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LTFRB cancels franchise of Claire de la Fuente’s bus line ‘permanently’

MANILA, Philippines—The franchise of one of Metro Manila’s largest bus companies has been cancelled, while licenses of 14 others were suspended for joining a transportation strike that left commuters stranded on the streets in 2010.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) on Wednesday affirmed a January decision to penalize bus firms for violating the main provision of their franchises to provide reliable transportation services to the public.

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“After sifting through the evidence they presented us, the board found no merit to their arguments,” LTFRB Board Member Manuel Iway said in an interview.

Leading the charge with the most buses and the harshest penalty was Philippine Corinthian Liner, which had the franchises of its 129 units cancelled permanently. The bus firm is owned by singer-entrepreneur Claire de la Fuente.

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The LTFRB also issued six-month suspension orders against 14 other bus companies that joined the transport strike in November 2010.

These were Admiral Transoport (54 buses), Angelito Chang (10), Don Mariano Transit Corp. (57), Arabia Boy (34), Jacinto Torres (29), Luzon Bus (36), Ma-Fel Transit (15), Mannrose Liner (30), Margarito Penalosa (18), Nova Auto Transit (76), Panda Transit (10), Rovall Transit (68), Gil 5000 Inc. (75), Voyager Express  (11), and Wendell Littad (22).

Iway said on Wednesday, the orders would take effect immediately, but bus companies could still appeal the decision before Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Secretary Manuel Roxas II.

The bus companies were penalized for joining a transport strike nearly a year ago, which was in protest of the government’s plan to include public utility vehicles in the Metro Manila number coding scheme.

This traffic-reduction scheme bans certain cars from the road during certain days of the week, based on the last digit of their plate numbers.

“Their arguments centered on the fact that most of the buses in their fleets were covered by the coding scheme on the day of the supposed strike,” Iway said. He said bus companies also claimed that many of their drivers had called in sick that day, preventing the companies from deploying buses.

The official said most of the arguments were deemed “unbelievable” to the regulator.

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He said the harshest penalty was handed down to Philippine Corinthian Liner because it had been the only bus company that did not deny joining the strike. Iway said Antonio Pagulayan, the officer-in-charge of the Metro Manila Development Authority’s (MMDA) organized bus route system at the time, earlier testified that the Philippine Corinthian Liner had indeed deployed buses on the day of the strike.

However, the official later recanted his statements, saying that the information he based his testimony on had appeared to be false.

De la Fuente, president of the Integrated Metropolitan Bus Operators Association, declined to comment, saying the group or any of the companies had not seen the orders.

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TAGS: Claire de la Fuente, Integrated Metropolitan Bus Operators Association, LTFRB, Philippine Corinthian Liner, suspension of public franchises, The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, Transport Strike
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