By Meg Adonis
A bus company paid a fine of P462,000 to the Valenzuela City government on Tuesday for violating public transport protocols to contain the spread of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
After a meeting with Mayor Rex Gatchalian, operators of Metrolink Bus Corp. agreed to pay the accumulated fine and penalize the bus driver and conductor concerned.
Last Saturday, a resident appealed to Metrolink drivers to take the threat of COVID-19 seriously as she cited one of its buses where passengers were seated closely together while others were standing—a violation of the physical distancing rule.
“Commuters warned the bus driver and conductor but they dismissed our reminders … Jeepney drivers cannot return to the roads because the government said there would be buses available, but this is what we experience,” the resident said in her Facebook post.
Gatchalian warned the bus company owners and operators to stop violating quarantine protocols and impose sanctions on their personnel if they did not want to be banned from operating in the city.
According to him, the resident’s claims were backed by photos and videos of the situation inside the bus on Saturday afternoon as it plied the Malabon to Marilao route with stops at Barangay Dalandanan in Valenzuela.
As of Tuesday, Metrolink had removed some bus seats and placed markers on others to prevent passengers from sitting beside each other.
Under the omnibus public transport protocols set by the Department of Transportation and the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, public utility buses must not exceed 50 percent of the vehicles’ capacity, excluding the driver and conductor.
Drivers must also ensure that passengers observe the “one seat apart rule” to maintain physical distancing.
Under City Ordinance No. 720, that sets health standards and protocols in public and private transport terminals, violators may face fines ranging from P1,000 to P15,000 on top of the suspension, or revocation of their franchise.
“To the other bus operators, don’t you dare try to do this or else you’ll suffer the same fate as Metrolink … Just because your license was issued by the [Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board] does not mean that City Hall cannot do anything about this,” Gatchalian said. INQ
Photo lifted from Rex Gatchalian Facebook page shows the Mayor meeting with officials of the Metrolink Bus Corp.