In fatigues, Estrada blocks buses from entering Manila

Bus operators say if Manila does not have a change of heart, they might close shop in 3 months

READY TO RUMBLE. Manila mayor Erap Estrada — in full "battle gear" — speaks to bus operators about the Manila bus ban. "Susugirin niyo raw [kasi] kami," he says in jest. Photo by Rappler/Leanne Jazul

MANILA, Philippines – They tried but could not get through.

Several buses from Quezon city on Thursday, August 8, attempted to enter Manila despite a city policy that bans buses without terminals in the city or those without stickers from the local government.

It was a showdown between the city’s head honchos — Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada and Vice Mayor Isko Moreno — and bus operators who insist Manila’s bus ban is wrong. Four buses attempted to enter Manila on Thursday just as Estrada and Moreno made the morning rounds at the Manila border along Welcome Rotonda, Quezon City.

As of posting, 8 buses were apprehended and impounded by the city government.

Bus operators said if Manila insists on its hardline position, they might close shop in 3 months.

Moreno himself did the policing, and even boarded one bus that did not bear a sticker from his office. Former president Estrada, meanwhile, would not be outdone — he showed up in fatigues. “Balita ko kasi sa radyo, susugirin niyo raw kami,” he later said in jest, referring to 700 buses that threatened to enter Manila with or without the city’s permission. (I heard about your plans to attack us.) 

Theatrics aside, the Manila government’s message is clear: bus companies will have to follow the city’s traffic rules, or else. “Hindi nila sinusunod ang traffic rules and regulations, parang bastusan na nga,” Estrada said of Manila’s buses. (They don’t follow traffic rules and regulations. Clearly it’s disrespect.)

Manila Vice Mayor Isko Moreno boards a bus unauthorized to enter Manila. Eight buses were apprehended by local authorities today, August 8. Photo by Rappler/Bea Cupin

Why the ban?

Bus operator Roberto Torres, who owns 78 buses that travel to Quiapo via San Juan, is unconvinced. Even after meeting Estrada for the second time to discuss the ban, Torres told Rappler he doesn’t see “significant progress.”

“The real issue here: why is there a bus ban? There is no ordinance about the bus ban, just a resolution,” he said. Moreno, however, said the bus ban is covered by a resolution passed by the city council.

But Torres insisted the resolution does not stand. He told Rappler that tickets issued to drivers when they enter Manila with authorization have to do with other traffic violations. “The resolution cannot be used as a basis for police power,” he added.

Torres said their operators’ group was not consulted before the ban was implemented, disputing Moreno’s statement that public hearings were held to hear all sides.

The bus operators plying east of Manila will submit a counterproposal and position paper “as soon as possible,” according to their lawyer Ferdinand Topacio.

May mga tao rin na umaasa dito sa industriyang ito. Masaya po kami… this is a very good development,” said Topacio of the dialogue. Topacio was also on one of the buses apprehended by Manila police for violating the bus ban. (A lot of people depend on this industry. We’re happy, this is a very good development.)

CAN'T PASS. A Manila traffic enforces prevents a bus Quezon city from entering Manila. Photo by Rappler/Bea Cupin

Terminal expenses

Moreno says they mean business. “Tapos na ang pag-aari ng mga bus company na ito sa kalsada. Tapos na ang pambabalasubas nila sa mga kalye ng lungsod ng Maynila,” he said. (Bus companies will stop having their way around Manila.)

Operators also brought up the expenses they’ve incurred since the introduction of the ban. Operators said they now have to shell out more than half a million pesos to rent terminals in the city.

Park N’ Ride terminal in Lawton was singled out as one of the operators’ biggest concerns during the dialogue. Bus operators have to spend over P600,000 as security deposit in the terminal. They asked the city government to do something about the problem. 

Torres said if Manila does not change its mind about the bus ban, operators would close shop in 3 months. Since the bus ban was introduced, only 35 of his 78 buses are being used at a time. Prior to the ban, around 50 were active daily. Commuters suffer the most, he added-Rappler.com