Massive tourist transport strike looms in Bohol

Two government transport agencies were put on notice by provincial tourist transport groups that unless they could get their act together over the legality of  their franchise documents, tourist transportation in Bohol will face a province-wide wave of disruption in two weeks.

The two multi-purpose cooperatives,  the Bohol Island Operators and Drivers (BIOD) and Bohol Tourist, sick and tired of the  Land Transportation Office (LTO) and the Land Transportation Regulatory Board (LTFRB) inefficiency and high-handed manner in dealing with the implementation of the Anti-Colorum campaign of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) expressed their disgust and exasperation before the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) Committee on Public Utilities and Franchises.

NO MATCH

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The names appearing in the franchise and certificate of public convenience (CPC) issued to cooperatives by the LTFRB that did not match with the registered names under the original registration (OR) and the certificate of registration (CR) issued by the LTO was the main reason the LTO Region 7 group apprehended tourist vans, cars, and utility vehicles. 

The LTO team from the Law Enforcement Service of the LTO central office which swooped into Bohol with nary a courtesy call to the Local Government Unit {LGU) and the local LTO office concentrated their operations on vehicles operating without a franchise (colorums).

JOINT EFFORT 

Gus Pascual, General Manager of the Bohol Island Operators and Drivers Multi-Purpose Cooperative (BIODMPC) intimated to the Chronicle that, out of desperation, the 145 members cooperative is mulling of pulling out 140 units of vans, cars, and utility vehicles during weekends to dramatize their outrage over the perceived high-handed and picayune modus operandi of the LTO team in their operation in Bohol.

Also, Brian Aguilar, chair of the Bohol Tourist Multi-Purpose Cooperative (BTMPC) with 167 members and more than 350 units did not foreclose the possibility of joining the planned strike but was still optimistic that the LTO and the LTFRB will resolve the issue of the franchise, CPC, OR and CR.

WELCOME MOVE

Unfazed by the blistering attack by stakeholders, LTO Regional Director Victor Emmanuel Caindec told the Chronicle that “we welcome the questions and criticisms regarding our policies and procedures because this is the best opportune time to bring the issues to the public.”

Caindec also raised the question on the practice of vehicles allowed to be used for hire despite the prohibition of the change of classification of mortgaged vehicles financed by bank loans.

A Department of Tourism memo increasing the number of vehicles for tourism transport from three to ten brand new units per individual has ushered the proliferation of cooperatives to accommodate the growing number of tourist vehicles under a memorandum of agreement to legalize their operation.

Caindec admitted that LTO 7 is undergoing an “internal cleansing” to purge the agency of anomalies in the implementation of their policies which are being exploited by unscrupulous persons to the detriment of an unsuspecting public.

According to Caindec, the tough stance taken by the regional office on erring transport tourist operators will only benefit the tourism industry in the Visayas.

PUBLIC UPROAR

During the committee hearing on August 16, 2018 of the Public Utilities and Franchise, 2nd District Board Member Dr. Romulo Cepedoza, committee chair and 1st District Board Member Ricky Masamayor, committee member were appalled by the representatives of the transport groups vehemence in giving vent to their indignation against the LTO and the LTFRB.

Masamayor told the committee that he personally saw five vehicles allegedly escorted by heavily armed military personnel during an operation conducted by the LTO group.

Apprehended vehicles were reportedly impounded at the grounds of the 47th Infantry Battalion Headquarters in Barangay Macaas, Tubigon.

NO PRIOR NOTICE

It has been more than a week, according to the transport groups present during the committee hearing that their pleas for a cohesive clarification over the LTOs insistence that names on the franchise and CPC should match with those appearing in the OR and CR should be resolved.

Both cooperatives lambasted the LTO team for conducting their operation under heavily armed military personnel while denouncing LTO Tagbilaran City Information Officer Florencio Balazuela for their failure to inform the cooperative of the sudden changes in their registration protocol despite the previous requirement which was in place since 2010.

NO INTIMIDATION

Provincial Administrator Alfonso “Ae” Damalerio II who sat on behalf of Governor Edgar Chato, bristled over the reported abusive behavior of LTO personnel challenged the stakeholders present during the committee hearing to demand from the inspection team for their mission order and refuse the order to hand over their driver’s license if they believe that their documents are in order.

Damalerio also proposed to the committee to study the localization of the issuance of franchises to tourist transport operators to adapt to the local conditions of the province.

However, Provincial Legal Officer Mitchell John Boiser voiced his observation that the LTO might have harbored suspicions on the names appearing in the OR/CR were operating under the notorious “kabit system” which is defined as an arrangement whereby a person who has been granted a CPC, in this case, the cooperative, allows another person who owns motor vehicles to operate under their franchise for a fee. 

Meanwhile, the BIODMPC complained to LTO Assistant Secretary Edgar Galvante about the “harassment and apprehensions” by agents of LTO Jagna and Tagbilaran City for “some lapses” in their registration due to sudden changes and appointment of a new regional director.

The cooperative also raised their apprehensions over defaulting loan payments due to the strict but haphazard implementation of transport laws, rules and regulations.

The committee on Public Utilities will submit a resolution requesting the LTO for a moratorium on their operations to go after unregistered vehicles to avert a transportation crisis in the tourism business in the province. (Chito M. Visarra) 



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