Recent attempts to derail a government plan to ban provincial buses from EDSA are a good example of how some groups use the poor as a political tool to block progress.
To ease traffic along EDSA, the Metro Manila Development Authority has moved to keep some 3,000 provincial buses off the main thoroughfare by closing their terminals—more than 40 of them—along the main highway.
The advantages of such a ban seem self-evident. Provincial buses by their very classification should not be allowed to ply the same routes as some 12,000 city buses. These provincial buses take up valuable road space along the crowded highway and create choke points where they enter and exit their terminals.
Under the MMDA plan, provincial buses will have to unload their passengers in designated terminals in Valenzuela and Santa Rosa, Laguna, from which they can take other transportation into the city.
But the Ako Bicol Party-list group says such a plan is anti-poor and has asked the Supreme Court to stop its implementation.
In its petition, the party-list group argued that the MMDA and the Metro Manila Council have no authority to implement the ban because they are not authorized by the law to enact ordinances or approve resolutions, which are acts of police power.
They also claimed the measure had no legal or scientific bases as it was crafted solely based on a “mere verbal directive” from the President during a Cabinet meeting in October 2018.
It also pointed out that only a small portion of the vehicles that ply EDSA on a daily basis are provincial buses: In 2017, more than 360,000 vehicles were private motor vehicles mostly occupied by single drivers, 12,000 were city buses while only 3,300 were provincial buses.
“It is not just that the few provincial buses used by the poor are being singled out,” one of the petitioners said, noting that travelers will be inconvenienced by the increased travel time and cost.
Other politicians have jumped on the bandwagon, labeling the plan anti-poor and urging the authorities to begin by instead limiting the more affluent owners of private vehicles, which account for about 62 percent of traffic on EDSA.
The numbers, however, tell only part of the story. Anybody who traverses EDSA on a regular basis will acknowledge that the private vehicles, regardless of how many passengers are on board, by and large do not cause traffic. Their tendency is to move forward toward their destination; they do not stop and jockey for position to take on or let off passengers. They do not block several lanes, as city and provincial buses do, when they wish to get ahead of their competitors.
Labeling any plan anti-poor is a convenient way to scuttle it. Sadly, this is true even when the plan is logical and more efficient, and will benefit us all in the long run.