Zamboanga is experiencing an economic and tourism boom. Recently, the spotlight was on the pink sands of Sta Cruz Islands that made waves after being included in National Geographic’s list of top beaches. Tourists from all over the country and some from different parts of the globe came to Zamboanga to see the pink sand beach. Most of the comments from guests are positive but there is one setback, our tricycles in the city charge more than the prescribed fare rates. They are like vultures waiting at the airport and bus stations.
I call them “taxicles” or tricycles that charge outrageously high fare rates similar to taxis sans the air conditioning and comfortable seats. This has been a perineal problem of our city since I got here in 2004. Jeepneys are my number one choice of public transport because tricycles charge ten times more. A ten-minute ride from the airport to a local mall would cost you from 70-100 pesos. Yesterday, I got home from the province and was in a hurry to get to the office. A tricycle would have been my best option for the 10-kilometer ride. However, the tricycle waiting at the arrival area of the bus terminal would charge me 130.00 pesos which is basically half of my bus fare for 119 kilometers. Following the regulated fare matrix, I should only be charged 60.00-70.00 pesos. Some of my social media followers posted on my facebook page that they had been charged 200.00-300.00 pesos.
A couple of years ago, one of my facebook posts went viral and got shared 240 times. I was entertaining four friends from Manila who were on vacation here in Zamboanga. They were charged 100.00 pesos for a 1.5km ride. I was urged to report the incident to the Tricycle Adjudication Board and they immediately investigated the matter. I had to take two trips to the city hall to file my complaint and face the tricycle driver. This basically consumed some of my productive hours but I still proceeded with the complaint hoping that I can contribute to improving the situation for commuters. A fine and a few days suspension from operations were served to the driver and tricycle operator. It was a hard decision for me knowing that the driver will not have any means of livelihood for the next couple of weeks. But as the saying goes, Dura Lex Sed Lex (the law may be harsh but it is still the law). Wil I report tricycles again? I won’t because it is very time consuming and I haven’t seen any long-term effects in doing so.
A year had passed after my short rant on social media and I can still read viral posts about tricycle drivers. It’s still the same old story. It had been a cycle of action and inaction from the government. Several hearings on the City Council took place to discuss the matter, an updated fare matrix is already in place, and a group of students are even making a cellphone app to calculate the fare. This worked for some time and most tricycle drivers followed the rates. But there are still some who take advantage of especially when the passengers are in a hurry. Band-aid solutions are plenty but nobody has ever cured this disease. The problem calls for a multi-faceted solution that would eradicate this cancer that plagues commuters.
Playing the blame game would not help either, this problem existed more than a decade ago. And as the traffic in Zamboanga gets crazier, tricycles have more alibis charge extra. Gasoline prices do not increase during rains but tricycle fares do! Now that the city has started the one-way scheme in several major roads, tricycle drivers also see it as an opportunity to increase their charges. Road improvements and pipe-laying operations by the water district are very positive things that are happening for us. Unfortunately, tricycle drivers charge extra if your route will pass by these infrastructure projects because of the traffic. Living in the outskirts of the city is also a problem. Some tricycle drivers would charge double because they will also let you shoulder their cost of getting back to the populated areas to get more passengers.
Some travelers prefer booking their flights in Dipolog than Zamboanga just because of this problem. Zamboanga City’s base fare is double compared to the base fares in other cities of Region 9. Other tourists can only give negative feedback and just live with the rates. Certainly, this is not good for local tourism. The real victims of the taxicles would be the Zamboanguenos who take commute every day. A lot of their hard earned money goes to fares that are beyond the regulations. This long overdue problem has now become part of our lifestyle. Immediate actions should be done but careful planning and study on the matter should be undertaken. Pointing fingers will not solve any problem, we need solutions. Facebook rants are now passé and giving comments on this issue is very tiring. Hopefully, this will be my last post about the matter. When will this end? Will this problem ever end or should we concede and live with it?
Please feel free to comment. Civilized exchange of ideas would be highly appreciated.