Zubiri to LTFRB: Open Bukidnon to new bus operators

MALAYBALAY CITY (Bukidnon News.Net/18 December) It is possible that Rural Transit of Mindanao Inc (RTMI)’s control over the bus transportation service in Bukidnon contributed to the company’s alleged lapses in security, Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. said Wednesday.

Zubiri said it might be time to consider allowing other operators to come in, as it is one issue raised to him by his callers in his regular weekly program.

Earlier in the day, Zubiri lamented in his weekly radio program “Isumbong Mo Kay Gov” (Report it to the Governor) RTMI’s denial that the motive of the December 9 bombing near the main gate of Central Mindanao University was extortion.

Ten persons were killed and a total of 44 others were wounded in the incident, the latest two surfaced in the forum held to release the insurance payment and local government assistance for the families of the victims on December 17.

He added that with RTMI’s silence on the extortion threat, he might urge the opening of Bukidnon to new bus operators so RTMI will shape up. He cited that he knew of the text messages sent to RTMI officials lately.

Zubiri said the moratorium on new franchises for bus operations should be lifted in Bukidnon.

Lawyer Ariel Inton, member of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, who supervised the release of insurance claims of the families of the victims of the December 9 bombing incident on December 17, said DOTC is studying to lift the moratorium on bus franchises, which has been implemented since 1995.

“It has been in place for (almost) 20 years already, by how much population has increased? How many development areas now need more public transportation?” he added.

Inton said DOTC is now studying which areas should be open for new franchises.

“We will take note of the concerns (raised by Zubiri) in Bukidnon … what makes us lift the moratorium is public demand – the need for transportation,” he added.

But he admitted that they are very careful about lifting the moratorium because it might cause “over supply.”

Zubiri said he will urge the Bukidnon provincial board to pass a resolution urging Congress to lift the moratorium.

He said he will seek a “special case” for Bukidnon because there is only one (major) bus operator in the province.

Zubiri cited the lax security measures of RTMI as possibly an effect of lack of competition.

He admitted that “in fairness” to the bus company they have employed security guards in the bus terminal. But he said there is a need to do more.

Zubiri announced that Bukidnon will operate six checkpoints for those entering Bukidnon starting early 2015 just like in Davao City (see related story).

He said RTMI is mum on the issue of extortion as the possible motive behind the bombing even if police briefed him of their alleged payment of extortion money.
Zubiri said RTMI management has denied any call, text or letter on extortion. But Zubiri said information from the Bukidnon Provincial Police Office said RTMI allegedly approached them on the matter of extortion.

He added that the bombing cannot possibly be the handiwork of rebel groups.

“This was not the work of the rebels. I believe it was extortion,” he said but added that RTMI is not telling the truth about it.

He said if the purpose was to terrorize, the perpetrators could have done it in bigger scale.
“If their purpose was to instill fear why not during our Centennial celebration in September when over 200,000 were around,” he added.

He cited the denial by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) but said what is not known is if the suspect is an ex-member or not.

Jessie Lentorio, RTMI administrative officer, who was present in the December 17 forum in Malaybalay City, denied that there was any confirmation from RTMI about the extortion angle. He refused to give further comment except to say “it was the governor’s opinion.”

He told the forum that the company will add more security guards and will do more inspections using metal detectors. He added that they will implement a one-door policy for non-air conditioned buses to control entry of passengers.

Mandangan Darimbang, LTFRB-10 regional director said all bus operators in the region signed to adhere to its issuance for designated loading and unloading areas with police personnel to frisk passengers and inspect cargo; to tag bags like in airports, and to train personnel for anti-crime capabilities.

A family member of one of those who died suggested that RTMI should minimize overloading its buses with many “standing” passengers. Lentorio said they will try to control it but oftentimes, it is the passengers who insist.

Most of the families of the victims who spoke in the forum cited RTMI’s prompt response to their burial and hospitalization needs although some decried that the bus company should really be honest on the extortion issue.

Jaime Valiente, a businessman and father of Kim Lloyd Valiente, a student of CMU, who was among the 10 killed in the bombing, said RTMI should have really reported the extortion threat to police.

“Extortion is not only a concern of the company, it is the concern of the community,” he added. (Walter I. Balane/Bukidnon News.Net)