THE Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) 7 has started deploying 10 public utility buses (PUBs) for the second scheme of the free-ride service contracting program in Cebu on Friday afternoon, April 16, 2021.

LTFRB 7 Director Eduardo Montealto Jr. said the first batch of PUBs are all Ceres buses, operated by the Vallacar Transit Inc. (VTI).

Three of the PUBs follow the route Naga City to Chong Hua Hospital Mandaue via South Road Properties-SM Seaside City-Mambaling-N. Bacalso-Imus Road and vice versa.

Four other buses travel from the Danao Provincial Hospital to the University of Cebu Medical Center and vice versa, while another three buses travel from the Banilad-Talamban Road to the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center and vice versa.

Montealto said these buses will cater to frontliners only and are part of the 56 PUB units they eye for the second scheme of the free-ride service program for health care workers.

He said they initially targeted to deploy 40 modern public utility jeepneys (MPUJs) as well for authorized persons outside of residence (Apor) under the second scheme of the program

But while buses are exclusive for health care workers, they can also opt to ride MPUJs for free along with the Apor, as health care workers are the priority of the program.

The free-ride service program aims to provide health care workers and Apor easy access to transportation amid the pandemic.

Daily service

The program is initially seen to last until June this year depending on the Covid-19 situation in the country.

Montealto said VTI agreed to start providing the free ride service, although the documentation and preparation of contract for the program will still take about two weeks.

He said the free-ride service runs on a daily basis but they are still continuing to finalize the routes and schedules of the service depending also on the recommendation or schedule of the hospitals.

He said Cebu has 26 private and government hospitals.

Of the 872 PUBs and MPUJs in Cebu, only about 100 units will be allowed to participate in the program so as not to cause unfair competition among other regular public utility vehicle drivers, Montealto said.

Under the second scheme, bus operators will be given an P82 incentive per kilometer that they will cover under the service.

For buses alone, he said, they estimate that each unit can cover an average of 200 kilometers per day.

A total of 30 percent of that incentive will go to the driver while the 70 percent goes to the operator.

While only health care workers can ride for free and the rest of the passengers have to pay under the first scheme and only drivers are given an incentive of P11 per kilometer under the first scheme.

Montealto said Central Visayas will also adopt the incentive rate of the National Capital Region. (WBS)