Last month, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) announced that provincial buses are once again allowed to use EDSA. However, the agency said that according to the Department of Transportation's (DOTr) policy, provincial buses are only permitted to travel on EDSA between 10:00 PM up to 5:00 AM in the early morning.

This did not sit well with people in provincial buses who were flagged down on EDSA while traveling outside their window hours. Commuters from nearby provinces are now being forced to find different transport options to get to parts of Metro Manila.

The provincial bus issue has already caught the attention of Senator Joel Villanueva who recently released a statement regarding the matter.

Villanueva called on the DOTr, LTFRB, and MMDA to reconsider their decision regarding the window hour policy for provincial buses and consider the welfare of the commuters and provincial bus operators in the implementation of the new scheme.

“Let’s give our commuters decent and affordable alternatives for them to travel in Metro Manila within business hours. Ample time should be given to commuters before implementing the new scheme so they can adjust to the new schedule. We hope that the agencies have thoroughly studied by our agencies for its effect on our commuters whose livelihoods rely on the daily commute on provincial buses,” said Villanueva.

Senator urges DOTr, MMDA to rethink provincial bus window image

The Senator added that the new window hour policy affects the source of income of provincial bus operators and drivers because their earnings depend on the number of passengers they can pick up. Villanueva also wished to remind the government that we are still recovering from pandemic lockdowns and that a lot of livelihoods are dependent on provincial bus routes. Similarly, he called on the MMDA to further study its proposed revised number coding scheme that they recently submitted to the Metro Manila Council.

Following Villanueva's statement, the LTFRB announced that it had no part in the aforementioned 10:00 PM to 5:00 AM window hour policy for provincial buses entering Metro Manila. In a statement, they said that they are aware of the scheme and emphasized that the agreement was between the MMDA and provincial bus operators.

“At the outset, the LTFRB would like to clarify that the agency is not privy to the said agreement but was informed of this prior to the more than two-weeks dry run of the said scheme by MMDA and that the agency respects the said policy they are implementing,” said the agency.

Moreover, the LTFRB emphasized that the observance of the window scheme of the MMDA should not connote that provincial bus operations shall only commence and terminate public land transportation services at night time from 10:00 PM to 5:00 AM. They added that based on the agreement, provincial bus operators may use their private terminals only from 10:00 PM to 5:00 AM, and beyond that, their origin and destination must be at the following terminals:

-PITX to Quezon, Region 4-B MIMAROPA, and Bicol
-PITX at Araneta Center Cubao to Region 4-A CALABARZON
-NLET to Region 1, 2, and CAR
-NLET and Araneta Center Cubao to Region 3
-SRIT for provincial buses from Visayas and Mindanao

With commuters and provincial bus operators/drivers still at the mercy of the window hour policy, we sure hope that something is done to revise the said scheme. It's already hard for most commuters to get around Metro Manila, let alone travel to and from provinces in order to get to work.