Few provincial buses on the road as trips resume

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    JOINT Task Force COVID Shield commander Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar yesterday said only a few provincial buses showed up during last Wednesday’s re-opening of 12 passenger bus routes to and from Metro Manila.

    “Actually halos walang sasakyan (Actually, there’s almost no vehicle),” Eleazar said as he surmised that local government units (LGUs) and bus companies must still be adjusting to the government’s decision to allow the limited resumption of provincial bus trips to and from to Pampanga, Batangas, Cavite, and Laguna.

    Provincial trips have been allowed to resume in 12 modified bus routes as part of the government’s strategy to reopen the economy. The trips are subject to health protocols, the wearing of face masks and face shields and observance of social distancing.

    Buses are likewise not allowed to pick up passengers outside of terminals. On the other hand, passengers are not allowed to eat, drink and talk or take phone calls while inside the bus.

    Officials said the bus routes were opened primarily for medical frontliners and workers of permitted industries who commute every day to report to work in Metro Manila.

    “Walang byahe sa norte, sa south naman, iilan lang ‘yung bus (No bus plied from the north, while there were only few from the south),” said Eleazar, adding he was still checking if there was improvement on Thursday.

    “They could be still adjusting, we’re going to ask the association of bus companies also,” said Eleazar.

    BEEP CARDS

    Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade yesterday ordered key officials of the the Department of Transportation’s (DOTr) rail and road sector to ensure that the distribution of stored value cards or “beep” cards to commuters is free.

    “I gave orders to key officials from the DOTr rail and road sector to ensure that the consortium that operates the automatic fare collection system being used in the Metro Manila rail systems and on the EDSA Busway to just give for free the stored value cards or beep cards to commuters once they buy the load for the fare, even with the minimum amount they need,” Tugade said in a Viber message to reporters.

    Tugade noted DOTr field report monitoring that showed that some street vendors have been selling the beep cards for P70 to P100 a piece on top of the amount of fare load loaded to the card.

    The DOTr has implemented a “No Beep Card, No Ride” policy in the EDSA Busway in compliance with the government’s cashless transaction strategy.

    Tugade said DOTr officials have unanimously agreed that the cost of the stored value card should not be passed on to commuters as they ordered Well AF Payments, Inc., the consortium composed of conglomerates Ayala Group and First Pacific Group, to give the cards for free to commuters. Beep cards are valid for four years.

    The EDSA Busway, which became operational on July 1, covers bus stops along the middle lanes of EDSA. It runs from Monumento, Caloocan to the PITx.

    Aside from buses participating in the EDSA Busway program, beep cards can also be used in MRT-3, LRT-1 and 2, point-to-point buses, and modern jeepneys.

    Commuters can reload their beep cards in LRT 1 and 2 stations, MRT-3 stations, Family Mart and Ministop branches, outlets of Bayad Center and their affiliates, or via Over-the-Air or OTA loading partners such as BPI, Eon by Unibank, Akulaku, and Justpayto. – With Noel Talacay