TRADITIONAL Public Utility Jeepneys (TPUJs) can now ply all cities and municipalities in Central Visayas except Cebu City and Mandaue City where there are “enough” buses and modern PUJs (MPUJs) plying the roads.
The announcement was contained in an order issued by Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board-Central Visayas (LTFRB 7) Director Eduardo Montealto Jr. on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020, two days after the entire region shifted to the more relaxed modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) status from Sept. 1-30.
Montealto said instead of TPUJs, additional buses and MPUJs will be deployed in the cities of Cebu and Mandaue to cater to a growing number of commuters as more establishments begin to reopen.
This so as not to compromise the health and safety of passengers, he said.
Knowing that Cebu City was once considered a Covid-19 hotspot, Montealto explained that it would be harder to enforce prescribed minimum health and safety protocols, such as less physical contact, in small TPUJ units compared to in buses and MPUJs.
“We are trying to avoid a resurgence of cases, especially since Cebu was once a hotspot,” Montealto said in Cebuano.
He noted that the Covid-19 threat remains even though areas have already been placed under MGCQ.
“We really have to maintain the low figures and bring the cases down even further,” he said.
Under the Omnibus Guidelines adopted by the LTFRB 7 for public transportation amid the Covid-19 pandemic, TPUJs can only re-operate once all available buses and MPUJs in the area have already been deployed.
He said compared to Lapu- Lapu City, more buses and MPUJs were issued a special permit to operate in Cebu City and Mandaue City.
For Cebu City alone, he said, a total of 192 buses and MPUJs have already been deployed.
A coordination meeting between the Cebu City Government and the transport sector will be held to discuss which additional routes to open for buses and MPUJs.
Montealto said these routes should be aligned with Cebu City’s Local Public Transport Route Plan.
Meanwhile, the decision to resume TPUJ operations throughout Central Visayas except Cebu City and Mandaue City was the result of several meetings with representatives of local government units (LGUs) in the region on the increasing demand for public transportation.
Montealto told SunStar Cebu the order was just for formality, since some TPUJs had already been allowed to operate in Cebu Province even before it shifted to MGCQ.
As of Aug. 16, the LTFRB 7 had issued a total of 130 special permits for TPUJs in Cebu Province.
The LTFRB 7, however, imposed conditions that TPUJ operators and drivers must comply with before they can operate.
The conditions include a valid Certificate of Public Convenience (CPC) and Registration. Those with expired CPC and/or registration can proceed to the Land Transportation Office-Central Visayas for their roadworthiness inspection.
Operators must also have a valid Passenger Insurance Policy and submit a photo of their units showing impermeable barriers to ensure a distance of at least one meter between each passenger.
TPUJs must also allow only 50 percent of their seating capacity while the drivers’ compartment must be sealed with an impenetrable plastic barrier.
Asked why TPUJs, in addition to buses and MPUJs, are now allowed to operate in Lapu-Lapu City, Montealto said the local government has issued an executive order allowing all public utility vehicles, including TPUJs, to re-operate provided special permits and other requirements are secured from the LTFRB.
He said a total of 150 TPUJs with franchises are already operating in Lapu-Lapu City.
“We also understand that their roads are small, which will be very difficult for buses to maneuver in,” he said.
He said the TPUJs in Lapu-Lapu City have put up barriers.
Montealto assures there is hope for TPUJs to resume operations in Cebu City and Mandaue City, especially when the borders between Cebu Province, Dumaguete City and Bacolod City reopen.
“We are all working towards that,” he said.
Montealto explained that majority of the buses now plying the cities of Cebu and Mandaue are those that cover inter-island routes.
Meanwhile, most of the TPUJ operators have formed cooperatives and corporations so they can avail themselves of government’s Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program, said Montealto.
He said about four cooperatives in the region already have MPUJ units. (WBS)