Benque taxi drivers too cheap!

[Linked Image] So while the political parties continue to wrangle, a old problem reached boiling point today in the west. San Ignacio and Benque Viejo Towns are only about eight miles apart, but that doesn’t mean that all is quiet between the two towns. The taxi drivers from the two municipalities have been embroiled in disputes for several weeks and today things got hostile. The Benque taxi drivers say they are being severely restricted from doing business in San Ignacio. Their San Ignacio counterparts say there needs to be some restrictions on the Benque taxis because the competition is taking bread from their tables. Marion Ali headed west and has this report.

Marion Ali, Reporting

About fifteen Benque Viejo taxi drivers converged near the San Ignacio market square and they were not in a good mood. Aside from their being moved from this bus park to a location across from the San Ignacio Market, they have other issues with their San Ignacio counterparts and the San Ignacio Traffic Department.

Jose Guerra Jr, Chairman, Maya Line Taxi Corp., Benque

“You see how that road is? That mess up your base, your transmission, everything, your tires. That thing is for carts, not even a horse can park there. They come with a problem that we cannot pick up passengers downtown San Ignacio by Bismilla, we cannot even stop to drop or pick up. Why, because we are obstructing traffic. And yet in front of Kalil Habet they have taxis from San Ignacio parked right there and passengers get in there.”

Marion Ali

“And that obstructs traffic too?”

Jose Guerra Jr.

“But they don’t see it, only Benque obstruct traffic.”

The Benque Viejo taxi drivers feel that it is their competitive way of doing business that has led to the dispute.

Jose Guerra Jr.

“The country is going through a very critical depression right now. Everybody is feeling it that’s why everybody is blaming everybody. And the situation is not us or them, it’s global.”

Marion Ali

“Can’t you all work together?”

Jose Guerra Jr.

“Well, that’s what we’re trying to do but the difference with them is that they don’t want to run collective to the border. They want to get one person and charge them twenty dollars for one person. That is the difference.”

Marion Ali

“You bring your passengers from Benque to San Ignacio but you’re not allowed to take them back?”

Jose Guerra Jr.

“According to them.”

Marion Ali

“Who should take them back?”

Jose Guerra Jr.

“Them, drivers from San Ignacio.”

But the San Ignacio taxi drivers share a different view.

Glen Velasquez, San Ignacio Taxi Driver

“We noh do like dem weh dehn do yah. Dehn keep yah and circle. When dehn get yah dehn circle and circle and circle. We have trips yah weh cost eight dollars, weh cost five dollars, weh cost seven dollars. Dehn come yah and do it fi two three dollars. Di other day dah di new hospital, dehn ker wah lady deh and di lady seh hmm taxi cheap to dis new hospital. I ask di lady how much dehn charge ah and di lady seh dehn charge ah three dollars from town to way down yah. I’m sure dat dah noh Cayo taxi, dat dah Benque taxi di do dat.”

Marion Ali

“Don’t you call that competition?”

Glen Velasquez

“Well, dat dah weh dehn di try do. dah competition dehn di try do and we done got wi people dehn used to dat and di people dehn pay we di taxi drop. When dehn come yah and charge less den dehn di hambug we. Dehn done got dehn people used to lone three dollars ah drop. Dat dah weh dehn di come do dah Cayo and mess we up.”

Alirio Tzuncl, Traffic Warden/Taxi Driver, San Ignacio

“What is happening is they are running all around in the town of San Ignacio and Santa Elena running for a cheaper rate and it is affecting us. If you see it, let me ask you the question, do you think that you living in San Ignacio can run in Belize City?”

Marion Ali

“Let me ask you the same question. If you were a passenger, which would you go for the cheaper price or the more expensive?”

Alirio Tzuncl

“I would go for the cheaper.”

Luis Morataya, Taxi Driver, San Ignacio

“In respect to the price to the hospital, it is five dollars. I am making it very clearly. It is five dollars from the area at the center of town.”

Marion Ali

“But then there are different prices.”

Luis Morataya

“All of us here charge five dollars.”

Officials from the San Ignacio Traffic Department are implementing new measures to alleviate the problems between the two groups of taxi drivers.

Karen Fernandez, Mgr, San Ignacio Traffic Department

“We have had the same complaints from the San Ignacio taxi operators that the Benque taxi drivers are coming into town, they are operating all over the twin towns and they charge a lower fare, which that fare should be standardized.”

Marion Ali

“How much?”

Karen Fernandez

“Five dollars.”

Vanessa Neal, San Ignacio Town Councillor, Traffic

“We have about ninety taxis operating within our town limits. They want to make their decisions, they want to set up here and there then we allow that and we don’t follow the rules that are set in place then we continue to have problems.”

Marion Ali

“They even agreed to set up where you allocated for them, but the problem seems to be the same thing, price at the end of the day; competition. They come here, they offer cheaper rates and passengers will take their taxis over the more expensive taxi, that’s human nature. So my question to you remains; enforcement. You say you have three traffic wardens out there but how can they ensure that taxi men are charging five dollars? You noh give receipt, you’d have to go to the passenger and ask them how much a taxi man charge them.”

Vanessa Neal

“Passengers do complain. We have the public on a whole about the same rating and stuff like that. Sometimes they are rushing you to come and say come in my taxi and this and that. So we cannot create that problem downtown. As well, they did send us a letter agreeing with the stop-off points that we have.”

Councillor Neal says the Traffic Department held an emergency meeting on Tuesday to remedy the situation and the result of that meeting will be revealed on Friday. Reporting for News Five, Marion Ali.

Live and let live