An official of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) on Friday denounced misinformation circulated by bus operators on its 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. window hours scheme, resulting in irate commuters bound for the provinces.
In a “Laging Handa” briefing, MMDA Chair Romando Artes said some bus operators have been telling passengers who went to their private terminals to wait until 10 p.m., instead of referring them to the two land terminals allowed to operate outside the window hours.
“Mayroon naman pong biyahe talaga na nagti-terminate sa NLEX (North Luzon Expressway) at iyon pong mga may QR (quick response)code ay may biyahe po papunta ng Cubao, sa Araneta Center Terminal (There are routes terminating at NLEX and those that have QR codes that are allowed to go to Cubao and the Araneta Center Terminal),” Artes said.
Aside from provincial buses at the NLEX Terminal (NLET) and the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (PITX), he noted that some provincial buses are allowed to terminate outside the window hours at the Araneta Center Terminal in Cubao, Quezon City.
“Ito po iyong may mga special permit, na may tinatawag na QR codes. Ito po iyong tinatawag nating (These have a special permit, or QR codes. These are what we call commuter routes),” Artes said.
The commuter routes are less than 80 kilometers from the Araneta Center Terminal and are thus allowed to enter the National Capital Region (NCR).
“Ang restrictions po nila, dapat po magsasakay at magbababa lamang sila sa (Their restrictions require them to receive and drop off passengers only at the) Cubao terminal,” Artes said.
The window hours scheme, he said, came after bus operators requested that they be allowed to use their private terminals even outside peak hours.
“Sa mga bus operators, sana po huwag nating iliko iyong facts. Particularly, kay Mr. Alex Yague, marami po siyang binibitiwan na mga salita na mali po, nandoon naman po siya sa lahat ng aming pagpupulong (To bus operators, we hope you won’t bend facts. Particularly Mr. Alex Yague, he has said a lot of things that are wrong, and he’s been present in all our meetings),” Artes said.
“Sana huwag na nilang gamitin itong mismong window hours para lituhin po iyong ating mga kababayan para po magamit nila iyong kanilang terminals na pribado na hindi po allowed under LTFRB rules (We hope they won’t use the window hours to confuse the public so they can use their private terminals that are not allowed under the rules of the LTFRB [Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board]),” Artes said.
Yague, the executive director of the Provincial Bus Operators Association of the Philippines, earlier said provincial buses should have been allowed inside NCR after the shift to Alert Level 1 on March 10.
On the last week of March, the MMDA announced a two-week dry run for the return of provincial buses to Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue (Edsa) during the said window hours.
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic two years ago, bus operators — especially those with private terminals along Edsa — were barred from using their private terminals and are instead required to terminate and begin their trips at the NLET and PITX.
Senior Citizen party-list Representative Rodolfo Ordanes also appealed to MMDA to make the rules more friendly to children and the elderly.
“Pinahihirapan nila ang seniors at mga bata sa pagbiyahe. Baka makasagap pa ng Covid dahil siksikan sa bus at mga terminal (They are giving seniors and minors a hard time in commuting. They might contract Covid-19 because the buses and terminals are packed),” he said in a statement.
He suggested that one good way to decongest Edsa is to cut by 50 percent the tollway fees on elevated roads.
“Lower toll fees on elevated roads like Skyways will shift many vehicles off the ground level roads, making space for the provincial buses,” he said. “Give the provincial buses access to the bus lanes and carousel routes.”
He also suggested the creation of alternate north-south routes for car drivers to follow so they need not take Edsa.
Senator Joel Villanueva, meanwhile, said commuters should be given decent and affordable alternatives for them to travel in Metro Manila within business hours.