“The EDSA Busway Carousel privatization proposals are still a long way off”
September 9, 2022 | 5:28 p.m.
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Transportation has said it’s “open” to calls for a privatized EDSA bus carousel, but real movement in the proposals is a long way off.
This, while the government asks for a feasibility study as a first step while the private sector disagrees on the framework of a possible concession in the future.
At a consultation roundtable hosted by the Management Association of the Philippines on Friday, Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista said he was still listening to all stakeholders but stressed the need for a feasibility study .
“That’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to ask for help from experts like the PPP centre. We’re going to consider everything we’ve discussed, but we have to define the terms of reference which will determine what we really want” , did he declare.
This came after the governor in charge of MAP, Eduardo Yap, pointed to the high demand for commuters and budgetary constraints on the government’s part as reasons why he should consider the private sector to execute the project, calling it ” only solution we have” at EDSA. traffic problems along the MRT-3.
“The benefits of this global standard bus lane are quite manifold because this bus lane is the most efficient urban mass transportation system…the return on investment is very high and the reasons are quite compelling. We must complete this bus lane as quickly as possible,” Yap said in a mixture of Filipino and English.
“The problem is not in the concept of the busway, but in the limited capacity which cannot meet the high demand. So it is the case for privatization.”
Government plans amid privatization proposals
To ease the burden on commuters amid increased fuel, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. extended the number of subsidized free rides for commuters until December this year, which advocates say transport, has only increased demand without increasing capacity.
At Friday’s meeting, Transport Undersecretary Mark Steven Pastor told PPP experts and stakeholders that accessible infrastructure will be put in place at bus stations along the EDSA in the years to come.
DOTr engineer and project planner, Joshua Joseph Rodriguez, also said that as it stands, 406 bus units are traveling the mid-lane from PITX to Monumento daily out of a maximum allocation of 550 buses in total.
In the future, the LTFRB plans to add 100 units to the bus lane, bringing the total number of units to 650. The further improvements under the national government will enable the system to carry around 500,000 passengers per day from the 335,000 current in August, he said. The DOTr did not provide a timeline for these plans.
But the bottom line, according to Yap, is that even with the improvements proposed by the government, the EDSA bus carousel still falls short of international standards.
Earlier, MAP urged the Department of Transportation to upgrade the system of the EDSA Busway and bus service on the “carousel line”, as well as consider privatizing it along with the commuter rail systems. This is because virtually every station along the bus route sees nighttime crowds caused by queues of unserved commuters waiting for a ride.
Viable modes of privatization uncertain
Ed Francisco, chairman of BDO Capital & Investment Corp., admitted that scenarios outside of full privatization where investment can be recouped are still largely unclear along the bus lane, pointing to the number of possible permutations.
Transportation Undersecretary Ruben Reinoso Jr. questioned the sustainability of a privatization program given the political nature of fares, also calling attention to improvements along Line 3 from the metro.
“At some point, what would be the real incentive for the private sector to invest in heavy maintenance and other heavy infrastructure for a busway system? … We are looking at EDSA here, so we should always consider ‘other options available,’ he said, urging developers to present detailed feasibility studies on the merits of privatizing the Metro’s first attempt at bus rapid transit.
The immediate plan proposed in MAP’s initial letter to DOTr – and the usual model in many PPP projects – is for private operators to take over operational maintenance while government agencies take care of infrastructure.
“The project is still marred by a bureaucratic maze. That’s why I think if the concession is only for operation and management, the concessionaire will depend on the government for the infrastructure, kawawa,” Yap said.