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Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman Francis Tolentino wants bus companies to merge to improve the traffic situation and the quality of public transportation in Metro Manila.

"The major contributor to Metro Manila's traffic congestion is the perceived inefficient operation of public-utility buses," said Tolentino. "It has been observed that public-utility buses' operations are marred by low-average occupancy levels that often result in long queues at bus stops, chaotic behavior of bus drivers brought about by fierce competition for passengers, a high accident rate, high pollution levels, and proliferation of illegal activities including colorum and out-of-line operations. We have complaints from commuters all the time about this."

Tolentino cited the merging of bus companies in Singapore and Colombia, and of airline companies in the US, which resulted in a more efficient public transport system and increased the companies' profitability and financial sustainability.

"Singapore has one of the best public transportation systems in the world, and it never would have been realized if not for the government's initiation of mergers," Tolentino noted.

The MMDA boss also pointed out the authority and power of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to initiate and encourage the mergers and consolidation of bus companies.

"The LTFRB can grant incentives to companies who opt to merge or consolidate, such as granting them preferential and exclusive Certificates of Public Convenience (CPCs)," added Tolentino.

According to the MMDA chief, the LTFRB has the power to issue, amend, revise, suspend or cancel CPCs or permits authorizing the operation of public land transportation services provided by motorized vehicles. Some of the incentives currently given by the LTFRB are 10-year CPCs for applicants who have brand-new fleets of vehicles and an additional two-year license validation for taxicabs that convert to LPG.

In line with this, Tolentino called for the LTFRB to issue merger guidelines based on the bus companies' franchise, income, history of traffic violations, viability and passenger ridership.

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