LOCAL governments have given the go signal for inter-regional routes of public utility buses and vans from Baguio City pending final health and safety protocols.
On Monday, December 14, Engineer Januario Borillo, chief of the traffic and transport management division of the City Engineering Office, said areas now ready to accept buses and vans coming from the city include Clark, San Fernando City and Mabalacat City in Pampanga; Mariveles, Bataan; San Carlos, Villasis and Lingayen in Pangasinan; Olongapo City, Zambales; Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija; Bontoc, Mountain Province; and the National Capital Region (NCR).
It was in October when Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong said the city can accommodate more visitors by Christmas season.
Magalong then said the resumption of buses will mean better tourism for the city, admitting that mass transportation is crucial.
He said, though, that bus operators have lamented the imposition of a one-meter distance in mass transportation, saying the operational cos will not be covered it they resume in these circumstances.
There were at least 250 to 300 trips for commuter buses to and from the city and this gives a substantial contribution to tourism.
Under the initially agreed guidelines governing the operation of inter-regional routes in the city, buses from NCR, Bataan, Zambales, Pampanga and Tarlac area will pass through the expressways.
The Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB), in coordination with the concerned local governments, should identify a common pick-up and drop-off points in the said 10 LGUs.
The identified common pick-up and drop-off points should provide isolation rooms with the presence of qualified medical staff in coordination with the concerned LGUs.
Borillo said pick-up or drop-off points will be inside the respective terminals of buses and vans with a triage area for incoming passengers and provision for an isolation room/s with the prescribed open area, handwashing facility or hand sanitizing station near a rest room, chairs, face masks and face shields.
According to the proposed rules, no rest stops or stopovers will be allowed, thus the use of buses with own comfort rooms will be preferred.
Stopovers will only be allowed during medical emergency cases, and as an administrative control, driver or conductor substitution shall not be allowed and pick-up of passengers along the route will never be allowed.
Borillo said a list of commuter and provincial bus routes shall be issued by the LTFRB upon approval of the concerned local governments in coordination with the inter-agency task force pursuant to the gradual
and calibrated opening of public land transportation.
He added that authorized units shall be issued the corresponding QR codes and the units allowed to travel shall be subject to local government and task force guidelines.
The city will also limit the number of passengers allowed to travel to and from their jurisdiction daily and the corresponding number of bus units to be deployed to accommodate the allowed passengers will be based on the said number.
Initially, the number of buses allowed in the city will be eight buses per day only and that entry of buses in the central triage will have an interval of at least one hour.
Operators may increase the number of units they will operate upon installation and certification of the health services office on their own triage and the number of bus units per operator will be distributed proportionately among all existing authorized operators operating in the given route.
Earlier, the LTFRB also announced that the resumption of operations of Public Utility Buses to and from Baguio City is seen to start in the next two weeks but would still adhere to the minimum health protocols issued by the national government to combat the coronavirus. (With a report from the Baguio City Public Information Office)