Editorial: Crafting Local Public Transport Route Plan

The issuance of Executive Order (EO) 5, series of 2023, by Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia on Tuesday, Jan. 31, definitely saved commuters—several of whom work at business process outsourcing firms at the Cebu IT Park in Cebu City—from misery. The EO extended the validity of 150 modernized public utility vehicles’ special permits for 45 days starting on Wednesday, Feb. 1

Garcia issued EO 5 on the very same day that the MPUVs’ special permits were supposed to expire. Had she not stepped in, commuters would have to ride MPUVs twice or thrice just to reach their destinations. A special permit is issued by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to allow MPUVs to operate outside their regular routes.

The governor’s EO 5 covers MPUVs from Liloan, Consolacion and Mandaue City in northern Cebu, and Talisay City, Minglanilla and Naga City. Thirty units ply the Talisay City-Cebu IT Park route; 20, the Liloan-Cebu IT Park route; 20, Consolacion-Cebu IT Park route; 20, Naga City-Cebu IT Park route; 15, Minglanilla-Cebu IT Park route; 10, Mandaue City-Cebu IT Park route; 20, Minglanilla-Parkmall route; and 15, Talisay City-Parkmall route.

Garcia invoked the Local Government Code as her basis for issuing the EO. The Code states that a local government unit (LGU) can exercise powers that are “essential to the promotion of the general welfare” (Section 16), and that are also “necessary, appropriate, or incidental to the efficient and effective provision of basic services and facilities” (Section 17).

The governor has urged all LGUs under Cebu Province to complete their Local Public Transport Route Plan (LPTRP) before EO 5 expires after March 17.

LPTRP is a requirement under the government’s Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP), which started in 2017 with an end goal of fully modernizing PUVs in 2020. But the program has yet to be fully realized because of the Covid-19 pandemic, which came in early 2020. LPTRP is a “detailed plan route network with specific modes of transportation and required number of units per mode for delivering land transport services. This is the basis now in the minimum requirement prescribed for the issuance of PUV franchises,” according to Joemier D. Pontawe of the Department of Transportation.

Pontawe further said the LPTRP “envisions to make the routes more responsive to demand, since LGUs now have the authority to propose routes based on local demands. It also envisions to assign appropriate vehicle type depending on demand, road hierarchy, and configuration.”

“LGUs need to come up with evidence-based recommendations and plans since we also have prescribed passenger per hour per direction for each specific mode of transportation. So an LGU cannot just propose without evidence based on passenger demand and plan public transport reforms, considering [the] situation and goals,” he said.

Pontawe said LGUs’ focus on pandemic response was the major reason why there are still several LGUs that failed to submit their LPTRP.

In Cebu, the cities of Lapu-Lapu, Mandaue and Naga, and the municipality of Cordova have submitted their LPTRP, as of Dec. 22, 2022.

Crafting the LPTRP is no easy task. The process, said Pontawe, involves formulation—LGUs shall form a technical working group (TWG) to formulate the LPTRP and the transport sector should be part of the TWG; evaluation of compliance to guidelines follows and the LTFRB-Regional Franchising and Regulatory Office (RFRO) concurs if all the existing routes are considered or studied; and then comes the approval of the LPTRP—the LTFRB issues a board resolution, and the RFRO issues notice of compliance, which specifies which routes are existing/rationalized and new.

Next in the process is adoption—LGU adopts the approved plan and the routes, then it conducts public hearings to discuss the LPTRP routes; and the last part is the implementation—LPTRP routes are opened for certificate of public convenience (CPC) applications. CPC is a permit issued by the LTFRB for the operation of road transportation services for public use. Rationalized routes are granted to existing transport service entities; new routes are first offered to those with excess units.

Cebuano commuters can only hope that the LGUs that still have to formulate their LPTRPs can produce theirs before EO 5 expires. The process is long and the LGUs must not lose focus for the sake of their constituents who do not have vehicles and depend on public transportation to go about their daily lives.