by the LTFRB amending the routes of the buses from Cavite and Batangas without a public hearing,” warned Ferdinand Wackay, legal counsel for the United Cavite Bus Transport. Meanwhile, commuters continue to fume and call for a return to the old system even as construction continues on a larger, nearby structure—the actual “permanent” transport terminal, the “real” Southwest Terminal once it’s done.

The MMDA and the LTFRB are digging in for the long haul, as they should. The Aquino administration has a long-term plan for the terminals, with the goal of profoundly easing the traffic problems of the big city. When the permanent Southwest Terminal and the two other terminals planned for Quezon City and Muntinlupa City are completed, the government’s overhaul of the bus system should work. We expect nothing less.

The long-suffering public, commuters and motorists alike, is being called upon to look at the big picture. In the interim, it behooves the MMDA and its contractors to improve the operations of the interim terminal in order to provide for the comfort and convenience of the riding public to the extent possible, and to speed up work on the permanent terminals. The public’s patience, as well as continuing innovations on this work in progress, is clearly required for this particular private-public partnership to work. Enduring this test may be a big step forward. Or so we hope.

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  • Pangasugan

    These terminals are just band-aid solutions. Metro Manila needs to build more roads, flyovers, skyways, MRT’s , etc., to keep up with the growing volume of vehicular traffic. That “color-coding” scheme was supposed to be just a stop-gap solution to give time for the government to build the necessary infrastructure. Unfortunately, nothing significant was being done and our leaders are waiting for a crisis situation before doing something significant.

    • Eustaquio Joven

      These terminals are just band-aid solutions. Yes, it’s band-aid, but is it a solution? We are already in a crisis situation. Building new structures won’t help. It will only cause more congestion. The solution is to decongest Metro Manila. Build new growth centers. Other regions beacons for more attention.

    • Scorpio15

      Sa Iloilo matagal na ganon ang sistema. Ang lahat na provincial jeep at bus ay hindi na pueding pumasok sa ciudad.
      Ilang libong bus at mga kolorom ang pumapasok galing Norte at Sur???
      Marami lang ang paSaway sa Metro Manila at Reklamador. Pasaway dahil sa Pera walang paki-Alam sa Mundo basta Kumikita.

    • popeyee

      Dapat not just build road, they also have to clear the sidewalk, and provide enough easement and probably parallel service road..ang ibang building nasa kalsada na ang alulod, hindi magiba-giba ng mga kinauukulang ahensya kahit na bawal sa batas..

  • rom

    JICA’s study must be taken seriously. Many of us are lazy, many do not have works, those who have work always stuck up in traffic = low productivity. How can we compete with other nations whose citizens have work and everybody is punctual because to efficient transportation system?.

    The most efficient land base transport system is the LRT/MRT. The government should identity all possible routes and invite private sector to invest in railway system.

    But at the present system that we are collecting minimal fee, out LRT/MRT system will not improved. Maintenance will suffer, investor are not getting good ROI.

    Perhaps everybody is more than willing to pay even higher rate than the bus rate if there will be available rail way system to place of work or place of residence. When you are travelling, usually TIME is more important than MONEY.

    In the case of Metro Manila and nearby provinces like Rizal, Cavite and Laguna, the only solution to our traffic problems is massive railway system. Let commuters pay good enough for the services they are getting. Invite private businessmen to do the job.

    • popeyee

      Walang gustong mag invest dahil sa pabago-bago ang sestema ng pamahalaan…pagkatapos manalo sa bidding ipahihinto at iimbestigahan; pagktapos mag palit ng pangulo mababago ang batas at ipahihinto ang trabaho..

  • Oscuro

    Metro Manilas architecture should also change to become conducive to walking. People now would still ride a jeepney for a trip 100 long. Mostly because it’s too hot to walk there’s no footpath to do so because sidewalks contain vendors.

    • Scorpio15

      Disiplina laang kaibigan. Naranasan naming maglakad ng malayo dine sa Beijing, Seoul at Yokohama para lang marating ang Sakayan ng Bus. Ganon din yong mga ta-ong nabanggit ko sa ganong lugar.
      Nasabi ko na nga ito. Sa atin naman kung ga-ano kahaba ang Highway ganon din kahaba ang Sakayan at Pababa-an. Gustong mangyari kasi ng ating mga kababayan Door to Door.
      Papano masugpo ang mga sidewalk Vendors??? Yan din ang isang source ng pagkakita-an ng Bulok na Empleyado ng Pamahala-an.

    • popeyee

      Sidewalks everywhere are full of Utility services post, i.e., Meralco, Piltel, Smart, Globe, SUn, etc., not to mention decorative lamp post or flower pots bearing the name of mayor or congressman who “exerted an effort” kuno just to make the project possible…I’m wondering why the DPWH or building officials are not removing these structures when in fact they are not allowed as far as the building code is concerned.

  • Stun Black

    …dapat ay ibigay na lang sa transport sector ang pagmamanage ng mga trapik…mukhang walang alam sa public transport yang mga nasa gobyerno.

    • Scorpio15

      Papano magkakaro-on ng mga Ka-alaman ang mga Iyon, papasok sa Pamahala-an ay dinada-an sa Padrino.
      Dagdagan pa ng MMDA. Kitang kita na ng MMDA na akupado na ng mga Bus ang apat na Lane parang wala pa ring naKikita. Lahat yata ng mga MMDA ay merong Sakit sa Mata.

  • tgtercero

    For several decades now, this problem has been facing MetroManila and every year the avowed solutions are the same. Government is evidently being boneheaded about this……hoping for a different outcome while going through the same rituals over and over again while MetroManila goes into an unabated self-strangulation mode. The only solution is in decongestion and population dispersal. And yet, there is not a single government functionary…..not even the President….is even bold enough to dare to dream of reality! It is staring us in the face!!!!! Without decongestion and population dispersal, solving the national malaise which MetroManila is a physical impossibility! Try pouring a gallon of water into a one liter can!!!!

  • DonQuixoteDeRizal

    I don’t know about traffic control but I do know that Filipinos are multiplying too fast and it’s also out of control.

    RH law, any takers from the supreme court?

    • Fulpol

      the poor can’t even buy bicycles… how much more toyota Vios..

  • farmerpo

    Leave it to MMDA. Historically, they cannot plan beyond the tip of their nose. They have the enthusiasm though. E for effort.

  • Nats Tabanao

    so far, i’m still puzzled how this could work. the number of commuters going into metro manila is the same whether the buses can get inside the city or not. you may reduce the number of provincial buses, but they will be replaced by jeepneys, vans, FX or by other buses because those commuters will have to get inside metro manila one way or the other. so in the end, the volume of traffic will still be the same or might actually be even worse.

  • sjyap60

    The bus ban in Metro Manila does not make sense. Buses transport more people at least cost and road space than private vehicles. It is the poorer classes who take bus rides and the upper classes who tool around in private cars. Space wise, one bus with 50 passengers or more – passengers get on and off the bus many times in one trip – takes the road space of perhaps 5 cars with a two passengers each per trip. So why are we banning the buses, making the poorer pay more and sweat it out more, and not banning private cars with just two passengers? The real cause of congestion is the many practically empty private cars on the Manila roads. The bus ban in Manila is anti-poor, and does not solve the real cause of the traffic mess in there.

    • aristeosj

      I suggest a solution to this:
      Those private cars entering EDSA from anywhere at a certain time
      should pay a certain amount of fee for contributing to the congestion
      of the streets.

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