LTFRB 7 nabs violators of anti-Covid measures

Wenilyn Sabalo

WITHIN a period of three days, a total of 57 drivers of public utility vehicles (PUV) were apprehended for violating the social distancing directive of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board-Central Visayas (LTFRB 7).

LTFRB 7 Director Eduardo Montealto Jr. said the arrests conducted from Tuesday, March 17, 2020 until 8 p.m. of Thursday, March 19, were mostly the result of passenger complaints.

“Most of those arrested were because the passengers themselves texted us. We also have random inspections in highly mobile areas such as Talisay City and Lapu-Lapu City,” Montealto told SunStar Cebu.

The violation carries a P5,000 penalty for the first offense, P10,000 for the second, and a P15,000 fine including a 30-day suspension of the PUV’s franchise and a 30-day impoundment of the unit for the third offense.

Barili Vice Mayor Julieto Flores who is also the chairman of the Cebu Provincial Operator’s Transport Cooperative appealed to transportation agencies, to at least provide fuel subsidy to help jeepney drivers tide over the crisis.

“I would like to ask for consideration since government agencies are already using calamity funds. I hope they will give subsidy to jeepney drivers because they are also frontliners,” Flores said in Cebuano.

“We are following the social distancing rule, but sometimes, we can’t help it when passengers themselves force their way in to be accommodated in the trip,” he added.

He said a P1,500 fuel subsidy per day would do.

One seat apart

The LTFRB 7 has implemented the one-seat apart policy to protect the riding public from the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), in all PUVs effective Monday, March 16.

The directive effectively reduces the number of jeepney passengers by 50 percent.

Flores noted a drop in the number of jeepneys plying Cebu streets.

He said while some operators have adjusted the drivers’ payment, also known as “boundary,” for driving the passenger vehicle, fuel expenses remained high considering the drop in the number of passengers per trip.

This has affected the take-home pay of drivers, he added.

“We are implementing social distancing inside the vehicles and yet we see on the roads, people crowding because there are several passengers waiting for rides during peak hours,” Flores lamented.

No mask, no drive

With only 51 LTFRB 7 personnel tasked to implement not only the agency’s social distancing directive, but also other Covid-19 directives such as the “No mask, no drive” policy of Cebu province, Montealto appealed for public cooperation, as their force multiplier.

“If they have a picture of the unit and the plate number, we can send a show cause order,” Montealto said.

The public, he said, may also report to LTFRB through its hotline number 0917-704-6862.

Montealto said while he understands that the reduced number of passengers means less take-home pay for drivers, these are not ordinary times and the measures are meant to protect the general public.

He also said the shortage of supplies of face masks is not an excuse for PUV drivers not to follow the “No mask, no drive” policy as one may improvise his own face mask.

Meanwhile, the Cebu City Government assured the PUV drivers of assistance to ease their burdens.

Cebu City Councilor Raymond Alvin Garcia, majority floor leader, said the City will help “their families not to go hungry.”

The City allocated P500 million for the assistance of displaced workers, including the drivers.

The budget was approved during a special session on Friday, March 20. (See separate story.)

Councilor Antonio Cuenco, chairman of the transportation committee, asked jeepney drivers to visit his office at City Hall so that he can address their concerns.

“As soon as possible, I will meet with them,” said Cuenco. (JJL)