This is a continuation of my column on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, entitled “Untouchable?” where I questioned the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) for handling the Ceres Bus Liner with kid gloves in view of the series of road accidents involving the company’s buses. If a unit of a small bus company is involved in road mishaps, the agency is quick to impose a preventive suspension order against the entire company’s fleet.
Section 46 of LTFRB memorandum circular 2011-004 states: “In cases of accidents resulting in deaths or physical injuries, the Board may, prior to the hearing, suspend for a period not exceeding thirty (30) days any certificate of public convenience or the exercise of any right or authority issued or granted, whenever it is necessary to avoid further injuries or damages which may result in the continued operation of the business.” Although, in the case of the collision between a Ceres bus and a private ambulance, the LTFRB already issued a show-cause order against the company and suspended the license of the unit involved. But is that enough?
If we may recall, the LTFRB 7 issued a suspension order against the entire fleet of EDC Liner when one of its mini buses figured in a fatal vehicular accident a few years ago in front of the South General Hospital in the City of Naga, which resulted in the death of 16 passengers.
Last year, the LTFRB suspended the entire fleet of Elavil Tours Phils. after one of its buses was involved in a road accident in Quezon Province which resulted in deaths. Also last year, the LTFRB suspended Fairview Bus Inc. following an accident in Quezon City, which resulted in the death of a motorcycle rider.
Is the LTFRB 7 hesitant to throw the book at Ceres because it provides 80 percent of the transportation in Metro Cebu during this pandemic? So what if they serve the public? There are so many other bus companies which are willing to deploy their units to ferry commuters while traditional jeepneys are still not allowed to operate.
Another alleged violation of the bus company is its travel line. According to Cebu City Transportation Office Chief Alma Barandog Madarang, the City Government did not issue a travel line to the bus company since its units were allowed to ply several routes in the city during the lockdown in place of traditional jeepneys. The company was given a free hand on where and what routes to service. That is the reason Ceres buses are plying routes that have narrow roads. Madarang also said that most of the Ceres drivers are not from Cebu so they are not familiar with the roads here. Some drivers are really abusive because they think they belong to a big bus company. And when they figure in accidents, the company is willing to settle with the parties involved.
Will the LTFRB just tolerate this questionable conduct of this bus company? Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella, during a dialogue with representatives of the bus company, warned the management to “shape up or ship out.” The bus company, on the other hand, promised to cooperate with authorities by reducing its buses’ speed limit in the city. The mayor warned the management not to break its promise or else he would be forced to bar its buses from entering the city to protect residents from road accidents. The mayor said he is not willing to compromise the lives and limbs of residents just because the bus company serves the riding public.
Ceres Bus Liner is operated by Vallacar Transit. Founded by Ricardo Yanson Sr. in the ‘60s in Bacolod City, it has a humble beginning. It started with a lone 14-seater old jeepney to become the biggest bus conglomerate in the country. All the major routes in the country have been monopolized by the bus company.
Another issue that hounds the bus company is that some of its units allegedly have the same plate numbers.
If that is true, isn’t that a violation of the franchise law? So what is the Land Transportation Office doing about this? What’s so special with Ceres that authorities cannot touch the bus company? Just asking?