WITH college students expected to return to school now that the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases approved a Commission on Higher Education (Ched) recommendation for phased in-person classes in areas under Alert Levels 1 to 3, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board Central Visayas (LTFRB 7) has started processing applications for special permits for school buses and other service vehicles.

LTFRB 7 Director Eduardo Montealto Jr. said as of Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, the operators of around 76 vehicle units have submitted applications to operate.

Montealto said even though he expects the number of commuters to rise once face-to-face (F2F) college classes begin, the LTFRB will continue to limit the number of traditional public utility jeepneys (TPUJ) plying the streets of Cebu.

“In Cebu City, there are only 1,307 TPUJs issued with QR codes so that they can operate in their original route,” said Montealto.

Only TPUJs that have passed the roadworthiness test will be allowed to ply their routes, he added.

According to data gathered by the LTFRB, while 30 percent of the riding public is composed of students, only five percent of that number will use public transportation since majority have private vehicles or are living near their schools.

However, due to the influx of more commuters with the loosening of Covid-19 restrictions, Montealto said even if all PUVs, including augmentation buses were to be deployed, they would not be enough as only 70 percent of the vehicle’s passenger capacity is allowed.

The LTFRB 7 is checking every possible remedy, especially during peak hours since adding more vehicles on the road will result in heavier traffic, Montealto said.

F2F classes

In its Resolution No. 148-G, the IATF said guidelines crafted by the Ched and the Department of Health will govern higher education institutions (HEI) in ensuring the health and safety of those who will take part in the face-to-face classes.

It said the continuous implementation of proactive measures and restrictions must be put in place to prevent the further spread of Covid-19.

Under the Guidelines on the Nationwide Implementation of Alert Levels System for Covid-19 Response, limited F2F classes are now allowed under Alert Levels 1, 2 and 3, subject to certain conditions.

The conditions include 50 percent indoor venue capacity, no opposition from the local government unit concerned, and participation of fully vaccinated teaching and non-teaching personnel and students only.

At the first phase of the implementation, which will be from December 2021 onwards, HEIs in areas under Alert Level 2 may apply.

Areas under Alert Level 3 may apply for the second phase of implementation, which will be from Jan. 22 onwards. (SunStar Philippines)