Bus Lines Cooperate with DOTC’s Oplan Ligtas Byahe: Undas 2012

Bus lines around the country have expressed full cooperation to provide a “Convenient, Affordable, Reliable, Efficient and Safe” travel with the launching of “Oplan Ligtas Byahe: Undas 2012” campaign of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) last October 24.

In Sampaloc, Manila, where a high volume of passengers is always expected during the holidays, chief security officer Jun Jove of Florida Bus, shared to SecurityMatters that they have already made preparations beforehand. “Ang preparation namin dito ay bago bibiyahe ang bus namin ay pupunta muna sa motorpool namin para checkupin ng mga mekaniko namin bago bibiyahe. (As preparation before traveling, our buses go through a checkup at our motorpool.)”

Florida Bus Line at A.H. Lacson corner Earnshaw St., Sampaloc, Manila. Photo by Lorela U. Sandoval

During the holidays or peak season, Florida also adds about eight to 10 buses everyday to accommodate more passengers. In spite of this, Jove assured that there is no price increase on their end. Florida has been in the business for almost 20 years, and travels from Manila to all towns of Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, and Cagayan Valley.

Jove, who is under Seven B Security and Investigation Agency, also said, “Ang briefing namin sa mga drivers namin ay ‘wag masyadong mabilis magpatakbo. Dumaan po silang lahat sa drug test at ‘yung tinatawag na psychological test at medical test. (We briefed our drivers not to drive fast. They also went through drug test, psychological test, and medical test.)”

He added, “Sa biyahe naman ng bus namin ay 24-hour monitoring naman kami para kung may biglang problema sa daan ay automatic na iyung mga inspector namin ay sasabihan agad sa management para iyung rescue ay dadating agad. (We also have 24-hour monitoring so that if a problem comes up our inspectors are automatically informed and rescue is immediately on the way.)”

Jove likewise assured that passengers have nothing to worry about in terms of safety and security. Several authorities were, in fact, visible in the area.

“[Fully] secured naman kasi may kasama kaming mga police, K9, LTFRB, LTO, MMDA, lahat ng sangay ng gobyerno ay nandito para tutulong sa ikabubuti ng paglakbay or pagbiyahe ng mga uuwi sa kani-kanilang probinsya itong kaarawan ng Undas. Naka-coordinate lahat ‘yan. (We are fully secured because we have the police, K9, LTFRB, LTO, MMDA and all other government units to help in ensuring that our passengers travel safe to their provinces this Undas. All these are coordinated.), ” he elaborated.

The Office for Transportation Security’s (OTS) K9 unit was also inspecting all corners of Florida terminal and passengers’ bags. Photo by Lorela U. Sandoval

Jove expressed appreciation on the DOTC program. “Magandang programa para maiwasan yung mga disgrasya sa daan. (It’s a good program to prevent accidents on the road.)” He added, “Sa awa naman ng Diyos ay wala pa naman insidente na nangyari mula nung [October] 22. Normal na situation naman sa araw na ito [October 30]. Sana naman hanggang sa matapos ang Undas ay walang mangyaring masama sa aming kompanya. (Thank God, there has been no accident since October 22. Today, we have a normal situation. We’re hoping that nothing bad happens to our company before Undas ends.)”

In spite of concerted efforts, he, however, has this to remind passengers. “Ang ipinapaliwanag ko sa mga pasahero, kahit nakikita ninyo dito na kumpleto ang mga pulis, K9, mas maganda pa rin po na mag-ingat kayo. ‘Yun ang palagi kong sinasabi. (What I’ve been explaining to passengers is even though the concerned authorities here are complete, you still keep yourself safe. That’s what I keep on telling them.)”

For Chiefmate Ledgardo Loques, a seaman who has been a regular passenger of Florida going to his hometown in Bambang, Nueva Vizcaya, he understands that in spite of safety measures accidents are still inevitable. “Safe naman, pero hindi talaga maiwasan ‘yung may disgrasya dahil nga may mga makalaban na masakyan hindi rin nga nag-iingat e. (It’s safe, but you can’t really prevent accidents because there are competing buses that don’t take precautionary measures.)”

Asked if he knows about the DOTC campaign this Undas, “Oo narinig ko na yan, dahil nag-ano din kami ng safety ng transport e, dahil nasa maritime industry din kami. (Yes, I’ve heard about it. We also know about transport safety, since we’re also in the maritime industry.)”

