• Florida bus line’s entire fleet grounded

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    All 238 buses of the G.V. Florida Bus fleet were grounded by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) for 30 days after one of its buses plunged into a 150-meter ravine in Bontoc, Mountain Province on Friday.

    LTFRB Chairman Winston Ginez yesterday led the removal of license plates of G.V. Florida Bus and Mountain Province Cable Tours following the accident that killed 14 people, including comedian Arvin “Tado” Jimenez.

    The issuance of the preventive suspension order—the single largest suspension order by the LTFRB—is part of the agency’s broader efforts to increase the scrutiny of bus operators who may be violating safety regulations.

    Records showed that while the bus had a G.V. Florida body marking, its plate number (TXT-872) was assigned to another bus company, Mountain Province Cable Tours, owned by Norberto Que Sr.

    The LTFRB however said the G.V. Florida bus had no authority to run the bus under its name because Que has not yet filed an application for approval of sale and transfer of Mountain Province Cable Tours bus to G.V. Florida Bus.

    The Transportation Board also noted that the bus was not authorized to operate as a vehicle for hire, as the chassis and engine numbers of the G.V. Florida Bus had been tampered with and were not registered with the Land Transportation Office (LTO).

    “These are blatant multiple violations that we cannot just tolerate because it puts people’s lives in danger. There are enough merits to immediately recall the whole fleet of G.V. Florida and Mountain Province Cable Tours, and temporary suspend their operations until we verify the permits of their respective units,” Ginez said.

    The two companies were likewise given 72 hours from the receipt of the suspension order to explain why their Certificates for Public Conveyance should not be revoked. They are also ordered to appear before the Board on February 19 for the public hearing of the case.

    “Failure of the two companies to appear on the scheduled date of hearing will be considered as a waiver on their part and the Board will decide on the merits of the case based on their franchise records,” the LTFRB said.

    Florida Transport sought understanding from the public for Friday’s accident.

    Alex Verzosa, lawyer for G.V. Florida Bus, said the bus firm’s initial findings showed “human error” was behind Friday’s tragedy, adding that the bus driver may have miscalculated the narrow road, causing the bus to fall.

    On the other hand, Rep. Fernando Hicap of Anakpawis party-list yesterday urged the House Committee on Transportation to probe the working condition in bus companies and recommend measures to ensure the safety and welfare of commuters and transport sector employees.

    “We can start with investigating the operations and management of private and public utility bus companies and how the LTFRB is acting on its mandate of regulating the public transport sector,” Hicap said. “If current rules on the granting of franchises and permits are lenient, stricter rules must be enacted.”

    “With the successive fatal road accidents, many public utility buses are becoming ‘rolling coffins.’ This is very dangerous,” he added.

    The lawmaker stressed the need for the Congress to impose stricter regulations and heavier penalties on erring bus companies.

    “We see clear violations here [of G.V. Florida bus]. Congress must be decisive in enacting measures that will impose heavier penalties on erring bus companies. There has to be accountability on the successive incidents of fatal road accidents involving public utility vehicles,” Hicap said.

    In December last year, a Don Mariano passenger bus fell off the Skyway on the South Luzon Expressway and instantly killed 18 people.

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