Court cites LTFRB data in junking provincial bus ban
A Quezon City regional trial court (RTC) has ordered the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to halt the implementation of its proposed provincial bus ban, days before the agency was set to pilot-test the shelved proposal to ease bottlenecks on Edsa.
In a scathing 25-page decision released on Friday (Aug 2) Branch 223 Judge Caridad Walse-Lutero said both the MMDA and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) seemed to have abused its policing powers when it amended the routes of provincial buses and ordered the closure of provincial bus terminals on Edsa arbitrarily.
The injunction stemmed from an appeal filed by several provincial bus operators alleging that the ban, which prohibits them from entering Metro Manila via Edsa, would lead to heavy income loss.
The policy was given flesh by the LTFRB’s Memorandum Circular No. 2019-25, which amended the buses’ routes to end at interim terminals on the metro’s fringes, and Metro Manila Council Resolution No. 2019-2, which asked city governments to close down bus terminals along Edsa.
Lutero also used the LTFRB’s own data against itself, which claimed that buses occupied a third of the road space while private cars constituted 72 percent of road traffic.
“It would seem that the conclusion reached by the LTFRB that the provincial buses are the main reason for the traffic is incorrect,” she wrote.
“The closure of the plaintiffs’ terminals has far-reaching effects. It would affect not only their respective businesses, but their respective contracts with others,” Lutero added. “While as a rule, the right to income or earning does not prevail over public welfare, in the case, the Court has not yet been presented with a clear basis or sufficient justification for the issuances.”
This effectively places in limbo the dry run of the ban scheduled for Aug. 7, said MMDA traffic chief Bong Nebrija.
But while he promised to abide by the court’s decision, the disgruntled traffic czar said the injunction could throw a wrench at similarly radical traffic-easing proposals in the MMDA pipeline, like the revival of the high-occupancy vehicle policy.
“We will continue to seek the advice of our lawyers,” he said. “But this is just so frustrating. How can we know if the policy is right if we never try it out, if we always want to have it suspended?”/tsb
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