Apparently to appease commuters who will be affected by drastic changes in the capital’s bus service system, the chief of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) on Wednesday asked for an eight-percent fare cut for those taking buses from Cavite and Batangas province.
Starting Aug. 6, the buses from the two provinces will be allowed only up to a new terminal in Parañaque City, from which passengers can take other public transports like jeepneys, Asian utility vehicles and taxis to continue their trip.
Located at the Uniwide reclamation area, the 1.4-hectare Southwest Interim Transport Terminal (SITT) in Parañaque is one of the three transport hubs being set up on orders from Malacañang to limit provincial buses to the outskirts of the metropolis and decongest main roads, especially Edsa.
The bus companies can use the SITT for free, hence “reducing the current bus fares by 8 percent would only amount to a fraction of what they could save every month or year by subscribing to the integrated terminal scheme,” said MMDA Chair Francis Tolentino who filed a petition for a fare reduction in the main office of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board in Quezon City.
According to the MMDA, provincial bus companies renting terminals within Metro Manila pay as much as P2.88 million a year, an amount they could now save by using SITT.
“The savings the bus companies would get from using the new terminal should be translated to a fare reduction,” Tolentino told reporters, adding that the minimum fare for Cavite buses could go down by at least P2 if the petition is approved.
Costing P24 million to build, the SITT can handle 955 passenger buses daily. The MMDA said it was renting the lot for P1 million a month.
Told of the proposed fare cut, Catherine Kaiklian, a 21-year-old resident of Imus, Cavite, who works on Ayala Avenue, Makati City, did the math.
Kailklian said she had been spending P33 for her daily trip from a terminal in Imus to Ayala on an air-conditioned bus. If the bus could take her only up to Parañaque starting Aug. 6, she would have to pay P25 for the bus from Imus to the SITT and another P12 for a ride from SITT to Ayala.
So even if her bus fare is reduced from P25 to P23, commuters going to Ayala like her would end up spending P2 more than what they used to pay because of the second ride.
But Tolentino said such extra expenses could still be minimal considering the “convenience and safety” to be provided by the new terminal and the overall reduction in traffic congestion and air pollution in Metro Manila.
Narcisco Leyran of the Cavite-Batangas Transport Cooperative said his group would not oppose the fare cut as long as their use of the new terminal would remain free.
Earlier, a group calling itself the National Center for Commuter Safety and Protection (NCCSP) opposed the setup of the new terminals, saying it would only lengthen travel time for commuters and make their daily trip more expensive.
The group estimated that more than 4.5 million commuters would be affected by the new system, especially those from Bulacan, Laguna, Batangas and Cavite provinces.
Parañaque Mayor Edwin Olivarez said “the area around the Uniwide terminal has immense commercial potentials, and once it becomes the connector transport hub in southwestern Metro Manila, we expect it to attract transport and travel-related business.’’
The operation of the SITT also drew support from 17 out of the 23 mayors of Cavite, who issued a manifesto in a meeting on Wednesday with Tolentino, a former Tagaytay City mayor.
“We will relay to our constituents that this terminal project is a great plan. Our commuters will be safe transferring from one bus to another ”said Noveleta Mayor Enrico Alvarez, president of the Cavite Mayors’ League. With a report from Jaymee T. Gamil