Issue of August 11, 2019
     
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EDITORIAL

JUSTIFYING ADDITIONAL TAXI UNITS IN BAGUIO


The road towards a manageable and stress-free traffic situation in Baguio City remains an uphill struggle, and it doesn’t help things when efforts at solutions are obstructed by directives and issuances that do not fully take into consideration the stand of the other stakeholders, especially the city government.

At first glance, one could give the impression that the recent memorandum circular of Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) opening more taxi franchises for Baguio City, along with the city of Butuan, is a welcome development.

For the ordinary commuter, additional taxis in the streets could simply mean a cab would already be available when it is needed, unlike now when it would often take a commuter time and a bit of strategizing where to best wait for a cab, because many passengers are waiting but only few available rides – or none at all – are coming. To many, why taxis become scarce and passengers become invisible to drivers of passing vacant cabs, especially during bad weather, remains a mystery.

It may also mean an elevated standard in public transport for the commuters in Baguio, since these additional units, if approved, would allow brand new and premium taxi units that are at par with those used in other countries to ply our streets. For a tourist, educational, convention, and commercial center like Baguio, modern public utility vehicles (PUVs) would seem to be the next thing to adopt to keep up with the times.

However, when local taxi operators and the city government protest the LTFRB circular, it means there has been a gaping hole in the process that led to the decision to allow the operation of more taxi units in the city. Like an unpaved or an uneven road in a busy district, the situation will most likely end in a gridlock.

In objecting to the order, petitioners pointed out that the LTFRB failed to consult with stakeholders and therefore it was not well informed with the prevailing conditions in the city. As Transportation Sec. Arthur Tugade himself approved of the issuance when it was announced last June, we presume the LTFRB studied the traffic situation in the concerned areas and other factors to serve as basis of its action.

But if LTFRB indeed held consultations, who or what agencies did it consults with? Was due diligence done to get to the city’s real situation? The agency said more taxi units were opened pursuant to the “identified need” for more taxi units and to afford convenience to the increasing number of motorists in the city.

The new city mayor, who is mulling the filing of legal action against the agency, is justified in saying that the LTFRB should not have acted unilaterally, because it is the local government that manages traffic. Further, the issue could have been clarified if proper dialogue was conducted.

More importantly, there is an existing moratorium on the issuance of franchises for PUVs in Baguio, passed in 1998, which as far as the city is concerned has not been revoked yet. It was aimed then to stop the proliferation of old model and “reject” taxi units and to investigate spurious franchises issued in the city. Now, with thousands of taxi units fighting for space with thousands more jeepneys and private vehicles, adding one to 400 units is impractical at this time and complicating matters further.

Baguio bursting in its seams when it comes to its traffic condition caused by various factors has not been a new concern. It has confronted city leaders spanning various terms, and still, finding solutions remains a tough challenge for every city chief executive, councilor, traffic division head of the local police, and now even involving the private traffic experts.

The numbers, we believe, cannot address the problem. We know that we cannot close Baguio to people coming with their vehicles and we also cannot prevent them from buying one. We also could only regulate mass transport, but the LGU has in place traffic laws that needed teeth, and the additional units seem to negate the purpose of encouraging people – tourists or residents alike – to walk or limit their use of their vehicles when roaming in short distances.

It is a matter of having political will in implementing traffic rules and regulations, and discipline among vehicle owners and commuters. If we cannot abide by a simple traffic rule as a pedestrian, or persist on buying a new car and take a photo of our neighbor’s garage; or act without considering all fronts, then we have no right adding more vehicles in our streets, even if we deserve one.

 

 

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