COMPETITION JITTERS: Transport groups slam airport buses

POINT-TO-POINT buses operated by Southwest Travel and Tours queue at Megaworld Transport Hub in Mandurriao, Iloilo City. (Emme Rose Santiagudo)

By: Emme Rose Santiagudo

APPARENTLY shaken by better and more comfortable services from the competition, several transport groups questioned the operations of premium point-to-point (P2P) buses, particularly those plying the route from Megaworld Transport Hub in Mandurriao district to the Iloilo International Airport in Cabatuan town, vice versa.

The New Iloilo Airport Transport Association and Association (NIATA) and the Association of Taxi Operators in Panay (ATOP) submitted a position letter to the Sangguniang Panlungsod on July 17, 2019, vehemently opposing the provisional authority granted by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to Southwest Travel and Tours.

“Our associations are strongly opposing the grant of the provisional authority to Southwest Transport as it violates several existing ordinances,” the position letter said.

According to NIATA and ATOP, the provisional authority granted to Southwest Tours violated the Perimeter Boundary Ordinance of the City of Iloilo which supposedly mandates the control and regulation of the entry of public utility jeepneys (PUJs), cargo vans and jeepneys and buses from Iloilo province and other neighboring provinces.

The transport groups also cited Regulation Ordinance No. 2019-110 which grants Megaworld Corporation the authority to construct, establish, operate and maintain a transport hub in Iloilo Business Park for not including P2P buses in the provisions.

“Section 2 of the said ordinance which states that the ‘Transport Hub as herein provided shall be used exclusively for and limited only to UV Express, Tourist and Chartered Vans and Bus and Shuttle Buses with a valid and existing franchise issued by LTFRB,’ clearly does not include the P2P buses,” they said.

The transport associations lamented that they were never notified nor informed about the provisional authority to Southwest Tour’s P2P buses.

“Our associations being stakeholders at the Airport since 2007 were never notified nor informed about the grant of provisional authority to Southwest Transport’s P2P buses. Likewise, the associations were not even invited during the public consultation hearing of the Sangguniang Panlungsod prior to granting Megaworld corporation the authority to put up a Transport Hub,” they said.

According to Iloilo City Councilor Rommel Duron, chairman of the Sangguniang Panlungsod’s Committee on Transportation, a hearing will be conducted today, July 31, to discuss the position paper of the transport groups.

Duron said that they will review the ordinance granted to Megaworld and at the same time check the frequency of the trips of the Southwest Tours to see if there is a need to regulate their scheduled trips.

Lantawon ta ang frequency sang ila trip da, especially ang P2P if we can regulate that or i-limit ta ang number of trips and we also invited Megaworld tan-awon ta man kung pila ma-accommodate nila, kung kinahanglan nga i-amend ta ang ordinansa giving them the authority to construct dira,” he said.

The city council has approved Megaworld’s proposal to build and operate a transport hub within its 72-hectare Iloilo Business Park in Mandurriao district on March 5, 2019.

Megaworld allotted P350 million for the Transport Hub which is set to open within this year.

On July 12, 2019, as part of the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP), LTFRB-6 launched 105 P2P buses to serve the following routes: Iloilo Business Park to Iloilo Airport, Iloilo Business Park to Roxas Airport, Iloilo Business Park to Kalibo Airport, and Iloilo Business Park to Caticlan Airport (Boracay), and vice versa.

Out of the 105 P2P buses, 15 will be operated by Southwest Tours on the Iloilo Business Park to Iloilo International Airport route.