By Meg Adonis
After six months in their garages, provincial bus operations will finally roll on Wednesday but only from terminal to terminal without stopovers and without any increase in fares.
Those were among the conditions of local government officials from Central Luzon and Calabarzon before they agreed to allow the resumption of provincial bus operations in their areas, Martin Delgra, chair of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), said.
“One of the recommendations of the local government units, which we fully agree [with], is point-to-point so that we will be able to manage people on the ground. The plan is for people to start or end their trips in integrated terminal exchanges,” Delgra said.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles assured the public that measures would be put in place to avoid a repetition of the disastrous Hatid Probinsiya program where the government transported untested individuals to their hometowns resulting in a surge in infections in previously unaffected provinces.
“We must ensure that there are safety protocols, like testing, to ensure that we won’t be transporting positive patients, either going to or coming back here. So the systems should be in place first,” Nograles said.
LTFRB Memorandum Circular No. 2020-051, which was signed on Friday, allowed 286 of 1,445 registered buses to resume operations but only to and from the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (PITX) and the Araneta Center bus terminal in Quezon City with no stopovers.
The memo only reopened 12 routes to and from Pampanga, Batangas, Cavite and Laguna.
Only buses from the City of San Fernando in Pampanga will be allowed to load and unload passengers at the Araneta Center bus terminal in Cubao, Quezon City, while the PITX will cater to buses from Batangas City, Lemery, Lipa City and Nasugbu in Batangas.
The PITX will also be the Metro Manila terminal for buses from Indang, Mendez, Tagaytay City and Ternate in Cavite and buses from Calamba City, Siniloan and Santa Cruz in Laguna.
Under the LTFRB memo, passengers must secure their trip tickets at least 48 hours before the actual schedule of their trip. Bus companies will not issue walk-in and same-day tickets except in emergencies.
The LTFRB chair confirmed that there would be no fare increase, but the agency had submitted a proposal waiving some regulatory fees for all PUV operators.
At the same time, Delgra said they were looking at cash and fuel subsidies for bus operators and other PUVs severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
—With a report from Julie M. Aurelio