Operation of inter-regional buses will soon resume after Mayor Benjamin Magalong concurred with the recommendation of the Traffic Management Division (TMD) and the Land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board for Baguio to open for inter-regional travels as part of the gradual resumption of economic activities.
Once allowed, a medical clearance, ID card, travel permit, written consent to undergo Covid-19 test, and other requirements at the point of destination will be required from passengers.
Apart from reopening the economy, the resumption of inter-regional travels also aims to address the proliferation of colorum vehicles that have been overcharging passengers.
The TMD reported that operators of colorum vehicles charge an average of P10,000 for a two-way trip to Dagupan City, Pangasinan, and P2,500 for those bound for Bontoc, Mountain Province.
The proposed destinations of buses are Baguio to the National Capital Region, Pampanga, Bataan, La Union, Nueva Vizcaya, Nueva Ecija, Zambales, Pangasinan, Tarlac, Mountain Province, and Ifugao.
In the management committee meeting last Nov. 25, LTFRB-Cordillera OIC Director Lalaine Sobremonte said the NCR; San Fernando, Pampanga Mayor Edwin Santiago; Clark Freeport Zone President and Chief Executive Officer Noel Manankil; Bataan Gov. Albert Garcia; and the local government of Bontoc have issued letters of concurrence. This means these destinations are ready to receive passengers coming from Baguio.
Magalong has instructed his staff to inform officials in the NCR, Pampanga, Clark, Bataan, and Bontoc that Baguio is also ready to receive passengers from these areas.
In the guidelines of the LTFRB, the number of trips daily will be determined by the LGU to be coordinated with the bus companies that will resume operations.
Magalong said Baguio will start with only four trips daily.
The LTFRB, TMD, and the bus companies are set to meet next week to firm up their coordination prior to announcement of the exact date when inter-regional buses may resume operation.
Among the requirements before buses are allowed to operate based on LTFRB Memorandum Circular 2020-051 issued on Sept. 30 are for the LTFRB and LGU to identify common pick-up and drop-off points for passengers. At these areas, bus companies will set up a triage area and isolation rooms and hire a medical staff.
Units that will be deployed will operate only at half capacity, seats should be installed with non-permeable barriers, issued with QR codes, Global Navigation Satellite System or Global Positioning System, and with passenger insurance policy.
At the garage prior to and after operation, drivers will need to undergo temperature check, the units will be periodically disinfected, and there should be a passenger manifest to be submitted to the LTFRB to facilitate contact tracing.
Travels will only be on a point-to-point basis. There will be a mandatory stopover for trips 80 kilometers or longer for toilet break and disinfection.
Passengers are also required to book 48 hours prior to the trip. Fare rates pre-pandemic shall remain – Rimaliza A. Opiña