LAND Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) 7 Director Eduardo Montealto said the Capitol’s policy on mandatory wearing of wearable air purifiers among public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers and conductors in Cebu Province had “slightly” affected transport operations on Monday, Aug. 16, 2021.
This, after some PUV drivers were not able to pick up passengers pending their procurement of wearable air purifiers.
“Some of them were not able to procure wearable purifiers yet. So they opted not to operate on that day to avoid penalties. The penalty for not wearing these, as per the police and the Land Transportation Office, is the issuance of a Temporary Operator’s Permit,” he said.
The Cebu Provincial Government has suspended the policy implementation and given PUV operators until Aug. 25 to procure the wearable air purifiers. (See related story on Page 13.)
Montealto, however, maintained that there are enough PUVs operating in Cebu to cater to essential workers amid the implementation of the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ).
This, as he debunked claims that the lack of public transportation causes the non-enforcement of social distancing inside PUVs.
“They’re opportunists. Some are even caught loading passengers in non-loading areas,” he said.
The LTFRB 7 on the first week of August alone was able to flag down drivers and conductors of 80 PUV units (buses, modern public utility jeepneys, traditional public utility jeepneys) due to non-observance of social distancing or overloading.
Most of these apprehensions, Montealto said, involved units with routes to Talisay City and Lapu-Lapu City.
He said for the entire Cebu, the LTFRB 7 issued a total of 718 special permits (SPs) for public utility buses and minibuses and 603 SPs for modern public utility jeepneys. They have also issued a total of 2,000 SPs for traditional PUJs regionwide—468 of these are deployed in Cebu City.
He, however, said not all have been operating as they have learned that some operators decided to pull out some units because of the low number of passengers caused by the pandemic-induced community quarantines.
On Saturday, Aug. 14, the LTFRB 7 launched five new OFG-compliant units of the Inayawan Transport Services Cooperative under the PUV Modernization Program. These will ply the Laray, Inayawan to Colon St. route in Cebu City.
He said there are also several factors that affect the current state of Cebu’s public transportation.
Aside from those authorized persons who can go out, he said they also noticed that many have opted to use their private vehicles.
These mostly involve personal motorcycles and bicycles, he said, noting that riding bicycles to their work place has now become a trend in Cebu with the established bike lanes.
He said since the start of the implementation of the MECQ in August, the number of operating PUVs has decreased by 30 percent.
These include the 182 air-conditioned buses (those with fixed or immovable windows) as the local government units (LGUs) now require proper ventilation in public transportation amid the spread of the more contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus.
Aside from these, a total of 258 inter-city buses which used to cater to passengers to routes within the cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu, have gone back to their original inter-province routes, Montealto said.
Meanwhile, though the mamdatory wearing of air purifiers policy did not come from the agency, LTO 7’s Montealto asked the drivers and conductors to see the rationale behind the policy.
“Some have negative understanding about it, but the purpose of it really is to give extra protection to drivers and conductors since they are the most exposed with the constant transfer of different passengers,” he said.
He, however, said this will not be included in their inspections, as the policy will be enforced by the police.
As the LTFRB 7 automatically extended the validity of the special permit to operate until Aug. 31, it also reminded the transport groups to observe the capacity limit.
Modern and traditional public utility buses and jeepneys can accommodate only 75 percent of their vehicle’s capacity so passengers can observe the one-seat-apart rule.
The installation of barriers is still required and air-conditioning units must be turned off.
Only two passengers per row are also allowed at most in UV Express unit. Only one passenger can sit in the driver’s row.
The same seat capacity per row applies to premium taxis, taxis and to transport network vehicle services.
Shuttle service vehicles are also still allowed to operate as long as the one-seat-apart rule is followed.
As for fares, the LTFRB 7 said the usual fare for air-conditioned vehicles still applies.
Printed special permits, about four pages, were issued to PUVs plying a different route, as part of the LTFRB’s route rationalization due to the pandemic, while those plying their original route as stated in their franchise were issued QR-coded special permits. (WBS)