LTFRB: Remove PUV Plastic barriers; Guv: How about face shields too?

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THE plastic barriers placed in public utility vehicles (PUV) to separate passengers from one another amid the Covid-19 pandemic can now be removed beginning Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021.

Department of Transportation (DOTr) Road Transportation Assistant Secretary Steve Pastor said there was no evidence the barriers could protect passengers from getting Covid-19 in public transport.

Memorandum Circular 2021-064 of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), issued on Nov. 2, 2021, states that plastic barriers are no longer required nationwide.

“Plastic barriers that were previously installed are not required nationwide, provided the physical distance between passengers be strictly observed,” the circular said.

The announcement comes as Cebu City Councilor James Cuenco expressed his intention to recommend the scrapping of the use of the plastic barriers in public transport in the city, and Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia voiced plans to remove the face shield requirement on public transportation in the Province.

LTFRB 7 Director Eduardo Montealto Jr. confirmed that the plastic barriers on public transport could now be removed.

“Yes, the removal of barriers is national. Automatic, effective today,” he said Thursday.

But the passenger capacity of public vehicles should only be at 70 percent.

Drivers and passengers must also continue to wear their masks and face shields.

Montealto added that it remains prohibited to admit standing passengers in public transport.

Cebu drivers, however, are not removing their plastic barriers until they receive official communication from the DOTr.

Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston)-Cebu Chapter chairman Greg Perez said they had not been formally notified of this and they don’t want their members apprehended for removing the plastic barriers.

“Drivers avoid getting apprehended because the fines are expensive. If the driver is arrested under the JAO, the fine will be P5,000 to P6,000,” Perez said in a text message to Superbalita Cebu.

Perez explained that Joint Administrative Order 2014-01 of the DOTr imposes heavier fines for street violations.

Perez said there are currently only more than 500 members of Piston-Cebu because there are drivers who have not returned to drive.

In September 2020, LTFRB Chairman Martin Delgra said his office had no official policy regarding the installation of plastic barriers.

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases also did not order this, though it did not discourage drivers from installing the plastic barriers.

On Thursday, Councilor James Cuenco said he would recommend the removal of both the face shield requirement of passengers and the plastic barriers on public utility vehicles plying Cebu City.

“It is very appropriate to get rid of these plastic barriers because they are useless and they will just enable bacteria or viruses to adhere to passengers because they stick there. In the jeepneys, the wind just goes through. So the face mask is basic. But the rest, the face shield, plastic barriers, no,” Cuenco said.

The chairman of the Balik Pasada Program in Cebu City said he would also recommend a gradual increase in the capacity of jeepneys if the transmission of Covid-19 remains low.

“If the cases continue to be low and we remain on Alert Level 2, I will recommend that every two weeks, we will increase the capacity by five percent until we reach the 100 percent capacity because crude oil is becoming more expensive,” he said.

Davao City was the first place in the country to remove the use of face shields by jeepney riders.

Cuenco will send his recommendations to Acting Mayor Michael Rama and the city’s Emergency Operations Center.

Also on Thursday, Nov. 4, Governor Garcia told reporters that she will consult officials of the Land Transportation Office (LTO) and the LTFRB on the matter of scrapping the face shield requirement on public transport.

This, after hearing reports that Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio had ordered the scrapping of the face shield requirement on all PUVs in her city.

Garcia said she commended the daughter of President Rodrigo Duterte for her decision, adding that she also made a similar decision when she drafted her recent executive order that removed the face shield requirement inside commercial establishments after the Province was placed under general community quarantine last September.

Garcia said it was high time to remove the requirement especially inside public buses and jeeps.

She believes that public transport operators shouldn’t be punished for the failure of their passengers to wear their face shields inside their PUVs.

“How can you can expect the driver to inspect his passengers to continue wearing their face shields? The bus driver should not be punished for what his passenger is not doing,” Garcia said.

Garcia said the regular checkpoints established by police along towns and cities in Cebu Province have served as a deterrent against commuters violating quarantine protocols. (HBL, JKV, PAC)

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