Editorial: User fees-A A +A
Thursday, November 1, 2012
STARTING this month, the Cebu Provincial Government stopped collecting a fee of P5 from each passenger crossing through the South Bus Terminal.
Instead, it doubled the parking fee for each bus from P100 to P200, according to a report by Oscar C. Pineda in yesterday’s issue.
It’s a deft move, shifting the burden of contributing to the terminal’s maintenance funds from passengers to bus operators.
For Gov. Gwen Garcia and the four district congressmen who reportedly appealed for the fee to be waived, the decision may prove to be politically helpful. That decision will save passengers who use the terminal every day around P3,000 in a year’s time.
Recall that in 2010, the collection of the fee became one of the more persistent issues against the governor, despite obvious improvements in the terminal’s conditions. Later that year, the Capitol announced that instead of having the terminal’s employees collect the fee, the bus companies had agreed to collect it for the Province. That showed the Capitol’s leaders were willing to review its systems in response to constituents’ feedback.
But in removing the terminal fee now, the Province also gave up a teaching opportunity. The lesson being that user fees, when set properly and after sufficient consultation, make more sense than giving most public goods or services for free.
What did passengers get, in return for the P5 fee? They saw a facility made safer and more comfortable, not only because the fee added to the maintenance funds, but because access to the terminal was limited to those with legitimate errands inside it.
Yes, refinements could have been tested, like lower rates for more frequent users; a monthly card that will cost the bearer less than paying P5 for every visit may be one way to do that.
But user fees, while politically unpopular, remain necessary, because they free public funds (which are always in short supply) for more important or more urgent needs. In 2010, maintenance and operating expenses at the terminal cost the Province some P19.3 million; that figure was projected to increase to P24.3 million this year, according to a document posted on the Province’s website.
Will the increased parking fee be enough? One hopes there are no services that will have to be deferred, in order for bus passengers to use the South Bus Terminal for free.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on November 02, 2012.