Bus line to stop Cotabato City-Kabacan route due to extortion

Eddie Soledad, manager of the Peoples' Transport, the lone interprovincial bus company
operating in North Cotabato, said their buses will ply only the Davao City to Kabacan in North Cotabato route.

Formerly known as the Weena Bus, the People’s Transport, normally serves the Davao City-Cotabato City route, a six-hour trip.

The management’s decision will affect thousands of commuters along the 86-kilometer Kabacan to Cotabato City route — from the Maguindanao towns of Pagalungan and Datu Montawal, North Cotabato towns of Pikit, Aleosan, Midsayap, Libungan, Pigcawayan and Pigcalagan; Sultan Kudarat in Shariff Kabunsuan (formerly Maguindanao) and Cotabato City.

Passengers in Cotabato City who are bound for Kabacan or the cities of Kidapawan, Digos and Davao, will have to take other means of transportation – vans or jeeps – to Kabacan. Passengers bound for Kidapawan, Digos and Davao cities from the affected Cotabato  City to Kabacan route, can take the bus only from Kabacan.

Passengers in Davao City who are bound for Cotabato City will have to stop in Kabacan and take another means of transport to Cotabato City.

Soledad issued the announcement despite appeals from the private sector, including the business chamber, to reconsider its move.

Soledad said the company has lost millions from mulcting and extortion within the stretch of this highway, including the refusal of some passengers to pay their fare.

When asked to pay, Soledad said “these passengers would threaten the drivers and the bus conductors.” In fact, many of these drivers and other bus employees were either shot or
bombed, he added.

He said the company was losing not less than P200,000 a month from non-payment of
passengers in this Shariff Kabunsuan-North Cotabato route.

Last year, at least 10 buses owned by Peoples Transport were subjected to highway robberies and bombings, including the worst incidents last year in a public terminal in Matalam when two of its buses were badly damaged by improvised explosive device (IED) planted in one of the two buses.  

Another bus was also bombed at the bus terminal in Cotabato City, in May 2007.

“These problems had been pestering the management many, many years ago,” said Soledad. “However, no concrete actions were taken by the government to resolve the issues.”

Boy dela Fuente, private secretary of Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema, said the decision of the People’s Transport ”violated its franchise”.

Soledad, however, said the company “is not closing its doors.”
“The management might reconsider its move if the local government units (LGUs) in the affected towns would impose safety measures to secure the passengers and their employees,” Soledad said.

“This is to protect the lives, not only of our drivers and bus conductors, but the riding public as well,” he said.  (MindaNews)