LTFRB rejects Palawan appeal to suspend anti-'colorum' campaign
MANILA, Philippines – The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) rejected the appeal of Palawan officials and transportation stakeholders to suspend the ongoing crackdown on "colorum" vehicles in the province as affected operators await the release of their franchises.
LTFRB Chairman Martin Delgra III on Friday, May 25, stood by the agency's hardline position during a consultative meeting initiated by the provincial government and attended by transport and tourism officials as well as local stakeholders.
Delgra said the crackdown is being enforced upon the orders of President Rodrigo Duterte. (READ: Nationwide crackdown on 'colorum' vehicles to start after Holy Week)
"That's really the policy being observed not just in Palawan but all over the Philippines. We have to be consistent," he said.
Provincial officials had been hoping for a break from the drive against "colorum" vehicles, which are the dominant transport units in Palawan.
It has been a month since the LTFRB and the Philippine National Police (PNP) Highway Patrol Group started targeting hundreds of regular and tourist vans illegally operating in Coron, Puerto Princesa City, and El Nido.
This has left passengers stranded for hours in terminals, while tourism industry stakeholders fear loss of income.
Some operators have reportedly begun charging higher fares, to the disadvantage of the riding public including tourists.
To address the concerns, Delgra vowed to fast-track the processing of franchise applications of qualified public utility vehicle (PUV) operators.
"We will expedite the processing of the franchise so that you will be able to run the rest of your units," he told transport operators.
Delgra said the operators of apprehended vans may also seek legal action.
"They will be given an opportunity to contest the apprehension. However, if it is proven there is a violation, they will have to pay the corresponding fines," he added.
The fines, he said, are P1 million for buses, P200,000 for vans, P120,000 for sedans, and P50,000 for jeeps.
Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez said he will provide a satellite office with support staff for LTFRB regional office personnel when they visit the province to accommodate applicants and conduct hearings.
This is seen as a response to transport operators who complain they have a hard time applying for their franchises as they have to go to the LTFRB regional office in Lipa City, Batangas.
Delgra brought LTRFB Regional Director Gualberto Gualberto along to answer queries from operators and to inspect van units.
"For those whose applications are not yet approved, there will be compliance orders to be issued, meaning they need to comply with certain lacking documents insofar as their pending applications are concerned," he said.
Upon submission of complete documents, Delgra said applicants can expect to have their franchise in 3 weeks to one month.
Currently, there are over 600 van units with franchises in Palawan. Delgra has coordinated with tourism officials to assess based on projected tourist arrivals whether or not more would be needed.
Going after fixers
The LTFRB chief, meanwhile, warned transport operators against fixers who collect processing fees.
"The franchise is free of charge," he said. "It is a privilege granted by the government given to people like you to assume a public responsibility to run a public service – in this case, public transport."
Delgra was responding to transport operators who reportedly paid a processing fee of P75,000 to individuals allegedly connected with transport network company U-Hop.
U-Hop representative Dana Marasigan, who was present during the meeting, sought to clear their company's name.
"There were fixers who had used the name of U-Hop to open this up to those who were seeking franchises," she explained.
But Marasigan promised to process refunds for complainants who can show proof of payment.
"We will set a date here in Palawan to accommodate all of your refund issues," she added.
Provincial Administrator Jay Bolosa said they will let the issue be handled by police and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), if necessary.
"If they come to an agreement, it will end there. Otherwise, it has to go through proper investigative agencies," he added. – Rappler.com