After provincial bus ban mess, senators want review of MMDA powers
MANILA, Philippines – "Is it time to review the powers of the MMDA (Metropolitan Manila Development Authority) vis-à-vis the local governments?"
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon asked this after lawmakers contested the MMDA's controversial provincial bus ban at the Supreme Court (SC), saying the agency was "overstepping its limits of power."
At the Senate public services committee hearing on Tuesday, August 13, Bayan Muna chairman Neri Colmenares, one of the petitioners against the bus ban, said that the MMDA "doesn't have the power" to issue policies that would close transport terminals.
This power, Colmenares said, was vested in local government units. He added that the MMDA's authority was limited to policy formulation, among others, under the High Court's 2000 decision on the MMDA v. Bel-Air Village Association case.
Drilon said that the validity of the SC en banc decision must be looked into how it would affect EDSA, given that the 23.8-kilometer highway slices through 5 cities – Pasay, Makati, Mandaluyong, Quezon City and Caloocan.
"We are not depriving local government units of any power but just on that particular chaotic situation. The reason for the injunction is that the MMDA admitted that they have no power and it belongs to the LGU. It's an opportunity for us to review this particular aspect. The implementor is hamstrung in the lack of authority," Drilon said.
In March 2019, the Metro Manila Council, the governing and policy-making body of the MMDA, approved Regulation Number 19-002 that aimed to close down all 47 provincial bus terminals along EDSA.
Also part of this order was the traffic agency's prohibiting provincial buses from loading and unloading passengers along EDSA. (EXPLAINER: What is the provincial bus ban?)
This was supplemented by a new policy by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, Memorandum Circular No. 2019-031, which amended the routes of provincial buses to end at cities of Valenzuela, Parañaque, and Sta Rosa in Laguna. It also required the MMDA to implement a window hour policy.
In August 2, the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 223 issued a preliminary injunction against the policy, saying that the ban had "far-reaching effects."
Senator Grace Poe, the Senate panel on public services chairperson, backed the review of MMDA powers, as the definition of Metro Manila has "expanded" to include neighboring provinces.
"Lumaki ang definition of Manila, Mega Manila na, kasama na ang Rizal, Bulacan, Batangas. Tignan mo ngayon, nanghihimasok na sila (MMDA) sa kung saan-saan. Dapat diyan DOTr (Department of Transportation) na 'yan," Poe told reporters in a media interview on Thursday.
(The definition of Manila has expanded. It's now Mega Manila, which includes Rizal, Bulacan, Batangas. If you look at it, the MMDA is now interfering everywhere. It should have been the DOTr.)
Include police powers?
In a separate media interview, MMDA General Manager Jojo Garcia said that they were aware of their mandate, and that did not include policy-making.
"Wala nga kaming policy-making… Ang sa amin, enforcement lang. Ang sa amin 'yung mababaw lang kasi samin. 'pag gumawa ng MMC resolution ang mga mayors dapat may counterpart na city council resolution sa mga siyudad nila. Masyado matagal ang proseso," Garcia told reporters on Tuesday.
(We don't have policy-making. We can only enforce policies. We can only do the shallow ones. When the MMC creates a resolution, the mayors should have a counterpart city council resolution in their respective cities. That process takes too long.)
That's why, he said, they were banking on a House bill that seeks to review their powers and proposes to include police powers.
At the House of Representatives, House Bill Number 2141, filed by former MMDA chairman and now Marikina 1st district Representative Bayani Fernando, proposed to review the powers of the MMDA to include policy formulation. Under the bill, such policies created by the MMC will be binding in all city governments and have the "full force and effect of a law."
While the preliminary injunction holds, Garcia said that they will be asking the court to grant them partial implementation of the measure, including the window hour policy for provincial buses from 10 pm to 4 am. – Rappler.com
Other stories from the hearing:
- Ayala, Metro Pacific slammed for LRT1 extension, FTI construction delays
- To solve EDSA traffic, Sotto says ban parking along Metro Manila streets
The full hearing here: WATCH: Senate hearing on provincial bus ban