July 16, 2024

Remember the Jadewell Parking Corporation? It was a corporation that was designated by the City of Baguio to regulate pay parking along Session Road and other commercial districts.
Pursuant thereto, the corporation collected parking fees from vehicle owners who parked along any of the major thoroughfares around the city especially at the central business district.
What was supposed to be a profitable intercourse between the city government and Jadewell turned out to be a major headache to all parties concerned.
The residents of Baguio who owned vehicles and who customarily used the designated parking spaces were aghast and angry that upon waking up, their streets were under the control of a private corporation. To them, this was unacceptable.
For months, residents of Baguio confronted the Jadewell issue head-on, refusing to budge a bit by not paying the parking fees that were due. They had to exorcise the company. They felt it unfair that after years of parking for free, they had to pay a private corporation who neither cared for their safety nor their comfort.
To them, this is nothing more than profiteering.
To them, the only interest of the corporation is to earn profit out of their sacrifices. And so, they marched the streets and protested no end to make known their grievance. They made Jadewell and its personnel feel unwelcomed.
After much debate and a series of cases against Jadewell, the company relented. With a heavy heart, it swiftly packed its bags and left the city vowing never to do business here again.
Well, Baguio residents couldn’t care less. The only thing that mattered is that the corporation is gone. The eviction was a major victory that brought a measure of pride to all who participated in the advocacy to remove Jadewell.
Why is Jadewell so relevant to our beloved Baguio’s history? Because it teaches us that anything that compromises the convenience of the people will not be taken sitting down. Any irrational collection of fees, no matter how small, will not be tolerated.
Recently, there is a proposal to impose a congestion fee of P250 on all vehicles passing through some of the major roads of Baguio. Sounds familiar? It looks like vestiges of Jadewell.
If approved, a private firm under the congolomerate of the Manny V. Pangilinan (MVP) group shall supervise and implement the plan.
Reports said the congestion fee is going to be collected to avoid traffic in and around the central district at the same time raise additional income for the city. Indeed, the avowed purpose of the plan is noble. However, whether it can hurdle legal and personal obstacles is another matter.
There is a provision in the Local Government Code that “in no case shall the collection of local government taxes be let to any private entity.”
The MVP company is a private entity that is within the ambit of the prohibition. How then can it collect taxes in the guise of congestion fees if there is a strict prohibition against it?
There are assertions that the congestion fee is a regulatory fee and, therefore, is not in the form of taxes. On this point, the proponents would like to claim for exemption. This may be true. Yet, if the congestion fee is a regulatory fee, it remains to be a collection in the form of a toll.
A toll is a fee collected by a private corporation, much like what we pay at the NLEX and TPLEX. A toll, therefore, is an act of proprietorship that can only be collected for the use of a private road.
Session Road and other roads envisioned to be the subject matter of the congestion fee are not private roads. These are public roads which, as per law and jurisprudence, is beyond the commerce of man. How the local government can skirt this issue, I really do not know.
Baguio residents had chased away Jadewell with gusto. The proposed congestion fee has traces of the ghost that was driven away. Can it be implemented? Granting that it can, will it be accepted without protest by the people of Baguio City? I doubt.
There is already a precedent and for the congestion fee to sell, it must be explained with diligence and careful thought. Otherwise, it will be a hard bargain to sell.