ILIGAN CITY ----- Buses from one of Mindanao’s leading public transport firms are back on the road for the first time since the enhanced community quarantine was downgraded to modified community quarantine.
Rural Transmit of Mindanao Inc. (RTMI) resumed operations on May 1st on its route in Cagayan de Oro City to Lugait, Misamis Oriental.
On April 30, Iligan Mayor Celso Regencia issued Executive Order No. 40 placing the city under MCQ which allowed public transportation (jeepney, taxi, tricycle. trisikad and calesa) to operate within the city proper.
This now allows Iligan residents, who are dependent on public buses, to go home after they got stranded in other places.
However, since buses from outside Iligan are not yet allowed to enter the city, the RTMI buses are operating meantime from their terminal at the Centennial Park at the boundary of Barangay Dalipuga, Iligan City and Lugait town in Misamis Oriental.
Robert Abanid, RTMI dispatcher assigned at the temporary terminal, said six units of aircon and 12 units of non-aircon bus are now plying the said routes from 5:00 AM to 7:00 PM.
"We have to comply with social distancing and limit the number of our passengers as required by the LTFRB (Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board). To cope with the unoccupied seats, we have to implement the regular fare which is P165 pesos for aircon and P135 pesos for non-aircon in lieu of the 'promo fare' before the COVID (pandemic)," Abanid said.
RTMI was offering a ‘promo fare” of only P100from Cagayan de Oro City to Iligan City for both for aircon and non-aircon buses prior to the lockdown imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Aircon buses can accommodate a maximum of 49 passengers and non-aircon buses 33 but with social distancing enforced, aircon units are limited to 25 persons at any one time and non-aircon, 17.
From the boundary of Lugait town and Barangay Dalipuga, passengers have to disembark and take a jeepney to go to the city proper for P20 pesos, although fares can vary from P22-18, depending on the driver.
Meanwhile, public utility jeepneys plying within Iligan City proper are also observing physical distancing and can only accommodate half of their usual capacity.
An Armak Jeep that usually carries 26 passengers is now allowed only a maximum of 13, while smaller jeepneys with a 14-passenger rated capacity are only allowed seven at one time, said Raul Permites, chairman of Coalition of Lanao del Norte Utility Transport for Change (CLUTCH).
Thus, the CLUTCH has petitioned the LTFRB to allow them to collect P12 pesos per passenger (not 15 as earlier reported) for the duration of the quarantine.
Permites said the Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19 in Iligan already approved the request but CLUTCH is still waiting for the response of LTFRB Region X.
Iliganons have mixed reactions to the proposed increase.
Commuters Ruperto Ybañez and Jun Pacapat said a 100% increase of minimum fare to P15 pesos is quite expensive but they depend on public transportation to go around the city.
"It is not okay with me but I am forced to pay the amount to get to my destination," Ybañez said.
"I only have a daily salary of P300. If you take P30 from that for my fare, and 50 pesos for my lunch, how much will be left from my salary? But then, I also understand the driver's plight," Pacapat said.
Joe Limbaring, a jeepney driver on the San Miguel route, said he has been charging P10 per passenger but if a passenger only gives him P7 he is fine with it.
Flor Montebon, a jeepney operator on the Ubaldo Laya route, said she allowed her three drivers to operate the three units and she is not collecting rental but the drivers take care of their fuel.
"Wala ko naningil og 'boundary' kay lu-oy man gud pero tubilan lang nila ang jeep. Ayha nako magningil kung mobalik na sa normal ang tanan, akong tabang sa ilaha, pero sila nalang magpa-gasolina," Montebon said.
(I did not collect rental because I pity them. I'll only start collecting when we are back to normal. It's my way of helping them but they will have to spend for their fuel.)
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