A group of provincial bus operators today suggests to Local Governments Secretary Eduardo Ano to issue a directive to local government units recommending a uniform set of travel requirements to allow more Filipinos to travel outside the National Capital Region (NCR).
Provincial Bus Operators Association of the Philippines Executive Director Alex Yague also belies reports that provincial bus operations are already “normalizing.” Only a fraction of bus operators with legitimate franchises are allowed by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) due to their policy of giving “special permits.”
This pernicious policy of the LTFRB led to several routes without any bus operations. One example is the route going to the Ilocos region where the Laoag-Pagudpod route remains without bus operations. Without legitimate buses around, colorum vans and buses take over.
Yague says the current situation is making it difficult for both commuters and bus operators to travel outside Metro Manila due to the different requirements imposed by local government units.
“ Several complaints reached us from our commuters blaming us for their inability to travel especially last Christmas. They blame us because we did not inform them of the respective travel documents they must have when travelling outside Metro Manila.
“ Actually, it is not our problem. There is lack of uniformity in travel requirements being imposed right now by local government units. Some LGU’s require swab tests while other require PCR tests. Others require travel authorization while others do not. Since our buses usually traverse several provinces that are within a contiguous area, some of our commuters who do not have the travel requirement for one province, are asked not to proceed. This must stop right now,” says Yague.
A directive coming from the DILG would definitely suffice, Yague opines. Government must be clear what to require travelers to possess before they embark on a trip back to their home provinces.
An estimated two million Filipino commuters failed to secure a trip back to their home provinces last December. For instance, the Baguio route has 229 public utility buses (PUB) franchises. Under the general community quarantine (GCQ) period, the Land Transportation franchise and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) has issued and released 44 special permits.
This represents basically a pittance of less than 20 percent. Simply means that of the hundreds franchises only 19 percent are being utilized. Again, only 44 buses may legitimately travel to Baguio without being tagged as colorum.
But, in reality, only nine of the 44 buses with special permits have been allowed by the Baguio LGU to travel to their city. LGU officials are “controlling number of arrivals into Baguio.”
If the Baguio City route is pitiful, much more is the Laoag and Pagudpud route. This has 187 bus franchises but the actual special permits granted by LTFRB is less than 10 percent, at only 18. To date, there has no bus operations in this region, described as the prime promoter of the local ecnomy because of the robust exchanges of goods and services, including the “paoit” or “padala” transactions.
Provincial buses that would service the route of Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte have to cross numerous towns, which impose their respective cross border requirements. No one is servicing this route because of the inconvenience and hassles involved.