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Baguio City mulls proposal seeking to impose a P250 congestion fee for cars entering CBD

By Yoniel Acebuche Published Jun 10, 2024 5:27 pm Updated Jun 10, 2024 8:29 pm

Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong clarified that the P250 congestion fee proposed in its smart mobility project is not yet final.

On June 5, the local government of Baguio City received a proposal that would impose the said fee on private cars entering its central business district to "ease the traffic" in the area.

The Metro Pacific Tollways Corporation (MPTC) submitted the "unsolicited" proposal to the city government under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) scheme. In this, the private sector will invest funds to "realize projects with shared economic benefit to the local government unit."

The imposition of congestion fees would follow be similar to steps taken by first world countries such as Singapore, London, Stockholm, Miland, and New York to reduce traffic, carbon emission, and energy consumption, as well as to discipline drivers and motorists in the areas and to serve as revenue for the local economy.

According to the city's PIO, jeepneys; vehicles driven by senior citizens and persons with disabilities, uniformed personnel on active duty; and emergency response vehicles will be exempt from paying the congestion fee.

Meanwhile, government cars with authorized travel orders and taxis would also have reduced congestion fee rates. Vehicles owned by Baguio residents will be eligible for the proposed refunds.

Singapore-like transport system

More than anything else, MPTC said that the congestion fee is part of the city's vision of a Singapore-like transport system where commuters can "monitor road conditions real-time" through apps, and book and reserve parking spaces.

The corporation also envisions having a smart traffic command center to immediately address road accidents.

As of writing, the project is still being worked up by the city before being presented to the City Council for approval, according to City Administrator Bonifacio Dela Peña.

'Just a proposal'

Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong explained that the congestion fee was just a proposal. This came after the matter received backlash online.

"Premature 'yung nangyari doon na bigla nalang nagsalita na 'di nabigyan ng background, ni hindi na-explain 'yung nuances ng sistema. Bigla nalang nilabas 'yun, talagang magkakaroon ng backlash," the mayor said.

He added that this proposal is "not final" and that the LGU will continue to have engagements and consultations with stakeholders and residents.

Social media users weigh in

The said proposal drew mixed reactions from social media users, saying that achieving a "first world country-like transportation system" is far from reality given the situation in the city.

"Better yet, close [na lang] ang buong [Session Road] since paying P250.00 will not resolve the traffic and commuter problems," a user said.

"Sorry but this is a senseless and heartless decision for another fundraising," another user added.

"Wow so everytime maghahatid at magsusundo kmi ng mga anak namin sa town magbabayad kmi ng P250. [That's] 5h per day.. nice move mayor. Kaya nga kami nagsibili ng sasakyan kc napakahirap magcommute sa Baguio," a Facebook user commented.

"The intention is good but the price isn't appropriate to how much the local residents make," another user wrote.

Others suggested that it is better to improve the public transport system instead of imposing a congestion fee.

"Ayusin muna ang public transportations natin, tamang loading and unloading zone sa lahat, na hindi makaka apekto sa daloy ng traffic. Matinong drivers private and public. Contacless fare payments.. More parking areas sa boundary ng CBD para pwede magpark ang mga private cars."

Meanwhile, in 2022, the city also suggested imposing a similar but lower P50 congestion fee on tourists with cars. Although residents were not required to pay, the proposal was never implemented.