Dipolog City

Mini-buses threaten to displace thousands of Dipolog tricycle, ‘habal-habal’ drivers

Gualberto Laput

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Mini-buses threaten to displace thousands of Dipolog tricycle, ‘habal-habal’ drivers

WORRIED. Motorcab and habal-habal drivers in Dipolog City fear that the entry of mini-buses is intended to phase them out.

Gualberto Laput/Rappler

The Dipolog Motorcab Drivers and Operators Route Association calls the arrival of the mini-buses 'the beginning of our end'

DIPOLOG, Philippines – While local officials celebrated the arrival of 24-seat mini-buses in Dipolog City, around 2,300 motorcab (tricycle) drivers and operators, along with thousands of habal-habal (motorcycle taxi) drivers, worried it could threaten their livelihoods.

On July 2, three mini-buses, owned by the Rural Transit Mindanao Incorporated (RTMI), began serving commuters along a 24-kilometer route from Dipolog’s Barangay Sicayab to the remote Barangay Diwan, with 20 “bus stops” located on both major and remote streets in the city.

The Dipolog City Information Office said the air-conditioned mini-buses were part of a project launched through the efforts of Mayor Darel Dexter Uy and RTMI.

Dipolog mini-bus
MODERNIZATION. Mayor Darel Dexter Uy (in white barong) starts the service of mini-buses in Dipolog City. – Dipolog City Information Office

City hall said the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) gave RTMI a temporary permit to field mini-buses in Dipolog’s main streets.

“Nakalitan ko sa pagsulod sa Rural (RTMI). Delikado among panginabuhi ani kay amo mang pasahero ilang makuha. Unya walay gihimong konsultasyon ug wala pud silay gitanyag nga panginabuhian,” said Venusto Buenaventura, a 54-year-old motorcab driver in Dipolog.

(I was taken aback by the entry of RTMI. Our livelihood is at risk because they will take our passengers. There was no consultation or offer of alternative livelihood.)

Buenaventura told Rappler on Saturday, July 6, they feared Dipolog’s motorcabs would soon become a thing of the past.

“First, there were horse-drawn carriages, but people complained about the stink, so came the sikad-sikad (bicycles with sidecars for passengers). These were phased out and replaced with motorcabs, and two years ago, the government promoted the bao-bao (India-made motorcabs). We haven’t even fully paid for our bao-bao yet, and now here come the mini-buses. We’re dead,” Buenaventura said.

Godofredo Amarille, board chairman of the Dipolog Motorcab Drivers and Operators Route Association (DMDORA), called the arrival of RTMI mini-buses “the beginning of our end.”

DMDORA is the umbrella organization of a dozen motorcab drivers and operators’ groups in Dipolog.

He said on Sunday, July 7, that they suspected that the city government has been planning and implementing the gradual phasing out of the motorcabs and habal-habal.

Amarille said the LTFRB cannot issue RTMI a permit for barangay roads. He said the LTFRB-Zamboanga Peninsula office in Pagadian City informed him that the permit was given in response to Uy’s request.

He argued that the mayor cannot issue permits for barangay routes without the barangay chairmen’s approval, and the LTFRB can only issue permits for buses on main roads and highways.

Amarille said the chairmen of Barangays Diwan and Sicayab did not agree with the city’s plan to field mini-buses in their villages.

He said, “It’s obvious that the city government is driving us out of our means of livelihood. Even if RTMI is, by now, losing, they are a big company and can continue on losing for more than three years, which is enough to kill their competitors – the motorcabs and thousands of habal-habal drivers.”

Amarille said he asked Dipolog Councilor Roseller Barinaga, chair of the city council’s committee on transportation, to help them, but was told, “Aw gadula ra man silag basketball (Well, they’re just playing basketball).”

“I couldn’t react, but just laughed in desperation—what else could I do? Some of our motorcab drivers have joined a basketball tournament organized by Mayor Uy’s father, former governor Roberto Uy, who is said to be running for mayor of Dipolog again,” Amarille said. – Rappler.com 

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