Tacloban City – A number of motorcab-for-hire (MCH) drivers showed up Monday morning in front of the Tacloban City government compound in protest against the new traffic scheme enforced by the City’s Traffic Operation Management Enforcement and Control Office (TOMECO) where “cross sections of selected roads” in downtown Tacloban are adjusted to a one-way route.
The drivers want the local authorities to revert back immediately to the old traffic system.
According to Agustin Deles, one of the protesting MCH drivers, the new scheme is taking a toll on their daily earnings. “Ibalik iton amon dati nga kaagi nga di na kami magdidinako hin konsumo han gasolina. Kay dati-dati an amon ganansya P200, yana inapinas na it P100. Dako na it nawawara ha amon. (We want the old scheme restored to avoid the costlier gasoline consumption. Previously we earn P200 pesos, now we only get lower than P100 pesos),” Deles adds.
In a TV Patrol Tacloban interview with outgoing mayor Alfred Romualdez, the mayor argues, “ito yung pinagkasunduan ng private sector at saka gobyerno na talagang plinano nila with the technical working group. (The private sector and the government agreed on this and carefully planned it out with the technical working group).” Also in the same TV report, it was reported that local businessmen identified with the Rotary Club of Tacloban met with the mayor last month and discussed the issue on local traffic.
He, however, mentioned that the one-way scheme is “just a dry-run” to end before July. After an evaluation, a new ordinance may be approved to institutionalize it.
According to transport group Piston-Tacloban, however, they are wary with “dry-runs” implemented by the city. Francis Penedilla of Piston-Tacloban said that previous “traffic dry-runs” – including the latest during the Pope’s visit in Leyte – were eventually institutionalized despite various oppositions and protests. Piston-Tacloban also criticized the absence of due consultation among commuters, drivers, and small operators.
A number of commuters have also expressed similar grievance. Thalea Gadin, a student from UP Tacloban, aired out her complaint on social media. She told Eastern Vista that she does not favor the one-way traffic scheme.
“Mas magasto lugod ha pasahe kay halos an mga tricycle drivers diri na napasakay kay harayo na kuno it ginlilibutan. So, kun apurado ka gud, papakyawon mo it tricycle. Kun for example, tikang ka ha Sto. Nino or Jones tapos makadto ka EVSU or Leyte High, makuri gud an panakayan. (It is costly for us since tricycle drivers would refuse us a ride since they have to go around. If you are in a hurry, you would choose to pay more. If, for example, you are from Sto. Nino or Jones [streets] and you are heading to EVSU or Leyte High, taking a ride is difficult),” said Thalea.
She also agrees with MCH drivers that traffic congestion is worsened by allowing cars to park on both lanes. The enforcement of local ordinances against said violators is not taken seriously, she observed. She further noted that it is easier for local authorities to enforce rules against small MCH drivers. On the same note, the mayor mentioned that there is a rise in the number of new vehicles purchased, at ten units every month.
Previously, Piston-Tacloban had also supported protests against the city’s practice of giving “provisional authorities” to select transport operators that allow them to take more transport routes. The transport group also said that the existence of e-trikes or motorcabs run by electricty may pose another threat to MCH drivers. Piston-Tacloban also want the local government to scrap its “anti-people ordinances” and always engage and consult the public first on policy-making.
A second transport protest is set on Wednesday. Leaders from various MCH drivers associations clarify that they do not intend to simply disrupt the flow of traffic. They further argue that their economic survival is at stake amid the unregulated cost of gasoline and other dues or penalty fees they have to pay.