Lent Government Travelers: Guard against COVID-19

Government officials on Monday urged the general public to strictly adhere to health guidelines, especially COVID-19 safety to avoid a recurrence of the pandemic.

HOLIDAY EXODUS. People line up early on Holy Monday April 11 at the Paranaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (PITX) to take bus rides to the provinces, while an Interagency Traffic Council (IACT) officer inspects the tire of a bus of provincial passengers before allowing him to travel (insert). Danny Pata

Meanwhile, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) said it will expand the free ride coverage enjoyed by Metro Manila commuters to cover the rest of the country.

On the other hand, the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has announced that digital coding, also known as color coding, has been suspended from today (Holy Tuesday) until Monday next week.

MMDA officials, along with senior officials from the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) have appealed to travelers not to let their guard down about the coronavirus following a joint inspection at the Paranaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (PITX) where they observed a high volume of passengers bound for the province.

The call was significant in light of an advisory from the World Health Organization (WHO) urging people to remain vigilant as the world marked the second anniversary of the declaration of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The public must remain alert as virus outbreaks in other parts of the world could lead to a new variant,” said Dr Rajendra Prasav Yadav, acting WHO representative in the Philippines.

MMDA President Romando Artes and CEO Undersecretary Frisco San Juan Jr., DOTr Undersecretary for Roads Mark Steven Pastor and LTFRB Chairman Martin Delgra III carried out the inspection to ensure an orderly and safe journey of passengers, and government health protocols against coronavirus disease. were followed.

“We want to ensure safe and convenient travel for motorists and commuters during Holy Week. We have seen that passengers are starting to crowd into the terminal. Right now, the commuter volume at the PITX is 100,000 per day,” Artes said.

Officials also assured travelers that their trips to the provinces and back would be safe and convenient this Holy Week.

Artes said traffic personnel have been stationed at transportation terminals, traffic choke points and major churches. “We will make every effort to ensure a faster turnaround of passenger buses through the terminals.”

“We are suspending the digital coding system to provide the public with unhindered mobility by allowing them to use their vehicles to travel to the provinces,” he added.

Pastor said they expect passenger numbers to increase this week for the first time in two years since the COVID-19 pandemic.

He added that commuters in Metro Manila are also being offered free rides at the EDSA bus carousel starting on Holy Monday.

For its part, Delgra ordered a revision of the service plan or the deployment of passenger buses to meet the demand for public transport during Holy Week traditionally described as a high season.

The public can also call the MMDA’s Metrobase 136 helpline for traffic updates and roadside assistance. Members of the MMDA Roadside Emergency Group are ready to respond to roadside emergencies.

The DOTr said it was set to expand routes nationwide this week to provide free rides to passengers under the third phase of its service contract program.

During a briefing from Laging Handa, Pastor said that the “libreng sakay” initiative among public utility vehicles (PUVs) such as modern and traditional vehicles
jeepneys, UV Express and buses started on Monday.

This week we will also be launching or rolling out various routes across the country. Under the Service Contract Program, the public may be
assured that the free rides will not only return to the National Capital Region, but also to Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

The LTFRB said the EDSA Bus Carousel route would be among the first service lines to be activated in this initiative.

In the coming days, the LTFRB would open the NLEX service route in Metro Manila for the gratuity program.

“The government will pay the daily running costs of PUV drivers,” Pastor said, adding that the program has a budget of 7 billion pesos under the 2022 general budget law.

“It will be effective as long as we have funds. We have allocated 7 billion pesos for this and we will spend it to ensure the income of our drivers and operators and help our compatriots save on their transport costs,” he said.

Pastor also said that under the service contract scheme, bus drivers in the EDSA bus lane would receive P84 instead of the previous P82 per kilometer.

Jeepney and bus drivers would receive an additional P1 per kilometer or P55 of P54 given the series of price hikes on fuel.

Under the LTFRB’s service contract scheme, VUP operators and drivers who will participate in the government’s gratuity scheme will receive a one-time payment and weekly compensation based on the number of kilometers driven per week, with or without
passengers.

The MMDA earlier reactivated its “Oplan Metro Alalay Semana Santa (Oplan MASS)” aimed at keeping motorists and commuters safe during the Lenten break.

The agency will deploy more than 2,000 personnel, consisting of traffic wardens, roadside bomb squads, anti-jaywalking, road safety and towing personnel, among others, to major thoroughfares in The city.

Traffic personnel will be deployed at traffic choke points in Metro Manila, such as near bus stations, roads leading to seaports, ports and airports; and the main churches.

The MMDA also declared a “no day off and no absence policy” for all traffic personnel, particularly on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays when traffic is expected to be heavy.

Oplan MASS is reactivated in coordination with government agencies such as Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), DoTr, Philippine National Police (PNP), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Bureau of Defense Civil (OCD, and Metro Manila
government units.

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