Bicol Central Station: Doing more than expected

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“If I were to rate – in a scale of 1 to 10 — the way the Bicol Central Station (formerly Naga Central Bus Terminal) is being ran today, I won’t hesitate to give it an eleven or 12.”

This was the instant remark given by jeepney driver Faustino Teoxon, chairman of a transport group plying the Del Rosario-Concepcion route here in Naga City. He emphasized, however, that the rating is not solely about the physical developments that he sees but more on the “determination and zeal shown by the city government to improve the facility’s operations.”

The local bus terminal had been under the management for more than a decade by a private corporation as operator until 2013 when the private operator’s franchise expired and the Naga city government of Naga decided to take over its administration and operation and immediately undertook facility repairs, repainting, beautifi cation, and more importantly, operational innovations and reforms.

The “face-lifting” and the improvements introduced were anchored on a 4-pronged mission of the Central Bus Terminal Transition Team-Technical Working Group (CBTTT-TWG) which is headed by City Budget Offi cer Frank Mendoza, which called for the:
• promotion of the riding public’s safety and convenience;
• projection of the positive image of the city;
• provision of livelihood opportunities to Nagueños, and;
• generation of more economic enterprise revenues.

The city government had used to receive an annual net revenue of P15-M for its lease agreement with the previous terminal operator. This amount, however, proved to be lower by more than 50% when compared to the gross income of P32-M it obtained on the fi rst year that the terminal was being managed and operated by the city government under Budget Offi cer Mendoza.

Mendoza said this year’s fi gure is expected to increase in 2015 and in the following years, considering the reforms and other initiatives being adopted under the guidance of Naga City Mayor John G. Bongat.

Teoxon said that aside from physical developments, strict implementation of new house rules and policies were also observed inside the facility to ensure more convenience, safety and security to the public.

Teresa Bermudo, a stallholder at the Central Bus Station, said what impresses her most is the security-conscious City Hall workers and Public Safety Office (PSO) personnel assigned at the terminal who are working on shifts for a round-the-clock security cover that significantly reduced to the minimum incidents of theft within and around the premises.

“Before, I cannot just leave my place even for a brief period without my helper taking over, else my store would be attacked by shoplifters and thieves. But now, I can take a nap and relax even during nighttime without closing my store and without worrying that something maybe lost when I wake up.

The city government during the first quarter that it took over the bus terminal’s operation had also taken the effort of organizing all stallholders into a multipurpose cooperative in the hope that it could help them more through other benefits and windows for loans and financial assistance that they themselves would help establish as micro entrepreneurs.

Unlike in the post under the old terminal operator, the stallholders are no longer compelled to purchase beverages and softdrinks from a supplier favored by former terminal operator. Stallholders are free to buy supplies and services according to their own choice, breaking off the monopoly that had attended the purchasing and supply delivery transactions within the terminal for its stallholders for over a decade.

“Mayor Bongat also forwarded the idea of giving the stallholders an across-the-board decrease of 10% from their annual stall rental,” Mendoza disclosed. Upon Mayor Bongat’s instructions, peddlers and roving vendors were also organized, allowing them to have more voice in airing their concerns to the city managers and officials concerned.

Mendoza further disclosed that the old practice of directing vendors to conduct periodic clean-up operations within the terminal and its perimeter has been discontinued and the P10 fee collected from them daily in plying their trade was lowered to a minimal P5.00.

Jun Lausingco, bus dispatcher, volunteered the following observation: The city government as terminal operator has come up with an effective policy on the utilization of parking spaces for buses wherein each bus company is given a designated place to park their buses. The idea provides a situation that is totally different from what was happening in previous years when buses have to wrestle against each other to secure parking spaces.

The policy also cleared the problem on the distribution of parking spaces between Manila-bound buses and the buses operating within the province or the region, thereby making the utilization of spaces inside the terminal more organized.

Aside from that, the CBTTTTWG also implements a policy that prohibits taxis and other private vehicles from entering the terminal’s interior bay, thereby allowing bus drivers to maneuver their units without unnecessary obstructions.

Lausingco also thanked the City Hall personnel assigned in the terminal for their readiness to help resolve complaints against rowdy passengers who have problems with any of the bus companies. He said that in most cases the incidents turned into heated arguments if not acted upon immediately.

Dan Sare, stallholder, has this to say: I observe the city’s bus terminal now to be more customer-friendly than before; we no longer feel irritated when we have to pay P5.00 every time that we have to use the comfort rooms because now everybody can use it anytime for free with maintenance personnel assigned to keep it clean and orderly.

Sare, like many others, are generous in commending Mayor Bongat for the terminal’s peace and order situation, clean surroundings, well-lighted areas and strict implementation of policies pertaining to the operations of Manila and provincial buses.

Sare said if there’s one thing that the city government has to improve on in the terminal: upgrading the internet connections to the satisfaction of stallholders, waiting passengers, especially businessmen and students who can’t live without their computers and other IT gadgets which do not serve the satisfaction of computer hobbyists and techy passengers. The observation holds true with a handful of students who were to travel back to Manila for their studies.

“May the city government find time to improve the internet connectivity and coverage para kumpleto na talaga ang improvements,” they said.

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