It’s the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, but it has no police powers. So how can the LTFRB enforce franchise-related laws?
During the second Usapan AAP media forum held by the Automobile Association Philippines last October 24, LTFRB board member Al A. Parreno, representing LTFRB chair Jaime Jacob who had to attend a conference called by newly appointed Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya, admitted that the LTFRB’s biggest problem is enforcement. (The LTFRB has only three board members with Jacob as chair.)
Lawyer Parreno said that the LTFRB has only one mobile and sometimes it isn’t even working, so they coordinate with the Philippine National Police to spot and apprehend out-of-line or “colorum” PUVs (buses, jeepneys and taxicabs), provincial buses illegally plying city routes and private vehicles operating as PUVs without a valid franchise.
Colorum PUVs clog Edsa and other roads in the National Capital Region, creating traffic jams, polluting the air to the max and causing legitimate bus lines with valid franchises to lose more than P10,000 a day for every colorum unit. Even worse, colorum PUVs have been used by criminal gangs to rob passengers. The extent of the problem created by colorum PUVs is shown by the estimate of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), cited by former Transportation Undersecretary Glicerio Sicat at Usapan AAP, that of the 10,000 buses plying Edsa daily, 46 percent are colorum. Edsa, by the way, was built to accommodate only 1,600 vehicles daily, per the MMDA. Parreno claimed, however, that the LTFRB is still studying the capacity of Edsa regarding how many buses can ply it.
1 million colorum units. So how can the LTFRB, which has no police powers, curb the runaway colorum PUV population? Former Land Transportation Office chair Alberto Suansing, currently the executive director of the Philippine Global Road Safety Partnership, said at Usapan AAP that there are about one million colorum PUVs nationwide. The bus population nationwide is 40,000, with 5,000 based in Metro Manila.
Parreno answered that the LTFRB is coordinating weekly with the LTO on a Department of Transportation and Communications order to identify colorum PUVs and the penalties to be imposed by the LTO on the driver and vehicle. Since the law creating the LTFRB stipulates that its enforcers should come from the LTO, the DOTC has turned down a proposal from the LTFRB to create its own “Franchise Enforcers” arm.
At a press briefing two weeks ago, Jacob said the LTFRB charter should be amended by Congress to create an enforcement arm that would implement franchise-related regulations since the LTO and other traffic law enforcement agencies have their own priorities. Jacob added that the LTFRB is the most qualified to enforce franchise-related laws since it has the databank needed to determine which PUVs have valid franchises and which PUV operators are violating the terms of their franchise. At present, the undermanned and under-equipped LTFRB is limited to visiting and inspecting PUV terminals unannounced at random. The LTFRB, in fact, has passed on to the LTO the drug-testing of PUV drivers.
Meanwhile, back at Usapan AAP, when emcee Cito Beltran asked how many colorum PUVs there are, Parreno answered that a unit in the LTFRB is rationalizing the list of valid franchises. He assured everyone that the LTFRB’s Management Information Division can tell anyone inquiring whether a bus is an “out of line” colorum. Parreno said that to quickly spot colorum PUVs, the LTFRB is proposing to attach Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags on all PUVs. This proposal was applauded by the bus operators present.
Reckless drivers. The proliferation of colorum PUVs is not the LTFRB’s only headache. Reckless and/or incompetent bus and truck drivers who cut a path of death, injury and destruction on the road confront the LTFRB with another major problem. Rosauro de la Rosa, a bus line owner, said that his drivers go to Tesda for training and that bus operators exchange information on “bad” drivers and drivers who have been placed on preventive suspension after an accident. Sicat said insurance companies can help promote road safety by imposing higher premium rates for drivers who were involved in road crashes.
Dodo Macapagal, operator of G-Liner, the oldest existing bus company in Metro Manila, said that bus operators try to hire the best drivers but these are usually pirated for higher-paying work in the Middle East. He favored the initiative taken by then Transport Secretary Jose “Ping” de Jesus, cited at Usapan AAP by Suansing, requiring all PUV drivers to undergo training and testing by Tesda for a National Certification. Suansing surmised that if the DOTC had pushed through with the National Certification requirement even after De Jesus has resigned, by now all PUV drivers in Metro Manila would have a National Certification and would, as a result, be better and safer professional drivers.
Rupert Bayocot, president of the Confederation of Truckers Associations of the Philippines (CTAP), informed those present that the LTO requires truck drivers to have a Code A or Articulated license. He added that CTAP supports road safety programs and regularly conducts training workshops for truck drivers with the International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI).
Before the 2nd Usapan AAP ended, AAP president Gus Lagman acknowledged the partnership of the LTFRB, AAP and the University of the Philippines National Center for Transportation Studies (UP-NCTS) in conducting a series of three-day driver training seminars for PUV drivers at UP Diliman with Toyota Motor Corp. Philippines as sponsor. Lagman also offered AAP’s assistance in manning the LTFRB hotline, which receives 196 calls per day complaining about buses, trucks and taxicabs.