Belize - Belize News - - Great Belize Productions - Belize Breaking News
Home » Social Issues » Rival bus companies spin two versions of reality…
Nov 9, 2005

Rival bus companies spin two versions of reality…

Story PictureThey say that the darkest night comes just before the dawn… and tonight thousands of Belizean commuters are hoping that the inconvenience they experienced today will be followed very soon by the settlement of a major conflict in the bus industry. I spent most of the morning and early afternoon camped out at the bus station on West Collet Canal and after getting an earful from all sides, I can only conclude that this is a crisis that never had to happen.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting
Commuters were again caught in the crossfire for most of today as all service to the west remained cancelled by the Novelo?s Bus Line. According to general manager Robert Garcia, from five on Tuesday evening to four this afternoon, every bus scheduled to run between Belize City and Benque was parked.

Robert Garcia, General Manager, Novelo Bus Line Ltd.
?All told, you are looking at eighty runs per day being affected by this current position.?

Janelle Chanona
?All those eighty runs have been stopped, cancelled, erased??

Robert Garcia
?That is correct.?

Janelle Chanona
?For how long??

Robert Garcia
?Until the Ministry of Transport comes up with a solution that will provide the environment for us to operate safely and to regain the income flow that we should be earning.?

According to Garcia, despite causing serious inconvenience to customers, moves by the company?s former owners cannot be tolerated any longer.

Robert Garcia
?The receivership management position has always been that those people who are authorised to run are allowed to do so and the illegal or unauthorised operators, or snipers as we call it in the trade, are taken off the road. They provide the unsafe conditions and they provide the route erosion that is affecting the company.?

David Novelo, Mgr., National Transportation Services
?We cannot sit back and allow receivership to destroy what was forty-five years of hard built dedication and sacrifices of our family and our parents to go down the drain.?

That?s the latest coming from the Novelo family, owners and operators of National Transportation Services Limited. This morning they described themselves as shareholders of Novelo?s Bus Line, which in their eyes, means they have the rights to operate under the same permits as the receivership.

David Novelo
?We do not feel that we are running illegal, we stand that our permit that was granted is legal, we stand by that and we are saying that contrary to the receiver that does not have its road service permits up to date, we feel that he is running under our permits, which is National Transportation. You have to realize that National Transportation was an affiliate of Novelo?s Limited and what went into receivership is Novelo?s Limited. So we have discussed with our lawyers and they maintain that in reality, the receiver, all the routes that he is providing in the whole country is permits that belong to National and we maintain we are within our legal grounds. We don?t feel that we are acting illegally.?

According to the Novelo family, acting illegally is nothing new to the industry and was in fact condoned by the government in a document sent out on June twentieth by Commissioner of Transport Philip Brackett to the National Bus Owners Organization, which indicated that: ?…Approval has been given for bus operators to operate their buses with expired permits up to July thirty-first, 2005.?

It is here that both Novelo and Garcia agree, that all drivers were driving with expired road permits…but that?s where the two part ways.

Robert Garcia
?The permits that we are supposed to be operating on wasn?t approved, even though we had applied for them from twenty-sixth August, until after that operation.?

?Those permits have since been approved and paid for, and we are operating with those permits. Whatever delay there was, is no through no fault of Novelo?s Bus Line Limited.?

?I could answer you this way with regards to what the management of National Transport says, their position changes from day to day. Whether they have a bus company that leases busses to individuals, whether they own the equipment, whether the permit they have is valid or not valid. So I wouldn?t premise my answer on what they have to say. ?

And two letters, also supplied to us by the Novelo brothers, state in no uncertain terms that National Transportation is acting outside the law.

The first dated October twenty-seventh, 2005, from the Department of Transport says the family company does not possess a road service permit to run the Benque to Belize City route and instructs the company to desist from operating the route or risk legal action. Then on the following day, the Ministry of Works and Transport and Communications sent this letter to David and Antonio Novelo, again informing National Transportation that it must cease operations on the western route by Sunday, October thirtieth. Both letters are signed by Philip Brackett, Commissioner of Transport.

The Novelo brothers say they have chosen to ignore the letters because customers need their service.

Glenn Tillett, Policy and Planning, Min. of Transport
?You have to understand that what has caused this in the first place has been somewhat of a bureaucratic snafu that allowed for all permits to have expired. The Transport Board had to be reconstituted, they met, they started to consider the permits in the overall scheme of things, they have done that in terms of the permits that had been issued and expired, they?ve given their approval for renewals, and now they are considering new applications to see how those would fit into the transportation network. Overall their priority is to ensure that there is safe passage and convenient passage for commuters.?

Janelle Chanona
?As far as a technical approach for this, when is the next meeting, when can we see a change in the current situation??

Glenn Tillett
?I believe the current situation will be resolved within the next twenty-four to forty-eight hours. The Transport Board will be meeting this evening at five o?clock to make some resolutions in regard to what will happen to the buses that are currently on the road, and in the next few weeks they will be meeting to consider applications for permits for new runs.?

But even with the threat of their buses being impounded, the Novelo brothers maintain this incident is an indication of the present state of the industry. And with commuters stuck in the middle of this mess, all they?ve got to say is, ?I told you so?.

David Novelo
?Our family was taken out of the control seat of Novelo?s by the creditors, saying that the family had mismanaged and therefore they were bringing in the professionals to ensure that the company would be more efficient, that the company would be able to improve the services.?

?What we had predicted is what has happened. It is a structural problem. We feel that family is the only one that has the expertise and experience to be able to be point out the problems, how we can move forward, and we hope that the stakeholders by now, the banks and government, have realised that receivership was not the solution.?

Novelo further contends that while it might appear that National Transportation is trying to capitalise on the receivership?s failures, the brothers say it?s quite the opposite.

David Novelo
?We find out that the equipment is destroyed; we find out that the company is losing money. All these heavy losses are still added on to the debt of the family, so the family is by no way in a situation in a way that we can say that the Novelo?s family filed bankruptcy and the Novelo?s family got away with thirty million dollars and now they are starting up a new company without debt, that is untrue. The family still owes those monies, is still attached to our personal guarantees.?

Robert Garcia disagrees.

Robert Garcia
?We?ve spent time developing, improving the company. We?ve put in a management system, the financial system, we are current with our bills, our drivers are being paid on time, not with small change, but through the bank, on time; things that we never used to do prior receivership. We are at the point where we can start to look at the major creditors.?

?We do turn a profit each month and we are using the money that we earn to do the investment. Unfortunately, I didn?t have the benefit of thirty million and I?ve got to earn my way, earn my improvements, and we have been doing that for the past twenty months.?

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

Advertise Here

You must be logged in to post a comment Login