Cavite, Laguna support reopening of more routes to Metro Manila, but some local gov’ts want ban to stay to contain spread of COVID-19
Local officials are divided over the proposed resumption of provincial bus operations between Metro Manila and key cities in Luzon and the Visayas in the face of eased restrictions on travel.
While officials in Cavite and Laguna provinces support the return of Metro Manila buses, those in Quezon, Albay, and Oriental Mindoro provinces oppose it.
Cavite Gov. Juanito Victor Remulla Jr. said he was “encouraging [bus companies] to open and operate,” but in accordance with government guidelines.
Bus operators have appealed to the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to extend bus routes beyond Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange to as far as Ayala Avenue in Makati City and Plaza Lawton in Manila.
At present, the farthest buses could travel down south of Laguna is Sta. Rosa City. Its mayor, Arlene Arcillas, said she was awaiting the advice of the Department of Transportation and the LTFRB on the reopening of Sta. Rosa Integrated Terminal.
“It’s not yet the time. It’s too risky for provincial residents,” Mayor Roderick Alcala of Lucena City, the Quezon capital, said in opposing the return.
In Legazpi City, Mayor Noel Rosal said it would be unwise to resume the Metro Manila-Bicol trips since most local governments had difficulty coping with the rise of COVID-19 cases.
‘Ban must stay’
Oriental Mindoro Gov. Humerlito Dolor also said the province could not as yet accept returnees.
“In the absence of mandatory RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) test for those using [the route], and since there is no vaccine for now, the ban must stay,” he said.
Mayor Arnan Panaligan of Calapan City, the provincial capital, said the continued suspension of bus operation should be studied carefully “as it would unduly restrict the movement of people for legitimate purposes.”
Strict health protocols
In Central Luzon, Olongapo Mayor Rolen Paulino Jr. said the local government had allowed buses from Metro Manila to enter the city. But he assured residents that they would impose stricter health protocols and require travel documents from commuters at the borders.ADVERTISEMENT
In Bulacan province, seven bus companies based in Metro Manila have stopped plying their routes in San Jose del Monte City and towns like Norzagaray, Sta. Maria, and Angat to help prevent the spread of the virus.
In the Visayas, mayors in Leyte have no plans yet to prevent buses from Metro Manila from entering provincial borders.
Mayor Ma. Rosario Avestruz of Barugo town, spokesperson for the Leyte Mayors’ League, said the group did not want to disrupt the operations of buses and stop returnees from coming home.
“We don’t have that kind of policy here. In fact, as what our league president (Palo Mayor Frances Ann Petilla) suggested, we would rather have these [stranded residents] come home instead,” she said.
But in San Isidro, Northern Samar, where a port operates for Luzon-bound passengers and goods, Mayor Ferdinand Avila is appealing to stranded residents not to return home starting Aug. 15.
Avila said the town’s school buildings used as quarantine facilities were already full, with some needing to be vacated following an order from the Department of Education in preparation for the opening of classes.
In Aklan, where ferries dock at Caticlan port in Malay town, only returning overseas Filipino workers, residents, and authorized persons outside of residence are allowed to enter the province, provided they present health and travel clearances. —REPORTS FROM MARICAR CINCO, MAR ARGUELLES, DELFIN MALLARI JR., MADONNA VIROLA, JOANNA ROSE AGLIBOT, CARMELA REYES-ESTROPE, JOEY GABIETA, CARLA GOMEZ, AND NESTOR BURGOS JR.
IN PHOTO: The terminal of Baliwag Transit in Cubao, Quezon City, is among the many transport stations along Edsa awaiting the return of passengers. —RICHARD A. REYES