In anticipation of the expected surge of travelers this Holy Week, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) has issued close to 600 special bus permits to ensure that there would be enough buses to ferry people to their hometowns during Holy Week.
The board has granted a total of 594 special bus permits, slightly higher than the 586 permits issued last year, to several bus companies, allowing them to offer extra trips starting on Palm Sunday, April 13.
The move is also meant to address the recent suspension of G.V Florida’s franchise, leaving a vacuum in the routes previously serviced by the bus company, which had 188 units plying several routes in Northern Luzon.
A total of 945 applications for special permits were submitted to the LTFRB this year.
“We had to carefully screen every applicant to ensure [none of them has any]pending case with the board and must carry existing and valid insurance coverage,” LTFRB Chairman Winston Ginez said.
The board issued 207 special bus permits to companies plying the Central Luzon route, 141 for Southern Luzon, 84 for Northern Luzon, 73 for the Visayas, 46 for Baguio, 24 for Metro Manila and 19 for Bicol.
The special bus permits will allow bus companies to temporarily ply routes outside their franchises until April 21.
Ginez reminded bus drivers to remain cautious when driving even though they are only holding a special bus permit.
Meanwhile, security at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) has been tightened also in anticipation of the surge in holiday travelers.
Vicente Guerzon, senior assistant general manager for security and emergency services of Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), said airport authorities have coordinated with various government agencies over security operations at the Naia.
Guerzon added that MIAA is communicating with airlines to help them in disseminating information on flight schedules.
More security personnel such as airport police and officers of the Philippine National Police, as well as the Office for Transportation Security of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), have been assigned to Naia terminals.
According to MIAA, 32,729 passengers and 256 domestic departure flights were recorded last year. The peak departure was recorded on March 23, 2013 or the Saturday before Holy Week.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., meanwhile, advised those who will commemorate Lent to take extra precautions especially when traveling.
According to him, government agencies such as the DOTC and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) are on alert to assist all motorists who will be going to the provinces.
MMDA General Manager Corazon Jimenez said starting today, Holy Monday, the agency will offer its “bus-ferries” for devotees who want to visit various Catholic churches in the cities of Manila and Makati.
The bus-ferries or 20-foot tugboats fitted with minibus bodies were used by the agency when it launched the revival of the ferry service along Pasig River.
Starting at 9 a.m. today, devotees will assemble in front of the MMDA office on Orense Street before proceeding to the Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine in Makati City.
From the Guadalupe Shrine, they will walk toward the Guadalupe terminal of the former ferry service to proceed to Santa Ana, Manila.
From the Santa Ana terminal, the devotees will walk toward the Our Lady of the Abandoned Shrine.
Their next stop is the Polytechnic University of the Philippines terminal in Santa Mesa, Manila, where they will visit the Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish.
Their last stop is the Plaza Cervantes terminal in Intramuros, Manila, where the historic Manila Cathedral is located.
Jimenez said the bus-ferries could accommodate up to 30 passengers.
Priests and nuns, she added, will be invited to facilitate religious activities aboard the ferries.
WITH REPORTS FROM CATHERINE S. VALENTE AND RITCHIE A. HORARIO