Limited operations of provincial buses going to and from Metro Manila are being eyed to resume this month, but many local officials still want their borders closed for health reasons, an official of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) said on Wednesday.
LTFRB Chairman Martin Delgra III said in a “Laging Handa” briefing that preparations are all set for the possible reopening of provincial bus routes to transport more workers to and from Metro Manila as the economy gradually reopens under a more relaxed community quarantine.
“Hopefully, we are looking (forward) that within the month we will be opening the provincial bus routes coming into or ending in Metro Manila,” Delgra said.
According to Delgra, at least four provinces including Antique, Quirino, and Bataan have agreed to reopen their borders to provincial buses.
However, Delgra said these are only a small percentage of local officials from 81 provinces who were mostly opposed to the idea of opening their borders for buses from Manila which is currently the epicenter of the pandemic.
“We need to closely coordinate with the local government unit (LGU) concerned because, at the end of this trip, it is the LGU who will receive, who will manage the passengers in their respective jurisdiction,” Delgra pointed out.
“Since we are in the context of the pandemic, naghahanda rin ang mga LGUs kung paano nila iha-handle yung mga pasahero na aalis or dadating sa kanila (the LGUs are also preparing on how they will handle or manage the passengers going in and out of their provinces),” he added.
Integrated bus terminals ready
Part of the resumption of provincial bus operations was the preparation of integrated bus terminals identified by the Department of Transportation and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to connect Metro Manila and its neighboring provinces.
These terminals, which were already prepared according to the LTFRB, were the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange, North Luzon Expressway Integrated Terminal in Bulacan, Valenzuela Integrated Terminal, and Sta. Rosa Terminal in Laguna.
Inter-regional, inter-provincial routes open
While many provincial bus routes in Luzon, particularly in the greater Manila area remained closed, the LTFRB chief said that it has been opening inter-regional and inter-provincial bus routes in other parts of the country.
Delgra said inter-provincial routes were already opened in Northern Luzon such as the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), Region 1 (Ilocos Region), in Region 2 (Cagayan Valley), as well as in other regions in the Visayas and in Mindanao.
In Mindanao, some inter-regional routes were already operational according to Delgra such as those from Butuan City in CARAGA going to Davao City in Region 11, as well as from Cagayan De Oro in Region 11 to Butuan City.
“I would like to caution you na hindi ito binuksan nang biglaan at maramihan (that all of these routes were not opened in a sudden). As I have said, the number of trips are limited to the number of passengers being managed from one origin to destination,” he explained.
All modes of public transport have been allowed to gradually resume at a limited capacity in areas under general community quarantine, but provincial buses are still prohibited to enter the capital which remains under a more relaxed lockdown until the end of the month.