Po­lit­i­cal will 2

The Philippine Star - - BUSINESS - BOO CHANCO

Last Mon­day I wrote about the topic of po­lit­i­cal will, or the lack of it. I cited the ex­am­ple of the chaotic bus sit­u­a­tion on EDSA. It is cry­ing out loud for a DOTr re­sponse to give us re­lief from the traf­fic mad­ness. But I run out of space, so here is the full story.

When we were meet­ing with DOTr Sec­re­tary Art Tu­gade be­fore he as­sumed of­fice, he agreed that fix­ing the traf­fic mess in­volves deal­ing with the 50 or so bus op­er­a­tors on EDSA ply­ing 120 routes us­ing driv­ers com­pen­sated on the bound­ary sys­tem. We all thought to do that re­quires emer­gency pow­ers, think­ing that the op­er­a­tors and driv­ers will re­sist change.

As it turns out, an in­dus­try source told me, the op­er­a­tors wel­come re­form. They are also tired of the chaos on EDSA. The traf­fic mess has in­creased costs and re­duced in­come. They make less trips. The driv­ers are also feel­ing the pres­sure of driv­ing for 12 hours un­der a regime best de­scribed as cut-throat com­pe­ti­tion.

I don’t know what hap­pened to Tu­gade af­ter he as­sumed of­fice. I know he asked one of the tech­nocrats in his of­fice to draft a plan and she did. My in­dus­try source also said they had ini­tial meet­ings with DOTr of­fi­cials and they thought they were pro­gress­ing well.

No need for emer­gency power. The op­er­a­tors were ready to co­op­er­ate with gov­ern­ment. They were also ea­ger to re­duce the num­ber of op­er­a­tors to just three to four con­sor­tia. This means sav­ings to op­er­a­tors in terms of com­mon parts and pro­cure­ment of fuel. I un­der­stand be­cause DOTr wasn’t mov­ing fast enough, three groups tried form­ing the con­sor­tia on their own.

Ra­tion­al­iza­tion of the routes is also on the ta­ble. The plan called for a 30 per­cent re­duc­tion of buses on EDSA. But the new sys­tem will carry more pas­sen­gers and guar­an­tee avail­abil­ity of buses at all times buses are needed.

The talks moved to mod­ern­iza­tion of buses. DOTr started talk­ing of re­quir­ing op­er­a­tors to ac­quire new buses fol­low­ing cer­tain spec­i­fi­ca­tions.

DOTr wanted low floor Euro4 city buses to make en­try and exit faster, spe­cially for old and dis­abled pas­sen­gers. Faster load­ing and un­load­ing can help ease traf­fic flow. This type of city bus will also take in about 100 pas­sen­gers com­pared to the 60 in cur­rent buses. This means less buses needed on the road.

At that point the bus sup­pli­ers came in. They lob­bied hard for DOTr to adopt their spec­i­fi­ca­tions.

The in­dus­try wanted a more open sys­tem, but one par­tic­u­lar sup­plier got very close to con­vinc­ing de­ci­sion mak­ers to adopt their spec­i­fi­ca­tions. The in­dus­try re­acted, but be­fore things be­came a scan­dal, ev­ery­thing stopped. The project is in a coma.

Sayang. The op­er­a­tors were will­ing to re­form. DOTr should have re­or­ga­nized the routes first be­fore mov­ing to mod­ern­iza­tion of the ac­tual buses. Even with­out the new buses, they would have been able to fix the chaotic traf­fic sit­u­a­tion by fix­ing the routes and re­duc­ing the num­ber of op­er­a­tors. The fleet mod­ern­iza­tion can come in later.

In­deed it is also ap­palling that they were not even think­ing of elec­tric buses. DOTr was ready to buy spec­i­fi­ca­tions of their fa­vored sales­men for buses run­ning on Euro4 diesel. We need a shift to EVs in our pub­lic trans­port to also help clean our air.

Even in the case of the jeep­neys, an in­ter­na­tion­ally re­spected Filipino trans­port ex­pert com­mented that “EVs is the fu­ture. PUV mod­ern­iza­tion can take a leapfrog strategy – by skip­ping the Euro4 diesel stage and jump­ing im­me­di­ately to EVs. Capex wise, the EVs and new diesel-based PUV are al­most at par­ity. About 50 per­cent of the cost of EV is the bat­tery...” Come to think of it, EVs also have lower main­te­nance cost with fewer mov­ing parts.

The fail­ure is clearly DOTr’s fault. They were dis­tracted by bus sales­men think­ing of mak­ing big money by sell­ing diesel buses.

Re-fleet­ing would en­tail big money and those op­er­a­tors do not have the re­sources for capex at this time. It is some­thing they can plan for later. The high cost of new units is also why the jeep­ney mod­ern­iza­tion isn’t hav­ing an im­pact even with Pres­i­dent Duterte’s strong en­dorse­ment that can al­most be de­scribed as a threat.

Po­lit­i­cal will is nice and nec­es­sary. But there must also be some sense in im­ple­ment­ing it.

Ap­par­ently DOTr of­fi­cials just shout po­lit­i­cal will, but have no idea how to use it to pro­duce the most ben­e­fit for peo­ple.

An­other ex­am­ple is PITX... It is an­other hor­rific story in­volv­ing mis­use of bil­lions of pe­sos in cap­i­tal due to faulty im­ple­men­ta­tion by DOTr. Hay Naku!!!!

Boo Chanco’s email ad­dress is [email protected] Fol­low him on Twit­ter @boochanc

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