MANILA, Philippines - Metro Manila could have an integrated terminal for provincial buses by October this year.
Speaking on ANC's "The Rundown," Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) spokesperson Tina Velasco said they have identified 2 out of 4 sites as earlier stops for the provincial bus terminals, and are holding consultation and dialogues with stakeholders and the private sector for possible investments to finance the project.
The MMDA is eyeing an 11-hectare lot beside North Luzon Expressway (NLEx) near Balintawak as the integrated terminal for North Luzon-bound buses.
"We we're trying to work on an October groundbreaking. Ambitious as it sounds, well try to make it and work backward and try to make sure all the work can be done including having more stakeholders in the picture," Velasco said. "It will be a private sector-led initiative but with the help of government, involvement in regulation and consistent alignment of policies."
The MMDA envisions the terminal to be connected with the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and Light Rail Transit (LRT), and eventually with the NLEx-SLEx connection.
"The big factor is the national transport plan of the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) has to be linked with other Private-Public Partnership projects," Velasco said, citing good plans like NLEX SLEX connector and the NAIA Expressway 3 which are already underway.
She said the project counts in the long-term goal of removing all buses from EDSA when the infrastructure is ready for it.
"For as long as our MRT and other railway facilities are ready, that's the next step but it has to be done very carefully. There has to be a process that goes with that."
"We have to craft it well to make sure we get the buy-in of our commuters. In the end and that comes with consultations with the experts in the beginning, and then validating with consumers."
The MMDA wants to have the Metro Manila-Provincial Integrated Bus Axis System (MMPBAS) that would help decongest Metro Manila's streets and eliminate "colorum" buses.
The integrated terminal for provincial buses is envisioned to be a world-class facility comparable to airports around the world.
"We'd like to make it appealing. It's going to be a stand alone destination for some. It's not a stopover. We want it to be centralized ticketing, air-conditioned even the park-and-ride concept. Where people from Pampanga can just park their cars and go to Makati. We want to minimize traffic but to make sure there's convenience that's attached to it," Velasco noted.
The National Council for Commuter Protection, however, expressed reservations on the plan.
"If you put them outside the metro area, there is a requirement for mobility: you have to have an intercity bus circuit and you have to have an intracity bus circuit. Are we ready for that?" asked the group's president, Elvira Medina.
While centralizing bus terminals is part of the urban fringe development, Medina said the project should also take safety, comfort, and economy into account.
"This is part of an international program. This has been proven to be effective in other parts of the world and the only concern of commuters is how its going to be implemented in our country."
The Provincial Bus Operators Association of the Philippines earlier said authorities should first consider the project's impact on travel time and fares for commuters.
Medina noted that they have held several dialogues with former MMDA Chairman Bayani Fernando but adds commuters they have yet to be consulted on the current plan.
"Many of the policy makers don't see who the commuters are. To them we are invisible. To them the commuters have become too common."
Velasco said given the domino effect of traffic from bus terminals, the integrated bus terminal plan would solve close to 60% of the volume of buses on EDSA.
"Just for the bus count alone we will be able to solve close to 60% of volume right away. There's a whole lot of delay and the domino effect reaches all the way to the other end of edsa on the other side... We've not tackled holy week, shopping season, so there's a lot of anarchy."
Velasco said there have been extensive studies done since the 1990s in anticipation of the increased urbanization of Metro Manila. None of the studies' proposals has ever pushed through.
"We have 7,368 buses provincial buses plying Metro Manila competing for very limited roads in EDSA and national roads and secondary roads... 85 bus terminals sporadically spread throughout Metro Manila," she said.