Howls of protest greeted the suspension of bus trips by Southern Star Bus Transit, Inc. from Tagbilaran to Panglao and back on Thursday afternoon, June 16, 2016 after copies of the Certificate of Public Convenience (CPC) reached the Land Transportation Office (LTO).
The clamor for the entry of buses to service the routes to Panglao stemmed from the long simmering complaints of the riding public on the dilapidated jeeps, poor scheduling, overcrowding and alleged discourteous demeanor of bus conductors.
Reports reaching DYRD Balita confirmed the stoppage even as Erwin Patalinghug, LTO, Tagbilaran District Head told DYRD Balita that copy of the CPC of Southern Star was received by his office.
“On the face of the document, there is no showing that the CPC includes an approved LTFRB bus route from Tagbilaran to Panglao. But I have to check with the LTFRB regional office”, Patalinghug said.
No action regarding the trips was taken by the LTO even as the sudden suspension of the trips caught many commuters by surprise.
A CPC is granted to every public utility engaged in operating land transportation services and the public utility vehicle operatorÂ shall operate the unit/s authorized and registered pursuant to the authority granted only on the route authorized in the Certificate of Public Conveyance unless otherwise authorized by the Board.
LTFRB Assistant Regional Director Reynaldo Elnar stressed when called by DYRD Balita that in the absence of a specific authority to ply a certain route, the public utility bus is considered out of line and can face sanctions.
Transport dispatchers manning the Panglao jeep terminal in F. Rocha St. confirmed the cancellation of the trips but callers told DYRD Balita that there were still Southern Star buses plying the route to Panglao late Thursday afternoon.
Southern Bus management could not be reached for confirmation of the trip cancellation as office staff told DYRD that officials of the bus company were not in the office.
However, Southern Star Administrative Manager Fritzi Labastilla told DYRD “Inyong Alagad” on Thursday, June 16, 2016 that their franchise covers “anywhere and all points in the province of Bohol”.
But Elnar, during an interview with “Inyong Alagad” refuted the claims of Southern Star saying “We do not issue a blanket franchise to transport companies except cargo trucks”.
Elnar also said that the LTFRB has an existing moratorium in the issuance of franchises and advised the LGU and the public to file a petition with the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) thru the LTFRB for the opening of new routes.
Southern Star management could not present a copy of the franchise to the Sangguniang Bayan of Panglao during their regular session recently.
But a digital copy of the CPC furnished by the bus company to DYRD Balita showed that the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) authorized Southern Star to operate a PUB service covering Tagbilaran City-Loay-Loboc-Sierra Bullones-Trinidad-Talibon routes.
Signed by Reynaldo Elnar as Officer-in-charge of the LTFRB on February 15, 2016, the CPC is valid until April 5, 2021.
Starting last week, Southern Star fielded four units to serve the Tagbilaran City via Barangay Lourdes – Panglao and Tagbilaran City via Barangay Tawala.
Before the suspension, the morning trips Tagbilaran City- Panglao started at 6:15, 6:40, 7:00 and 7:20 while the Panglao to Tagbilaran began at 5:30, 6:15, 7:00, 7:40 and 8:00.
Afternoon trips to Panglao left Tagbilaran at 5:30, 6:15 and the evening schedule was 7:00, 7:40 and 8:00.
Labastilla also said that a copy of the CPC was submitted to the Office of the Mayor of Panglao Leonila Montero but the Sangguniang Bayan was reluctant to endorse the bus company’s entry pending presentation of a copy of the CPC.
A pending petition protesting the entry of Southern Star buses to Panglao has been filed by Association of Drivers and Operators of Panglao Island Inc. is awaiting resolution from the LTFRB.
Invoking the “prior operator rule”, the association pointed out that the 42 valid franchises of their 84 members “can provide sufficient and safe service to the riding public”.
According to the petition, the transport association claimed that there is no need for the big buses of Southern Star to operate in the route since the distance is only (18km) eighteen Â kilometers from Tagbilaran to Panglao.
The entry of Southern Star Bus Transit would deprive them of their livelihood and would result to unfair competition, the petition stated.