Authorities flag down drivers without masks

TEN PUBLIC utility vehicle (PUVs) drivers have been flagged down by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB)-Central Visayas for failing to wear protective masks while plying the streets of Cebu City Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020.

LTFRB 7 Director Eduardo Montealto Jr. said that as of 11:45 a.m. yesterday, they caught seven public utility jeepneys, two taxis, and one ride-hailing service violating the LTFRB memorandum circular 2020-005, which mandates all PUV drivers and conductors “to properly wear face masks at all times while on duty” and for all franchise holders to ensure its compliance.

They said PUVs were caught during a random inspection conducted along General Maxilom Ave., Cebu City on Tuesday.

The LTFRB has ordered all PUV drivers and conductors to wear face masks as a safety precaution amid the threat of the 2019 novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease (2019-nCoV ARD).

The memorandum also mandates all terminal operators to ensure proper sanitation and cleanliness in their premises, and to provide face masks as well as disinfectant or sanitizer dispensers for free use of passengers.

Montealto said first-time violators will be fined P5,000 for breach of franchising; and second-time violators, P10,000, while third-time offenders will face a P15,000 fine, 30-day suspension and vehicle impounding.

“We’ll just wait for advice from the Department of Health (DOH) on how long they are required to wear protective masks while on duty,” he said.

Following the LTFRB 7’s move against PUV drivers caught not wearing face masks, transport groups in Cebu have shown their opposition to the policy.

According to Ryan Benjamin Yu, Cebu Integrated Transport Service Multi-purpose Cooperative (Citrasco) chairman, the P5,000 penalty against those not wearing face masks was not included in the memorandum issued by the LTFRB.

Aside from the steep penalty, Yu claimed that the limited supply of face masks in the market is another challenge for him and other operators.

“The DOH says there is no need to panic, that there was no need to wear face masks especially if you are not sick. If we continue to wear masks, it might scare people,” Yu said in a mix of English and Cebuano.

However, Yu said they will still comply with the LTFRB’s order.

For his part, Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (Piston) Cebu chapter chairman Greg Perez said some of their member drivers did not heed the LTFRB’s order because of the limited supply of face masks in the market and the sudden imposition of the order.

But just the same some drivers decided to improvise by using face masks made of cloth to cover their face as a way to “comply” with the LTFRB’s order.

Meanwhile the Department of Trade and Industry Cebu has issued Show Cause Orders (SCOs) against seven pharmacies in Cebu province for allegedly manipulating the prices of their masks amid the threat of 2019-nCoV ARD.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez on Monday, Feb 3, said they are waiting for supplies from local producer of N88 masks MedTecs, based in Bataan. (WBS, JCT, JOB )