Bzzzzz: Ahong and e-jeepneys, board member's gripe vs 'media'

CEBU. Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard "Ahong" Chan and the e-jeepneys. (SunStar File)

PEOPLE talk about...

* PROVINCIAL BOARD MEMBER'S COMPLAINT. The board member, who was named by Eric S. Manait of dyCM radio, griped that on official's first day of office at the Cebu Capitol, he was besieged not by job applicants but by a number of people who identified themselves as "Media" and separately presented a solicitor's envelope for this and that cause or project. At least, they brought their own envelopes.

* 'SHOUTING MATCH' BETWEEN A PUBLICIST AND A REPORTER, when the PR man asked during a press-con about the hiring decision of a city mayor.

* CBCP, TV5 FRANCHISES HAVING BEEN APPROVED; WITH ABS-CBN'S FATE STILL UNCLEAR. Copies of two laws extending the separate franchises of Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), which owns TV Maria, and TV5 were reportedly released Thursday (July 18). President Rodrigo Duterte allowed the two bills to lapse into law (Republic Act #11319 and RA #11320) last April yet.

ABS-CBN's franchise, covered by House Bill #4349, had been pending since November 2016 but the House committee on legislative franchises did not submit a report on it before the 17th Congress adjourned. The bill has to be re-filed in the 18th Congress, which convenes Monday, July 22. ABS-CBN's fate has been the subject of speculation. Would the giant broadcast network, which has been repeatedly assailed by the President, still be alive legally by March 20 next year, the expiry date of its old franchise?

Mayor's objections

Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard Chan may have misunderstood the local

government's authority regarding the e-jeepneys that are now plying some streets of the city.

The initial 25 units now serving the city will be increased by 75 more, or a total of 100 vehicles this year. The hype over its features -- free WiFi, charging ports, with GPS, dashboard, closed-circuit TV camera, and electric fan -- is feared to sideswipe the competition eventually, especially if its fare will not be too stiff.

The LGU can propose the routes for the e-jeepneys, through the City Council and the mayor (they are supposed to know the area and the situation better), but granting of franchises or authority to operate lies solely within the power of LTFRB, not Chan's local government.

Mayor Chan has cited the additional congestion the e-jeepneys will make and the economic slump that will hurt existing public utility vehicles, including the old-type jeepneys and motorcycle "taxis." Plus the complaint that the e-jeepneys are "unfit" or unsuitable for the city's roads.

Study by past administration

Those are matters, however, that were supposed to have been studied already by the old City Council and Ahong Chan's predecessor Paz Radaza. They must have already submitted their study and recommendation to LTFRB and agencies initiating the President's Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program or PUVMP. Last February, the mayor Paz said the e-jeepneys "complement" PUVMP.

Mayor Ahong Chan had no part in the introduction of the e-jeepneys. The deal with the manufacturer was with Paz and expectedly, Ahong must have his suspicions.

With the limit on his authority and given the control of Radaza's party in the City Council, Mayor Chan can protest. And he can do more: by submitting a more comprehensive study on the transport and traffic problem in the city, which will support his objection and refute Paz Radaza's recommendation.

Or, if the same study will affirm findings of the former mayor and the previous City Council, support the earlier recommendation and not get in the way of "modernization and progress." If the cost includes lining the pocket of his political rivals but he cannot prove malfeasance, Ahong may just have to "grin and bear it."


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