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Bus terminal income balloons: P150% plus

By Juan Escandor Jr.

NAGA CITY — The gross income generated from the operation of the Central Bus Terminal (CBT), now renamed Bicol Central Station, in Naga City has ballooned to 150 percent, or approximately P40M at best, compared to the P16M that an erstwhile private operator used to remit to the city government as annual lease payment.

Francisco Mendoza, acting manager of the CBT since the city hall took over the CBT operations in January 2014, estimates that of the present gross income generated, a net income of at least P30M is earned after deducting about P10M for operational and administrative expenses.

“It’s a far cry from the P16M that the Naga LGU earned from the yearly payment received from FPM Corp. that had operated the government-owned CBT for nine years,” Mendoza said.

So much had changed since the Naga LGU took over the management and operation of the government-owned central bus terminal in the city, he said.

After almost two years running the CBT), the toilet fees are gone and the income generated from its facility increased two-fold even though other fees formerly imposed by the FPM Corp. had been waived in favor of efficient service and openness to the public.

Parking areas are now open for free use unlike the past nine years when the CBT was still managed and operated by FPM Corp. which is owned by Fortunato Mendoza.

In a study submitted by acting manager Mendoza to the Sangguniang Panglunsod, it was shown that for the use of four toilets alone, the FPM Corp. could had earned about P1.4M from collecting fees of P5 per head for every use of the toilet.

It also showed that based on the previous policy of collecting fees per passenger from bus companies of at least P40 per passenger, the FPM may have earned at least P18.8M per year.

But the Naga LGU had chosen to waive these income sources by implementing standards in the CBT operations which included scrapping of a number of fees, like collecting fees based on the number of passengers and instead a fee per bus was implemented.

Including fees for toilet use, per passenger, parking and planned monthly rental increase of 5 percent, the Naga LGU estimated that some P21.5M had been waived in one year.

Mendoza said that even with the Naga LGU waiving the previous fees imposed on CBT users, still the income generated from the CBT operations had improved tremendously.

“Considering that the then terminal management was not open to giving away its financial secrets, much less disclosing in full and in a complete manner its sources of income at the terminal, it’s well possible that the enumeration (of the waived possible income) is not complete,” he said.

It came a long way for the CBT, which funds for its construction at the cost of P15M that came from a loan the LGU of Naga City borrowed from the World Bank during the one-term administration of former mayor and Congressman Sulpicio Roco Jr., to realize the income generating potential of the Naga LGU until it took over its operation.

Originally intended for privatization, the LGU at present is not keen to open for bidding the CBT operation while it is setting its standards on how the bus terminal should operate in terms of its facilities and income generated.

“If ever the city government decides to reopen its bidding for the CBT operation, the standard will be higher for a bidder to comply with,” Naga City Vice Mayor Nelson Legacion said.

Legacion, a lawyer by profession, is among those who stood in court to defend the decision of the LGU to take over the management and administration of the CBT from the FPM Corp.

After a strong resistance from and legal tussle with a FPM Corp. questioning the propriety of the LGU’s takeover of the terminal on the basis of an old ordinance, the central bus terminal was taken over by the LGU on January 17, 2014.

Fortunato Mendoza filed criminal and administrative cases against Naga City officials before the Ombudsman, aside from asking the court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) when the LGU was about to take over the CBT.

After the TRO lapsed, however, Mendoza again applied for a writ of injunction which was dismissed on Jan. 16, 2014. The Ombudsman dismissed Mendoza’s criminal and administrative cases against the city officials on June 26, 2015.

From then on, under the LGU management and operation of the terminal, changes started to get into the system.

Acting manager Mendoza said they did not start the operations of the CBT from scratch but relied on the continued data gathering and assessment of its operations months before the takeover.

He said they deployed Naga LGU personnel to religiously record the number of buses coming in and going out during the lean and peak months, aside from other observations when FPM Corp. was still the private operator of the CBT.

Mendoza revealed they discovered other practices inside the CBT which were purely based on personal judgment of the owner of the FPM Corp., like the uneven rates the fees were collected.

He said prior to the taking over of the CBT, a Technical Working Group (TWG) was formed to layout the management and administrative plan of the operations which they had followed and improved up to the present.