Privatize EDSA Busway or not?

Jekki Pascual, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 09 2022 08:00 PM

MANILA — The Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) has met online with Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista to discuss the possibility of privatizing the EDSA Busway system.

MAP has been pushing for the privatization of the EDSA busway to help improve public transportation in the country. 

DOTr officials said currently, the EDSA busway is serving over 335,000 passengers a day and improvements are needed at bus stations.

MAP President and former DPWH Sec. Rogelio Singson and MAP Infrastructure Committee head Eduardo Yap told Bautista they will submit their recommendations as well as more data on the privatization. 

They added the private sector has shown it is competent to handle and improve public projects.

Some issues raised on the mode of investment. Should it be an integrated public-private partnership (PPP) wherein a company builds and operates the bus system? 

Another mode is just to bid out the operation and maintenance of the busway, while another option is for one company to build the infrastructure to be paid for by the government and the same company will operate it via PPP.

Bautista welcomed all ideas, saying, "the benefits of 'libreng sakay' seems to be outweighed by the long lines at the busway stations. This is where we welcome suggestions from the private sector how to finetune the operation to attract the most benefits of the EDSA carousel."

Former DOTr Usec. Ruben Reinoso, however, said more studies should be done if privatization is the best option. 

"BOT [Build-Operate-Transfer] law has very stringent and tedious requirements. I believe it will take you at least a year to put forward a proposal," said Reinoso.

Other private companies also sought for more clarity on the issue.

SM Prime Holdings President Jeffrey Lim said, "We're ready. We're willing to consider. I think what we need is what would be the mode of PPP and what is the final direction from government. As everyone said kung mahal yan [bus fare], nobody will use that."

Megawide Chairman Edgar Saavedra said, "Sana ma-finalize like what is the direction of the government in terms sa fare box. Will it be total subsidy ba or hindi?"

Saavedra, who has done PPP projects, added, "Don't let the private sector take the market risk."

BDO Capital President Ed Francisco joined the conversation saying "The way to make money to recover the investments is you will have to have revenues form the bus, dapat solo mo yan. Because if I were the Metro Pacific na hindi pa nagsasalita, and the Ayalas, the reason you make money from MRT, LRT is because solo mo 'yan."

Bautista said he will seek the assistance of the PPP Center on what direction to take.