Press Release
August 13, 2019

Transcript of Sen. Grace Poe's Opening Statement
Public Services Hearing on Provincial Bus Ban

August 13, 2019

Good morning. The Committee on Public Services is hereby called to order....

We will now move to the adoption of the rules. I would like to announce that the committee is adopting and subscribing to the pertinent provisions of the Rules of the Senate and Rules of Procedure governing inquiries in aid of legislation which was adopted by the Senate. These rules shall guide the operation and conduct of the meetings, hearings and investigations of the committee.

With that out of the way, I would like to thank everyone who made time for this hearing. Lalo na po sa mga kasama natin sa transport sector. Your participation is a primary consideration for this committee. As for those who are still stuck in traffic, we will gladly allow you to vent.

A spectre is haunting Mega Manila-the spectre of traffic. It takes away our time-28,000 hours, or around three years of our lives, in fact.

Sa mga nakaraang dekada, ginawang guinea pig ng MMDA ang mga drivers, commuters, at public transport operators sa kanilang mga trial-and-error na patakaran. Noong 2015, sinabing ang mga "chokepoints" sa EDSA ang dahilan. Three years after, sinubukan naman ang singles-only ban-which only moved traffic to the secondary roads.

There was an attempt to put EDSA on a "road diet"-solusyon para sa highway na busog na busog sa traffic. And since the 1980's, every possible variation of the number coding scheme has been tried. Ironically, this only resulted in drivers buying "coding cars", or extra vehicle for use on a "coding day". This is a textbook example of a "perverse incentive".

The banning of provincial buses along EDSA is the latest MMDA trial. The plan hinges on three steps: First, "interim terminals" would be established, and provincial bus stations within the city would be abolished. Second, provincial buses would be required to terminate their trips at the integrated terminals. Third, city buses would only be allowed to drive on the yellow lanes. These plans were achieved through various issuances from 2012 to the present.

It sounds like a "good" plan until we actually get to the facts:

a. First, buses and jeeps account for 70% of all trips in Mega Manila. Unduly reducing these vehicles without providing for other modes of mass transportation will only result in longer queues and shorter patience.

b. Second, there are 247,000 private vehicles in the region, maybe even more and these take up 80% of the roads. So the sheer volume of vehicles is an intrinsic part of the traffic problem. In fact, even MMDA General Manager Jojo Garcia has been quoted as saying: "'Yung provincial bus, napakaliit ng percentage na 'yan ang cause of traffic. Siguro nasa five percent lang 'yan ng total traffic."

c. Third, and this is the most important-encouraging private vehicles has never been a good transport policy. Ang bus ay kayang magsakay ng 50 na pasahero; ang kotse ay 5; at ang jeep ay 12. Ang pagbabawal sa higit 3,000 provincial buses ay magreresulta sa higit 15,000 additional na kotse na dadaan sa EDSA.

Ignorance of these facts was evident in the results: Kumpol-kumpol at halos 'di umuusad ang mga bus sa loob ng yellow lane, habang napakaluwag ang pagbiyahe ng mga private vehicles. Ang dating commute via bus na mula Commonwealth Market papuntang Ortigas na dapat isang oras at kalahati, umabot ng tatlong oras at kalahati. Ang ilan, 'di natiis kaya naglakad na lang. 'Yung iba naman naghanap ng alternatives, tulad ng MRT pero blockbuster din ang pila doon o 'di kaya naman ay Grab o habal-habal pero siyempre mas mahal ng konti 'yun.

And here's the rub: Due to the writ of preliminary injunction issued by a branch of the Quezon City RTC, the bus ban was implemented on a "voluntary" basis. A mere 24 out 3,300 buses "volunteered" in good faith. And at the end of the day, bumalik rin sila sa pagbibiyahe ng diretso sa Maynila dahil walang pasahero sa Valenzuela at Sta. Rosa.

Drivers would point to the "lack of discipline" of buses. While this may be correct, it is equally true that many drivers of cars, buses, and jeepneys are equally undisciplined. Let those who have never swerved, used the wrong lane, or forgot to use their signal light cast the first stone.

Let me make this clear: I commend the MMDA for their resolve. As MMDA General Manager Garcia has said, "We need to start somewhere." But this is not a substitute for rational, consulted, and evidence-based policy making. This hearing is an opportunity to clarify things before it gets messy, at para na rin magkaroon ng mas maayos na konsultasyon.

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