Last week, we told you how the Belize Bus Association was seriously considering a national shutdown of public transportation.

That's because they didn't think that the Government was moving quickly enough in approving a bus fare increase to alleviate some of the gas pain from the skyrocketing cost of fuel. Diesel now costs 13 dollars and 36 cents per gallon at the pump, as a result of soaring world oil prices and turmoil brought on by the war in the Ukraine.

All that created for a thick air of portent over the weekend when authorities started receiving tips that the bus companies who are members of the BBA intended to block the road to demand a bus fare increase and to oppose Floralia's new run, which we will tell you about later.

So, to de-escalate the rising tension, the Ministry of Transport officials met this morning in Belmopan with the leadership of the BBA to discuss their grievances. Our colleagues from Plus TV News were present when those talks concluded. Here's what the BBA President had to say the extensive discussions, which started on Saturday, continued on Sunday and concluded around midday today:

Thomas Shaw - President, Belize Bus Association
"We had a strike action, my members, actually, they said they got to the point where they were a bit fatigued and they were looking to go on a strike. But with good faith, the minister and the CEO call us in, and right now, we are and we're in a dialog. And basically what is coming from them sounds positive. So as I said, when we are talking about a strike when we're looking at it, you find out that if both of us start a fight, nobody wins, right. So what was actually mentioned in the meeting today, they are pushing and I told them. Well, we don't want it to be two weeks down the road, and then when we go back two weeks down the road, we are going to discuss the same thing. We were promised that, no, it wouldn't take so long. So, what took place in our meeting today, we have to go back to our membership and explain to them exactly what took place in today's meeting, brief them on what will be taking place. The minister got up and he made certain recommendations, which sounds very, very promising, and we'd be going back to our membership and see where we go from there. Yes, we did discuss the bus fares, and we discussed the fuel and all the rest of it. It's all dependent on when we go back to our membership. But as a responsible association, if we are dialoguing and where we're seeing where we are going - we're seeing our headway, then, as the president, I would tell my operators, let's hold back and see, you know, and let diplomacy actually have its way. And for the viewers listening, yes, we held a meeting on Saturday and that meeting went about five and a half hours, of which I was more than grateful for because at least I can - I could actually go back to my membership and let them know, well, this is what really took place and the CEO stood there. We went step by step in terms of what we want, our demands, and where we want to go. I'm satisfied until - well, I'll be more satisfied when I see it materialize. But as I said, it's a step in the right direction, and actually, they're telling us basically what we want to hear, but we want to know that it materializes."

So, what do the members of the BBA want? Well, according to their President, they're looking for an ease on the pump price of fuel or an increase in the bus fares:

Thomas Shaw - President, Belize Bus Association
"Well, either you'll give us some sort of relief on fuel, or you give us - or you address the fares. When we talk about fares in 1991 up to 95, the fuel was like $3 and 47 cents per gallon, up to that time, up to 1995. And at that time, operators were getting like $3 from San Ignacio to Belmopan. And here we are in 2022, and we are actually receiving the same thing 30 years after. So, you find out that operators had to absorb all of these costs throughout the years. Other entities, as soon as something was up, raise their prices. But in the bus industry, the prices are controlled, so we cannot raise [them]. So, this is where it got so difficult that if you were spending like $300 per day for fuel on a road trip from Benque to Belize City, automatically, it went up like $150. So, sometimes, some of the runs, you don't even gross $500, you know. So basically, operators were operating at a loss, but due to pride and ambition, [that] had them out there."

Later on in the news, we'll tell you about the BBA's challenge against a new bus run that the Ministry granted to the Floralia Bus Line.

Channel 7