Bacolod City

Yanson bus conglomerate sees growth despite pandemic

Inday Espina-Varona
Yanson bus conglomerate sees growth despite pandemic

TRAVEL WOES. Mobility curbs during the two-year COVID-19 pandemic have slashed incomes of bus firms, including eight under the Bacolod City-based Yanson Group.

Southern Star Bus Transport Inc.

The matriarch of the family behind one of Southeast Asia's biggest bus conglomerates says growing vaccine coverage will lead to greater mobility

BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – The land transportation industry faces a growth period as an aggressive vaccine program increases mobility of the general population, said the matriarch of Bacolod City’s Yanson family during board elections for a company under their bus conglomerate.

Olivia V.  Yanson was re-elected on Tuesday, January 17, as director, then corporate secretary, and treasurer of Southern Star Bus Transport Inc. (SSBTI), one of eight subsidiaries of the Yanson Group of Bus Companies that her late husband Ricardo Yanson Sr. founded in 1968..

Also re-elected as directors were Leo Rey Yanson, who was also re-appointed chairman of the board and president of SSBTI, Ginnette Y. Dumancas, Charles M. Dumancas and Arvin John V. Villaruel, a company statement said.

“Prospects for public transport like the CERES / Vallacar lines will be in better shape,” Olivia said in a separate message sent to Rappler, referring to the biggest companies owned by the group.

There will be a growth spurt in income and new opportunities, she said, “when establishments or activities are allowed to operate in a more relaxed atmosphere.”

“We are confident that workers of  establishments and business sectors will be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in the months to come,” the business woman said. “This situation will then translate to better mobility of people, which translates to increased public transport needs.”

COVID-19 and travel

Yanson’s forecast came as Bacolod City rethought initial plans to require travelers from Iloilo City, Iloilo province, and Negros Oriental to submit RT-PCR tests before entry. 

Mayor Evelio Leonardia is set to sign an amended executive order lifting the requirement following appeals by the business sector. 

The move is seen as a boon for land travel firms, including the Yanson Group’s companies that served 700,000 passengers daily and earned annual revenues of P15 billion in pre-pandemic times.

Bacolod’s vaccine coverage zoomed past its 410,00 target eligible population, said Emergency Operations chief Em Ang.

The city government has also started vaccine registration for children aged 5 to 11 after giving those between 12 and 17 years old their jabs.

Ang said the city wants to be ready once the Department of Health (DOH) green lights the rollout for the youngest eligible age group.

Vallacar Transit, the Yanson Group’s flagship firm, has lent at least three buses for the city’s mobile vaccination program, helping the LGU meet a self-imposed quota of at least 6,000 jabs daily.

In April 2020, it loaned dozens of buses to Metro Manila for use in ferrying frontline health workers and law enforcers to and from work.

Olivia, who survived a brush with COVID-19 in 2020, has been supportive of the government vaccination program.

The matriarch’s optimism comes as commuters struggle with the national government’s new travel curbs like the no-vax-no-ride policy.

Vallacar, which operates Ceres Liner passenger buses in Visayas and Mindanao, on January 18 implemented the policy on passengers from Negros Oriental and other provinces with rides to Negros Occidental and Bacolod City.

An executive order signed by Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson on January 14 allows intrazonal travel regardless of vaccination status but requires commuters to apply for visit approval through the S-Pass system and submit RT-PCR tests taken no more than 72 hours prior to arrival.

However, this was followed by a new directive from the Department of Transportation for areas under the Interagency Task Force’s Alert Level 3.

While the new order could slash passenger traffic and income anew, Vallacar media relations officer Jade Seballos said the company, whose drivers are all fully vaccinated with booster shots, would follow government regulations.

In September 2020, the height the original COVID-19 wave, the bus firm modified its operations by taking and dropping off passengers just outside the borders of Bacolod City, which was placed under enhanced community quarantine.

The firm resumed trips between Negros Occidental, Cebu, and Negros Oriental in November 2021 after suspending these during a 2021 mid-year surge linked to the virulent Delta variant.

OPTIMISTIC. From left, Charles M. Dumancas, Ginnette Y. Dumancas, Olivia V. Yanson, Leo Rey Yanson and Arvin John V. Villaruel attend Southern Star Bus Transit Inc. annual stockholders’ meeting. (Courtesy of SSBTI)

Back in control

A Bacolod City court in October 2021 appointed Olivia as special administrator of her late spouse’s estate. The Yanson Group owns almost 5,000 bus units and employs 18,000 workers.

That was her latest win amid a tumultuous family squabble, which included the physical struggle for control of its vast bus terminal in Bacolod City.

Olivia and Leo Rey have since retaken control of the conglomerate. They retained their director posts in Vallacar Transit (VTI) and Ceres Liner Travel and Tours (CLTTI) on December 4, 2021 and their senior officers’ posts on January 3. 

Other re-elections followed on January 15 and 16 in sister companies Mindanao Star Bus Transport Inc. (MSBTI) and Bachelor Express Inc. (BEI).

Four Yanson siblings, also shareholders in their many companies,  were unable to attend board elections as they were reportedly abroad.

A regional court in Cagayan de Oro on January 6 denied the motion of a Yanson daughter, the former corporate secretary of two of their Mindanao bus firms, to hold in abeyance warrants of arrest for falsification of public documents and perjury.

A Bacolod court on January 4 affirmed three warrants of arrest for similar charges on the same daughter. – Rappler.com