At least 50 percent of provincial buses across the country have already resumed operations amid the pandemic, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) said on Thursday.
LTFRB Chairman Martin Delgra III said the agency has so far approved 833 provincial bus routes to open, including inter-regional and inter-provincial routes, covering at least 11,600 units.
The government allowed in September provincial buses to return on the roads to transport more passengers and workers as the economy and tourism sectors gradually reopen despite the health crisis.
According to Delgra, it is still unsure whether all of the routes for provincial buses will be allowed to resume operations within this year, but he pointed out that the agency is continuously coordinating with local government units (LGUs) to allow their borders opened.
“Tuluy-tuloy naman ang coordination at pakikipag-usap natin sa LGUs in opening bus routes. It is always in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic kaya kailangan talagang makipag-ugnayan din,” he said.
(We continue to coordinate and communicate with LGUs in opening bus routes. It is always in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic so we really need to coordinate with them as well.)
Delgra emphasized the need for constant coordination with concerned local officials as some are still opposed to the idea of opening their borders for buses to and from other areas because of health concerns.
“Nung wala pang COVID-19, ang tinitingnan lang antin dito sa ahensya ay kung paano mag-provide ng public transport. Ngayon, may kaakibat nang public health perspective na kailangan muna nating ma-address bago payagan na bumiyahe ang mga pampublikong sasakayan,” Delgra explained.
(Before COVID-19, the only thing we were looking at was how to provide public transport. Now, you need to consider the public health perspective which we need to address first before allowing public vehicles to resume operations.)
The LTFRB chief also reminded drivers and operators, as well as passengers, to strictly comply with the “seven commandments” of public health measures in transportation proposed by medical experts.
These include wearing of face masks and face shields; no talking and making phone calls; no eating; keep PUVs well- ventilated; frequent disinfection of units; not allowing passengers with COVID-19 symptoms to board public transportation, and observing appropriate physical distancing.
The LTFRB said that provincial buses traveling on the modified routes will be monitored regularly and warned that failure to comply with the guidelines will incur penalties such as imposition of fines or cancellation or suspension of the franchise or the Certificate of Public Convenience.