BAGUIO CITY (Aug. 22) — The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) regional director today assailed the 90-day experimental re-routing of public utility vehicles (PUVs) here, and the irregular franchises in the city allegedly endorsed by the chair of the city’s transport committee.
In a weekly press conference, DOTC Regional Director Federico Mandapat, a city councilor for 16 years, disclosed that Councilor Rocky Thomas Balisong endorsed the re-routing of a jeepney line to Mines View, passing through Calderon Street, in a 90-day experimental period. The Baguio City Police Office allegedly implemented Balisong’s directive.
Charging Balisong of circumventing the legislative processes of the city council, Mandapat urged the legislative body and the mayor to enforce an appropriate action. He said one councilor could not implement the committee report, clarifying that a committee report has yet to pass through the scrutiny of all members of the city council in a second and third reading before any resolution or ordinance is finally passed. The city mayor either approves or vetoes the resolution or ordinance before it could be implemented, he added.
“Even a re-routing experimentation should pass through a consultation with different agencies because traffic flow would be affected,” Mandapat said, stressing,”granted it has been passed and approved as a city resolution”. He stressed that only DOTC can approve a public utility vehicle route.
Mandapat also alleged that Balisong was similarly liable for the granting of an irregular franchise for the Tip-top route, which he said he had to recall now that he is assigned regional director. Balisong reportedly acted based on a committee report in both instances, using the council letterhead.
Mayor Reinaldo A. Bautista confirmed having received Mandapat’s letter pointing out some lapses in the procedures. Bautista said Balisong allegedly transmitted to government agencies a committee report, done by three councilor-members. Said agencies acknowledged and recognized the committee-level report.
While Mandapat told the media it is up to the council to act on Balisong’s lapses, Bautista also said it is up to DOTC to pursue the appropriate cases.
Both Bautista and Mandapat are aware of a 1998 moratorium on the issuance of new franchises in the city, as prescribed by the Memorandum Circular 98-026 of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB). Only applicants properly exempted by the city council were issued franchises, since then.
Bautista, meanwhile, warned government agencies not to act on any endorsement made in the committee level.
Fraudulent franchises v.a.v. Moratorium order
In an earlier privilege speech, Councilor Richard A. Cariño reminded his colleagues that the LTFRB order was based on the council’s Resolution No. 292-98, which specifically ask for the “suspension of acceptance of applications or issuances of franchises to operate public utility vehicle services in or touching Baguio City”.
The same council resolution, according to Cariño prohibits new applications for franchises and approval of mere petition for amendments of lines, for intra-city routes and intra-regional routes.
Cariño expressed concern over the increasing number of motor vehicles plying the city roads not mentioning those coming from the lowlands that tend to aggravate the “gargantuan traffic congestion” in Baguio City.
He did not name Balisong in his privilege speech but Cariño specifically mentioned that the DOTC director is “unwittingly aided” by the council’s committee on public utilities in granting new franchises, ignoring the moratorium order.
The irregular franchises, according to Mandapat, were reportedly hastily issued on January 18 after a public hearing on January 16 this year. Former DOTC Regional Dir. Alfredo Mondiguing, the approving officer then, retired on January 19.
“I am bound to recall all irregularly issued franchises,” Mandapat told the media, stressing that no one can go scott-free with the applications for renewal being scrutinized by the present DOTC work force.
Around 7,000 jeepneys, 5,000 taxis and some 2,000 garage vans are allegedly plying the city roads. Renewal of franchises for these public utility vehicles will surely go through a stricter examination of documents, Mandapat assured the public in Wednesday’s media forum. # Lyn V. Ramo/NORDIS