AS THE Covid-19 cases in the entire Philippines continue to go down, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) is lobbying to adjust the maximum seating capacity of all public utility jeepneys (PUJs) from 50 percent to 70 percent in other regions in the country, including Davao.

LTFRB Chairman Martin Delgra III made the announcement during the Fuel Subsidy Program launching at a gasoline station in Davao City on Wednesday afternoon, December 1.

He said he will raise this proposal during the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) meeting on Thursday, December 2.

"Amo nang ginahuna-huna nga ang passenger capacity among iduso sa IATF, ugma naay meeting, Thursday, unta hinaot matubag ang among pag-ampo nga isaka pa nato ang passenger capacity from 50 to 70 percent," Delgra said.

(We are thinking of lobbying for the IATF meeting on Thursday to increase the passenger capacity. We hope that this would answer our prayer of increasing the passenger capacity from 50 to 70 percent.)

The IATF approved on November 4 the pilot implementation of the 70-percent seating capacity in all PUVs in the National Capital Region (NCR) and neighboring provinces.

The rest of the country is still following the 50-percent maximum capacity.

LTFRB had monitored the implementation to ensure that the public transportation sector won't be the cause of the widespread transmission of the virus.

Early November 2021, LTFRB also lifted the mandatory use of plastic barriers in all PUVs in the entire country. Passengers were also no longer required to wear face shields while on board.

The official said they are gradually pushing the increase of the seating capacity to help the PUV drivers who are gravely affected by the restrictions brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly the physical distancing, to recover from their economic losses

Delgra's proposal came days after the World Health Organization declared the Omicron variant of the virus as a variant of concern, which is highly infectious compared to the Delta variant.

"Mao na amo ginalikayan. Hinay-hinay ta mo-increase (That is what we are trying to avoid. Slowly we’ll increase the seating capacity)," he said.

The LTFRB declined to comment if there is a possibility that the agency will reimpose the mandatory barrier on PUVs in case there will be a detected case of Omicron in the country.

Meanwhile, Delgra reminded the public to adhere to the health protocols inside public transportation.

Based on the monitoring of SunStar Davao and the observation of some netizens, some PUVs, particularly jeepneys in Davao City are already overloaded.

SunStar Davao is still trying to reach out to LTFRB-Davao Nonito Llanos III on this matter, but he already warned PUV drivers and operators that they will be slapped with a P500 penalty if the number of passengers is more than the allowed capacity.

Llanos also said there should be a 0.3-meter distance between passengers, and that elbow-to-elbow contact should be avoided to avoid virus transmission.

He also said their office had already apprehended drivers for violating the required seating capacity limit. (RGL)