Commuters' group appeals for reopening of more provincial bus routes

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 27)— As the government paves the way for the easing of restrictions on the operations of provincial buses, a commuters' group appeals for the reopening of more routes to accommodate workers and passengers going in and out of the capital region.

Speaking to CNN Philippines on Sunday, AltMobility Philippines' chief mobility officer Jedd Ugay said the initial 12 routes serving Region 3 (Central Luzon) and Region 4A (CALABARZON) may not be enough given the big number of workers who travel to and from Metro Manila daily.

"Kami po ay pabor po sa pagbubukas ulit ng mga bus routes, although nakukulangan pa po kami, sana po ay dagdagan pa," Ugay said in an interview with Newsroom Weekend.

"'Yung gusto umuwi talaga ng probinsya… hindi po sila naalagaan or wala po silang sapat na pamamaraan para manatili sa Maynila… Mas maganda po na hayaan natin sila makauwi po," he added.

[Translation: We are in favor of opening up the bus routes, although we still find it lacking, we hope they can increase it. Those who want to go home to the province, they're not being taken care of or they do not have the means to stay in Manila. It would be better if we let them go home.]

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board on Saturday announced it will allow the opening of 12 modified provincial bus routes starting on September 30, with the condition that health and safety protocols are strictly followed. These routes will cover select cities and municipalities in Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, and Pampanga.

LIST: 12 modified provincial bus routes to open starting September 30 LTFRB

The commuters' group noted the move will help satisfy the public's demand for public transport, which in turn will also aid the country's bid to recover from the COVID-19 crisis.

The LTFRB, for its part, explained that the selected routes are just initial, saying the services may increase — or decrease — depending on the decisions of local government units.

"Sinusunod din po natin 'yung calibrated policy ng DOTr, na hindi po biglaan 'yung pagbubukas," LTFRB chair Martin Delgra said in a media briefing.

"Initial bus routes po itong binuksan doon sa mga pumayag na [magbukas ng borders]. Sa araw-araw na kailangan nating imo-monitor, together with our regional directors, magdadagdag at magbubukas [ng ruta]," he added.

[Translation: We're also following the calibrated policy of the DOTr, that we won't open in a rush. These are just initial bus routes that we opened for those LGUs which agreed. We'll be monitoring every day, and together with our regional directors, we'll look into the adding more routes.]

Meanwhile, a group of bus operators welcomed the government's latest move, saying this is a good start to help the sector adjust to pandemic times.

"Maganda itong panimula para makita natin kung 'yung mga procedure ay tumatama sa mga alituntunin ng IATF at ng Department of Health, para mabuksan na rin natin ang ibang ruta," Provincial Bus Operators of the Philippines Executive Director Alex Yague Jr. told CNN Philippines separately.

[Translation: This is a good start so we can see how the procedures can follow the guidelines of the IATF and the Department of Health, so we can add more routes.]