Where Lies the Blame for our Traffic Congestion in the City?

The City Council

If my memory still serves me right, traffic congestion in Baguio City started to be felt by the Councilors as we also did, as early as the beginning of 1990. Such that retired Judge Edilberto Claravall who was then a Councilor had to author Resolution Nr. 231, series of 1992, entitled: “Urging the LTFRB to Suspend the Grant of New Franchises to Any Public Utility Vehicle plying the route Baguio City.”

The starting traffic congestion in the city was later articulated in a privilege speech delivered in the Council by Councilor Leandro Yangot and owing to the representation of Congressman Bernardo Vergara, the Board en banc promulgated M.C. No. 95-014, dubbed as the first moratorium circular issued by the newly created LTFRB. The M.C. was entitled: “Moratorium on the Acceptance of Application for Taxi Service in Baguio.”

By 1996, the LTFRB upon the recommendation of the City Council had expanded the moratorium by issuing M.C. No. 96-002 prohibiting the franchising of all public utility vehicles in Baguio City. In 1998, the loopholes created in M.C. 96-002 using the prepositional phrase “in Baguio City” which enabled applicants for taxi service to apply and secure franchises by just making Tuba, La Trinidad, Sablan even Itogon as base of operation (not Baguio City) was corrected and sealed when City Council Resolution Nr. 292, series of 1998 authored by Councilor Richard Cariño was passed upon approval by Mayor Mauricio Domogan.

This Resolution became the basis of the Board in promulgating M. C. No. 98-026 “…suspending the acceptance of applications for franchises to operate all passengers public utility vehicles entering or touching Baguio City, La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan and Tuba.”

For all these gallant efforts by the City Council in the beginning, legislating measures to preempt traffic congestion in the city then starting to develop, it appears the Councilors were not truly serious in their efforts but merely grandstanding, a habit from which they never recovered until now. This is clear and obvious in the way they abandoned the purpose and the spirit by which the moratorium was adopted as a policy by the City Council itself to contain the congestion of traffic in Baguio.

For, in the course of time after passage of M.C. No. 98-026 which was further strengthened by Memorandum Circular No. 2003-028 or nationwide moratorium, the city Council has not shown to have exercised consistently the political will necessary to effectively impose the moratorium.

The City Council not only failed to stop the issuance of new franchises of public utility vehicles by the unscrupulous Regional Directors which, in the first place, was their duty to their constituents to protect their interest and convenience, but the Council instead choose to uncover the protective shield of the moratorium to accommodate its many CPC applicant protégés wanting to apply and secure franchises despite the moratorium.

For all these reasons, from about 4,000 public utility vehicles before 1998, the City, with its limited and narrow roads and byways, is now host to more than double that number of PUVs. Meaning, the moratorium was not taken cared of by the City Council thereby resulting in these traffic jams the residents and visitors are made to experience and suffer.

Incidentally, this is not mention that the City Council has also failed and continue to fail to contain the congestions attributable to private vehicle owners who are allowed to make use of the secondary and tertiary roads and sometimes even the main roads, as garage and parking spaces.

In brief, this is how the City Council, despite their policy to impose a moratorium as a measure to control traffic congestion has lost steam, thus failing in one of their visions of good governance promised the electorate come every election.


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