THE mandatory use of the Integrated Terminal Exchange (ITX), both in the North and South, is mandated under IATF Resolution No. 101.
The same is still existing and is in effect. The same is also strongly supported by the MMDA.
While the issue of the bus operators from the North has been raised to the IATF, the latter created a Small Technical Working Group to study the issue. Hence, from December 2-14, 2021, a series of meetings with and through the IATF were held to discuss the mandatory use of ITX Terminals, including NLET.
After much deliberation by the STWG, wherein stakeholders were present as resource persons, the STWG recommended to the IATF to put the matter on status quo until further studies and recommendations may be presented to the body.
The issue here is not only as to traffic but also as to public health. It has been shown during the last Christmas season that passengers congregated in their in-city bus terminals which caused congestion. Despite the fact that these operators know that they cannot operate their routes from these in-city terminals, they allowed the passengers inside their terminal, which caused congestion thereby violating public health protocols on social distancing and disinfection, among others, which they thereafter posted in social media themselves.
To address the matter, the LTFRB issued special permits to operators so that they can use these in-city terminals but instead of doing so, these operators refused to run their buses citing several shallow excuses. It was only thru prodding by LTFRB and negative public opinion that they finally operated their routes.
This is contrary to the scenario in the south, where the PITX, for instance, continues to be in operation, and it is proven that minimum health protocols are uniformly observed by stakeholders in the facility.
To be clear, before the pandemic, there were 85 operational terminals (47 were along EDSA) in Metro Manila. Researchers have observed even before the COVID-19 pandemic started that crowded facilities where people of diverse origins and destinations use the same resources are especially prone to spreading viruses. Reopening private terminals along EDSA means authorizing 85 potential sites of viral transmission for the Filipino commuters.
Meanwhile, on the point regarding the limited number of PUBs, please note that to date, there are 2,677 authorized units over 118 routes coming from the north of Metro Manila, however, only 915 have applied for SP/QR Code (34.2%). This means that the issue on supply was not caused by the DOTr or LTFRB not authorizing certain units to ply their routes. It is caused by the non-application of bus operators. This issue may be resolved by urging bus operators to apply for permits for the use of their units this pandemic to serve thousands of commuters going back to Metro Manila coming from the holidays and beyond.
Lastly, please note that the ITX concept has been around the country for almost a decade. This is an established doctrine enshrined in NEDA’s National Transport Policy in 2017, which went through consultations with stakeholders and relevant govt agencies. The 2016 NTP further strengthened the enactment of the Executive Order No. 67 s. 2012, which aims for the establishment of at least two integrated transport terminals with locations in the North and South of Metro Manila, to provide effective interconnections between different transport modes and services.
The ITX is a widely accepted worldwide practice to integrate public transport terminals especially in highly urbanized cities for efficient connectivity thereby benefitting commuters. In fact, ITX facilities are already established in highly urbanized cities in the country like those in Cebu, Cagayan de Oro.
From a global perspective, consolidation or lessening the redundancy in the number of terminals is not new. Multiple examples are observed from different parts of the world, and some of the more notable examples from our close Asian neighbors are of Seoul, South Korea and of Surabaya, Indonesia. Moreover, consolidation of terminals or stations during the pandemic were likewise observed. Some examples were in Washington, District of Columbia wherein 20% reduction in the number of stations were observed, while in Valencia, Spain, a 35% reduction.
Until the IATF resolution is rescinded or nullified, the use of the north and south ITX terminals remains valid.