The Uniwide terminal
Metro Manila Development Authority Chair Francis Tolentino sent a nine-page letter in reply to my column of Sept. 10 (which is only two-and-a-half pages typewritten) on the provincial bus terminal located at the Uniwide Mall in Parañaque City.
The Southwest Integrated Provincial Transport Terminal (SWIPTT) serves as a loading/unloading location for provincial buses coming from the provinces of Batangas and Cavite and environs. It was created to prevent provincial buses from entering Metro Manila’s already congested roads, which considerably adds to the chaotic traffic situation.
Nearby in the same mall is the site of the MMDA’s Organized Bus Route (OBR) System, which used to be located in Baclaran, which provides space for city buses to unload or load passengers. Other vehicles, such as jeepneys and taxis, as well as other commuters, also make use of this terminal. The two terminals, he stresses, are two different locales.
“It just makes good sense to agree to this alternative, more spacious location given the everyday public outcry against tremendous traffic and chaos around the Baclaran area in general,” writes Tolentino. But since the area was built and is managed by Uniwide it is only right that they be allowed to profit (tremendously, I might say) from the fees they charge the vehicles using the area.
As for the improvements that the MMDA has carried out in its side of Uniwide Mall, which I described as “cosmetic,” quoting other news reports, Tolentino cites what they have done so far: “…roofed and cemented walkways up to the footbridge, clear directional signs, visible presence of uniformed MMDA personnel, traffic enforcers and security police, porters who assist those carrying heavier loads, well-lit facilities, food kiosks, a waiting area with TV screens, electronic advisories, exhaust fans and clean comfort rooms.” He adds: “If people see this as cosmetic changes, we will need to understand further what this means.” He is trying, he says, to address the concerns of “our ‘real’ commuters.”
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Recently, the MMDA filed a petition with the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board to lower the fare charged by Cavite
buses, proposing to draw the savings for commuters “from savings operators get from higher terminal fees elsewhere, street petty corruption, shorter travel time, lower fuel consumption.”
This, in the face of loud complaints from commuters coming from Cavite and Batangas (in the early days of the terminal), with Tolentino adding that he holds constant dialogues with transport groups and commuters, “trusting that they have solutions to make the SWIPTT work for all even better.”
He adds: “We’ve elevated our mindsets from looking after the profitability of our bus operators to seriously looking into the welfare and mobility of our Southwest commuters.”
The SWIPTT, Tolentino emphasizes, is a temporary terminal created in response to the President’s administrative order providing for the establishment of terminals in preparation for the Integrated Transport System led by the Department of Transportation and Communications. Under the AO, says Tolentino, the
MMDA was assigned to develop the Southwest temporary terminal (in Uniwide), the Department of Public Works and Highways is tasked to set up the Southeast terminal catering to South Luzon and Visayas/Mindanao via the South Expressway, and the DOTC assigned to develop the temporary terminal for North Luzon buses. As Tolentino explained earlier, the plan is meant to restrict the operations (and entry) of provincial buses inside the metropolis and thereby reduce the volume of vehicles on Edsa and other major thoroughfares.
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“The plan and the assumption, of course, was that all temporary terminals would have been launched all at the same time,” says Tolentino. “This was to already advance the economic and social benefits the Project can potentially bring by hurdling resistance, changing mindsets and old behaviors, addressing access and affordability concerns, and fixing the fragmented transport systems this early.”
But, he points out, “the full effect of traffic decongestion inside Metro Manila with this Project can only be felt if the DOTC and DPWH temporary terminals are also in place. We hope to see this happen soonest.”
As for the legal questions surrounding the choice of Uniwide mall as the site of both terminals for city and provincial buses, Tolentino claims there is “no mystery and problem with the lease contract.” The MMDA, he says, is not a party to the legal dispute between Uniwide and Manila Bay Development Corp., which owns the land on which the mall stands. “As far as the MMDA is concerned, only the party who has the legal possession of the property is the proper party that the MMDA should deal with in matters of enjoyment of the property, which includes sub-leasing [it].” But what about the Court of Appeals ruling granting Manila Bay Development Corp. true ownership of the entire property since Uniwide has been reneging on its lease payments?
Meanwhile, Uniwide also has an ongoing legal dispute with the city government of Parañaque.
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Setting this aside, Tolentino decries as “sweeping” my statement that government money was used to develop the city buses terminal while a private entity, Uniwide, collects fees for its use.
“It was Uniwide who spent for putting up the necessary roadways, pavement and facilities of the (city buses) terminal, including utilities…If they are to collect nominal fees, it is to recover the cost of putting up the BMDS terminal and to cover the expenses of maintenance.”
Tolentino says the matter of terminal fees is a purely private matter between Uniwide and the transport operators. But certainly we must ask why Uniwide was allowed to enjoy such a profitable advantage.
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