Van operators accuse Rural Transit of unfair competition

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/06 September)- The 100-member Valencia Taxi and Van Transport Operation Inc. (VTVOI) has accused the Rural Transit of Mindanao, Inc. (RTMI) of unfair competition, after the company allegedly reduced on its own the fare in the Valencia City, Bukidnon to Wao, Lanao del Sur route.

Victoria Besa, a VTVOI representative, told the Sangguniang Panlalawigan on Wednesday the bus company allegedly violated a memorandum of agreement signed by the parties in 2005 that sets a uniform fare from Bukidnon to neighboring towns.

In a letter to the provincial board on August 23, Rogelio Garcia, VTVOI president, said that RTMI cut its fare from P80 to P60 in the Valencia-Wao route.

Danilo Garnosa, RTMI operations manager, denied they violated the agreement, but admitted that they cut the fares after an oil price roll back.

Garnosa told MindaNews it was the van operators who first reduced the rate, adding that the operators must make a lot of explaining because they don’t issue tickets to passengers.

Besa said the alleged violation by the bus company led to the “hardship of the small players” plying the said route.

She noted that “it was meant to boot the van operators out of business.”

Besa also denied they lowered the rate first, and added that the operators issue tickets if the passengers asked for it.

Besa said the operators will invoke the agreement and will push for the suspension of RTMI’s franchise to operate in the route due to the alleged violation, if the problem persists.

Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr, provincial board presiding officer, said he will ask the Land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to appear in the next session so the issue can be clarified.

Last year RTMI also figured in another inquiry at the provincial board.

After its public hearings on vehicular accidents involving buses in October 2011, the board required safety measures from RTMI and other bus companies plying the province.

In a resolution passed on October 26, 2011, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan urged the bus companies to take measures to reduce vehicular accidents in the province after the series of hearings conducted by the provincial board attended by representatives and officers of the RTMI, LTFRB, and the Land Transportation Office.

On top of the eight suggestions in SP Resolution No. 2011-073 is for the bus companies to limit the driving time of any bus driver to a maximum of four continuous hours.

The resolution said the suggestion emanates from the  “fatigue kills” campaign of the International Transport Federation and the International Labor Organization Hours of Work and Rest Periods (Road Transport) Convention, 1979 (no. 153).

The provincial board also urged RTMI and other bus firms to impose sanctions on bus drivers reaching their destinations earlier than the prescribed travel time to discourage over-speeding.

The bus company was also urged to establish an in-house driving safety and proficiency school similar to the one maintained by companies like Del Monte Philippines, Inc. (Walter I. Balane/ MindaNews)