MANILA, Philippines - In 1917, Americans Albert Louise Ammen and Max Blouse set up the Pangasinan Transportation Co. (Pantranco) with its main terminal in Dagupan. It was later sold to another American by the name of Frank Klar. Together with his son-in-law Don Rafael Gonzales, they bought other bus companies that were on the brink of bankruptcy.
After the war, Pantranco further expanded its operations, buying losing companies such as La Mallorca-Pambusco and the Cagayan Valley Transportation Co.
But Pantranco itself became a losing proposition. In 1985, it was renamed the Pantranco North Expressway, Inc. (PNEI) under a new management and new owners.
Businessman Rufino Lim Co of Pangasinan bought the Pantranco franchise on January, 1995.
Between 1986 and the early 1990s, PNEI was not able to make the ''turn around.'' In 1993, PNEI went under a rehabilitation program. More than 1,500 workers lost their jobs. On top of that, PNEI failed to settle the workers' retirement and separation pay.
Pantranco workers sued PNEI before the National Labor Relations Commission. The workers, represented by their union, the Pantranco Employees Association (PEA) -Philippine Transport General Workers Association (PTGWO) and the Pantranco Retrenched Employees Association (PANREA) won their case up to the Court of Appeals and finally up to the Supreme Court.
In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that the workers were entitled to retirement and separation and other benefits and awarded them R722.7 million. But the workers could not collect the full amount because by that time most of the assets of Pantranco and PNEI had been foreclosed or garnished by other creditors.
In 2007, the Pantranco Employees Association (PEA)-Philippine Transport General Workers Association (PTGWO) filed a petition with the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) for the extension of the effectivity of the franchises for 489 units. Petition was denied sometime in 2009.
PEA and PANREA filed a motion for extension but that was not acted upon until 2012.
The LTFRB called a hearing on the petition but many did not appear or comply with the LTFRB order.
An auction was conducted by LTFRB where PEA and PANREA sold and transferred their rights to Victory Liner and four other allied or sister companies. Winning bid was P100 million.
The PEA and PANREA filed a petition with the LTFRB for the ''extension of the effectivity, approval of the sale, transfer of the franchise to Victory Liner and company.
On May 21, 2012, LTFRB granted their petition. The matter is now with the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).
The glory that was Pantranco may never happen again. The provincial bus networks are clogging Metro Manila in a dizzying pattern.
Time was when Pantranco was a picture of neatness and order and efficiency. Today, you can find almost all bus companies chocking the main routes of Pasay, Manila, Quezon City, and elsewhere.
Above all, the workers of the past were paid handsomely. You hardly saw Pantranco buses involved in vehicular accidents.
As a result of the closure of Pantranco, 1,500 workers lost their jobs.