A DAY after the camping excursion of a Quezon City-based college ended in tragedy, the Commission on Higher Education (Ched) announced Tuesday that it will not allow any educational trips in all colleges and universities nationwide until investigation on the Rizal bus incident is finished.

"I will request the Commission en banc today to immediately issue a directive to all higher education institutions so we can properly investigate this tragedy and review current policies covering field trips," said Ched Commissioner Prospero de Vera.

At least 15 people were killed after a tourist bus ferrying more than 50 people, mostly college students of Bestlink College of the Philippines (BCP) based in Novaliches, Quezon City, rammed an electric post and a tree along a highway in Barangay Sampaloc in Tanay, Rizal.

De Vera said concerned government agencies should strictly regulate the use of public transportation being tapped for school sponsored excursions.

Investigation

Before the conduct of an educational trip, De Vera noted that schools should seek first the approval of the Ched, local government units and other private offices, based on a 2012 Ched memorandum.

He said the probe would determine whether BCP followed the procedure.

"We must determine if higher education institutions comply with requirements of safety and whether current policies adequately protect students," he said.

Meanwhile, parents of the students involved in the incident were complaining that they were forced to sign the waiver to allow their children to join the educational trip for the children's National Service Training Program (NSTP) subject.

They said they were told that students who did not join the trip will not graduate.

School mulls charges vs bus firm

Meanwhile, BCP Vice President for Academics Dr. Charlie Cariño said they are studying the possibility of filing charges against the bus company.

He said they tapped a certain Haranah Tours for the particular trip, but the company tapped Panda Coach Tours to cater for Monday's excursion.

"Maganda ang service ng Haranha. Wala kaming problema sa kanila...We do not know kung anong naging arrangement ng Panda at Haranha," Cariño said.

Earlier, the Land Transportation and Franchise Regulatory Board (LTFRB) issued a 30 day suspension against the 12 bus units of Panda Coach Tours Inc. while the hearing was scheduled on February 28.

Jona Martires, reservation officer of the Panda Couch Tours Inc., said the bus involved in the incident has been operational since 2003.

She said Julian Lacorda Jr., driver of the ill-fated bus, had been with the company for only three months but had worked with other bus companies previously.

Martires said it was the first time that one of their buses got involved in an untoward incident. (SunStar Philippines)