The two integrated bus terminals serving the North-Luzon Expressway and South Luzon Expressway will remain operational unless ordered otherwise by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).
In a statement on Tuesday, Department of Transportation (DOTr) Assistant Secretary Goddes Hope Libiran said the recent appeal by a commuter group to suspend the use of the North Luzon Express Terminal (NLET) in Bocaue, Bulacan, was studied by a small technical working group (STWG) in a series of meetings from Dec. 2 to 14, 2021.
“After much deliberation wherein stakeholders were present as resource persons, the STWG recommended to the IATF to put the matter on status quo until further studies and recommendations may be presented to the body,” Libiran said.
Suspending the operations of the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (PITX) and NLET and the possible reopening of all 85 in-city bus terminals in Metro Manila would be detrimental to both vehicular traffic and public health.
“Researchers have observed even before the Covid-19 pandemic started that crowded facilities where people of diverse origins and destinations use the same resources are especially prone to spreading viruses. Reopening private terminals along Edsa means authorizing 85 potential sites of viral transmission for Filipino commuters,” Libiran added.
She said minimum health protocols are “uniformly observed” at the PITX.
On complaints about the limited number of operational buses at the NLET, she said that there are currently 2,677 authorized units over 118 routes coming from north of Metro Manila, compared to only 915 units or 34.2 percent that applied for special permits at the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).
“This means that the issue on supply was not caused by the DOTr or LTFRB not authorizing certain units to ply their routes. It is caused by the non-application of bus operators,” Libiran said.
She said the LTFRB also issued special permits to operators for use in in-city terminals to address congestion but some bus operators “refused to run their buses citing several shallow excuses”.
“It was only thru the prodding by LTFRB and negative public opinion that they finally operated their routes,” Libiran said.
She emphasized that the use of integrated terminals is a “widely accepted worldwide practice” for efficient connectivity, especially in highly-urbanized cities.
Earlier, commuter group PASADA (Pilipino Society And Development Advocates-Commuter Consumer) appealed for the suspension of the mandatory use of the NLET due to rising Covid-19 cases.
The group claimed that allowing the use of individual terminals would allow better control over passengers and ensure the observance of health protocols. (PNA)