MANILA - It was supposed to be simple: the Makati government offering free shuttle services for Metro Rail Transit (MRT) passengers going to the country's financial district during rush hour.
Instead, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board is requiring these Makati-bound commuters to buy a single journey MRT ticket and present an ID issued by a Makati-based company before riding the free shuttles.
The Makati government has questioned the LTFRB order, saying it would defeat the purpose of a "free" transport service for Makati commuters.
Atty. Pio Kenneth Dasal, city legal officer, said the order would greatly prejudice and inconvenience passengers who need to line up and purchase a single journey ticket on the same date.
"The fact that they will not use the MRT ticket to ride the MRT trains makes such condition oppressive, as well," he said in a statement.
"How could this requirement benefit the Makati commuters and also solve the long queues in MRT?" he added.
For his part, LTFRB Chairman Winston Ginez said the order is to ensure that only MRT passengers working in Makati should avail of the free service. He said many people who are not necessarily working in Makati and are not MRT passengers might avail of the service.
"Our policy is that only MRT passengers and not any other free riders or any other passenger of ordinary buses... These buses are also concerned about these free shuttles. It may in effect eventually affect their commuters and customers because we are also looking at other similar entities offering the same," he said in an interview on Mornings@ANC.
"They have to be legitimate MRT passengers. You cannot just have anyone there lining up and getting a free ride, pretending to be an MRT passenger," he added.
Ginez said the original intent of Makati's ordinance is to help people who are working in Makati.
This means that people who are working in other cities such as Parañaque cannot take the free bus, get off at Makati and then take another mode of transportation to their place of work.
The LTFRB official acknowledged that buying an MRT ticket that a passenger would not use defeats the purpose of the free service.
He said the Department of Transportation of Communications is already studying the Makati government's motion for reconsideration.
He also pointed out that the LTFRB cannot just approve all LGUs that offer free shuttle services on EDSA.
"What if other cities start copying? That is really the consideration, the traffic condition that we have to coordinate with the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the number of cars...because that is really regulated. If they are given a special lane, it may affect traffic conditions," he said.
Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay earlier said the city government plans to purchase four new buses to augment the six city-owned vehicles being used for the free transport program.
Binay ordered the fielding of city government-owned buses at the MRT North Station to ferry Makati City workers in a bid to help reduce the overcrowding of daily commuters taking the south-bound train.