Official asks for more time to address Davao’s public transport woes

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/05 September) – An official on Thursday asked commuters to stretch their patience amid growing frustration over the perceived inefficiency of the city’s public transport system, saying the local government is doing all it can to implement the initial phase of the High Priority Bus System (HPBS) this year.

“Patience really. We know. We can only say ‘please be patient.’ We all know people will be mad at the government or at the jeepney sector because nothing has been done, but rest assured the city government is slowly implementing this project with balancing everyone’s interest also,” Assistant City Administrator Tristan Dwight Domingo told ISpeak media forum at the City Hall on Thursday.

Tristan Dwight Domingo, Assistant Administrator of Davao City (Sept. 5, 2019). MindaNews photo by ANTONIO L. COLINA IV

Domingo said the local government has allocated over P100 million to implement the initial phase, covering Catalunan Grande and Diversion Road, before the year ends.

The approved city budget will also cover the cost for the social development assistance for the would-be displaced jeepney operators and drivers once the implementation of the bus modernization project goes full throttle, he said.

He added the local government will help the affected individuals seek assistance or training from the Department of Labor and Employment, Technical Education Skills and Development Authority, Department of Trade and Industry and the Commission on Higher Education.

He said the city government was forced to use its own funds for phase 1 amid delays in the approval of the P12-billion loan from the Asian Development Bank.

Domingo said 35 modern low-floor and low-entry type buses will be needed to serve the routes in phase 1.

A total of 115 bus stops will be constructed along those routes, he added.

He said the local government chose Catalunan Grande and Diversion Road for phase 1, as only a few jeepneys are plying these routes while the demand for public transport is high.

“We cannot just pick any route that we want. Every day, we are receiving complaints. Yes, we hear all of those things but you must know that solving a traffic problem such as what we are experiencing all over the city is not as simple as just saying magbutang lang ta og bus solbad na tanan (you put buses there, everything is solved),” he said.

He said it could not afford to pay all the jeepney operators and drivers if the city opts to choose the routes with more number of jeepney units.

“In Toril, the minimum number is 400 jeepneys. If you remove 400 jeepneys all at once, that’s 400 families. That’s a lot of people who should be given access to the cash assistance,” he said.

If not from the ADB loan, Domingo said the local government will find a way to look for funds to get the entire project implemented.

He said the city has around 7,000 jeepney operators and drivers.

For the meantime, commuters that will not be covered by phase 1 of the HPBS will have to make do with Peak Hours Augmentation Bus Services (PHABS).

Dionisio Abude, City Traffic and Transportation Management Office (CTTMO) head said the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) approved on Wednesday the request of the City Government of Davao to extend to 24 hours the PHABS instead of 6:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

He said the LTFRB also approved the opening of additional PHABS routes.

Aside from Calinan and Toril, PHABS routes now include going to Panacan and Lasan with pickup points at SM City in Ecoland, C.M. Recto St. near Atene de Davao University, and Gaisano Mall of Davao; Cabantian route with pickup points at Rizal Street, and near STI College at Corner C.M. Recto and Magsaysay Streets; Buhangin route with pickup point at the Grand Menseng Hotel at Anda Pichon Street and Aldevinco Shopping Center in C.M. Recto Street. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)