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The Davao City government will pilot the first phase of the High Priority Bus System (HPBS) in Barangay Catalunan Grande and along Carlos P Garcia Highway (Diversion Road) that will also pave the way for the gradual phase-out of the jeepneys plying the area.

The implementation of the first phase of the city’s bus system is foreseen by the end of the year or early 2020.

Assistant City Administrator Tristan Dwight Domingo said the first phase of the project is now a work in progress utilizing the P100 million funds in the recently-approved Supplemental Budget (SB) No. 1 by the City Council for the two routes.

“We identified Catalunan Grande as the first route for our pilot of the High Priority Bus System because the transport sector there is receptive to the idea. About 69 jeepney units are plying Catalunan Grande and they (drivers) are all willing to cooperate with us,” Domingo said.

Catalunan Grande was among the first two areas served by the bus augmentation because of the perennial lack of public transport for the growing commuters from the area. The other area was Toril.

The city is also opening the new route for Diversion Road which is not being served by public transport.

“We also identified Diversion road because as you can observe, there are no jeepney routes there. Second is that we should know that when we put these buses on the (main) roads, it will worsen the traffic in the city,” he added.

The Diversion route will start from Ulas to Sasa near the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) office while the Catalunan Grande will cover two loops – the Maa loop and the McArthur Highway loop which are currently being studied.

Domingo said the city plans to deploy 25 city buses for the Catalunan Grande Route and 10 city buses for the Diversion Road route.

The roll-out of the bus system also comes with an assurance that the affected drivers will be given social assistance in the form of cash or livelihood to help them cope with the loss of their income.

The P100 million that the city allocated for the implementation of the project will be for the construction of the 115 bus stops for the two routes and the assistance for the affected drivers and operators.

The city government has decided to limit the pilot routes for the bus system due to budget constraint.

“The funding is still being worked out. Based on the initial estimate of the consultants, it would cost the government around P12 billion,” he said.

Domingo pointed out that once the funds coming from the national government is available, the city will implement the full phase of the HPBS.

“If we choose to implement this in a route that only few will be affected, the amount of the budget that is necessary for us to implement is also low,” he added.

Domigo said that once the bus system for the two areas is in place the augmentation buses serving Catalunan Grande will be deployed to another area.

While the city government acknowledges the public’s complaints on the lack of transportation and the worsening traffic situation, Domingo said it cannot just implement a transport system because this has to go through processes such as permitting from the Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB).

“We received all the complaints and demands of the people for the augmentation of public transport in Calinan, Panacan, Mandug, and all the other areas and we are trying to address these the best way we could,” he said. CIO