FOR as long as people can remember, there have always been “colorum” vehicles engaged in public transportation in Metro Manila and elsewhere in the country. Colorum vehicles – buses, jeepneys, and vans – have no franchises from the Land Transportation and Franchising Registration Board (LTFRB). They thus compete with registered vehicles which are duly inspected and pay registration fees and taxes and are duly insured.
Non-inspection and non-registration of vehicles leads to neglect of proper maintenance procedures. The old engines emit thick black polluting smoke. Tires have inadequate or no treads. Lights do not work. They thus pose a menace to their passengers and to other vehicles on the road. And they add to the daily traffic jams in our overloaded streets.
In a road accident last week in Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro, a bus struck and demolished the railing of a bridge, then plunged into the riverside 15 meters below. Fifteen passengers died on the spot while four others died on the way to the hospital. With the death toll of 19, it was one of the worst accidents on record. Investigation may disclose serious violations in the maintenance of the engine, steering, body, and tires.
President Duterte has chosen to go even further. He has now called for an all-out effort to remove all colorum or unregistered public utility vehicles. “We have gotten used to vans that are unregistered, uninsured, and with unmaintained engines and tires, and we do not do anything about it almost every day,” he said. The government is also to blame for the spread of colorum vehicles, he added, because law enforcers would turn a blind eye to violations and politicians are afraid of losing elections.
There are really many violations in the country which law enforcers tend to tolerate for various reasons – squatting in public lands, for example, disposing of garbage in public esteros, vendors appropriating and blocking sidewalks, illegal parking in streets, etc. In time, the government, both national and local, should be able to bring about order in all these situations.
All this requires political will. Stopping all colorum bus, jeepney, and van operations will not be easy to carry out because of the repercussions. But President Duterte has now issued the order from the very top and so, after all these years, we may finally see the end of colorum transport operations in the country.