SPO4 Jaime Guevarra of Sampaloc Police Station 4 of the Manila Police District, who was supervising police trainees deployed at Florida, has this to say as well of the concerted efforts: “For now, pinaigting na po ang pagbabantay ng ating kapulisan sa mga bus terminal, in order to protect the commuters going to different provinces. Ito rin po ang pinag-uutos ng ating Chief PNP Nicanor Ancheta Bartolome and our NCRPO Director [Leonardo Espina] na bantayan ang mga bus terminals sa mga lawless elements and see to it na our commuters will [be] safe before going on board different passenger [buses]. (For now, police authorities have strengthened the safeguarding of bus terminals, in order to protect the commuters going to different provinces. This is also the order of our Chief PNP Nicanor Ancheta Bartolome and our NCRPO Director Leonardo Espina, that is to safeguard our bus terminals from lawless elements and see to it that our commuters will be safe before going on board different passenger buses).

Supervising police trainees at that time, Guevarra said they have been deployed for one week already and have 24-hour or round-the-clock monitoring through mobile patrols. Florida management has been very cooperative with the campaign, he also emphasized.

A help desk was also seen setup at Florida terminal. Albert Cruz, a cooperative development specialist 1 of the Office of Transportation Cooperatives, said that this campaign has been properly coordinated with their chairman, Leticia Gorospe. “Bale nagsimula ang Oplan namin nung October 25 till November 6, (The Oplan started last October 25, it will last until November 6),” he pointed out.

OTC representatives are deployed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the bus terminal. “Bale kami’y katuwang lang, (We’re just here for support), ” he added.

Meanwhile, in Batangas City, another area expecting a high volume of passengers this Undas,  Samuel Santos, a senior bus operator at A.L. Perez and Sons (ALPS) Bus Co., also shared to SecurityMatters their company’s efforts. Santos said they ordered a protocol of briefing their drivers and conductors about the welfare and safety of their passengers. Also, they see to it that their conductors will educate their passengers about the security of their belongings as well as their personal safety before and after the departure of buses.

“Regarding our employees (drivers and conductors), we have a monthly random drug testing to assure the safety of our riders. We also conduct regular maintenance for our units, and that [makes] us No. 1 in Batangas,” he explained.

To which Rosanna Dimayuga, a regular passenger of ALPS buses, agreed. “Pinakamaayos ang serbisyo ng ALPS (ALPS offers the best service.).” She added, “Hindi problema kung masiraan dahil marami naman silang reserbang bus. (Having bus troubles is not a problem because the company has many bus reserves.)”

On regular days, ALPS deploys over 80 units, but during peak seasons like summer, Christmas holidays, and All Saints’ Day, about 140 units are available for daily service. ALPS is said to be one of the largest bus companies in the country and one of the premiere bus transits in Batangas, operating for almost 20 years. It has trips from Batangas to Cubao, Alabang, Lawton/Taft/Buendia, and different areas in Bicol.

When asked about the “Oplan Ligtas Biyahe,” Santos said that they were informed ahead of time and that they comply with the orders of the department.  “We also coordinate to authorities like police to maintain the welfare of the passengers,” he explained.

Passenger Dimayuga, meanwhile, said in an interview on October 29, that she was not aware of the said DOTC program and that she did not even notice any booth from authorities.

In Bicol region, it looks like a regular working day yesterday [October 30] at the Central Bus Terminal in Naga City with no security augmentation or additional police visibility yet.

In an interview yesterday with Alex Carion, a Raymond Transportation dispatcher at the Naga City Central Bus Terminal, he disclosed: “Sa ngayon, regular lang yung security, may nakikita akong isang police dito tapos mga anim na security guards. (As of now, the terminal adopts regular security measures with one police officer deployed in the area and approximately six roving guards.)” However, he said he expects deployment of soldiers and police officers by November 1 to 5 in the area just like last year for security augmentation.

As with DOTC’s recent campaign, “Oo, yung Oplan Kaluluwa. May nakita akong nag-iinspect ng bus.  (Yes, I saw police officers inspecting buses for the Oplan Kaluluwa.)” he confirmed.

According to Carion, they haven’t recorded or encountered any crime during Undas in the previous years. Their bus driver and conductor also observe regular security measures during this season. He also told SecurityMatters, “Sa ngayon wala pang dagdag na bus. Pagkatapos pa kan Undas, mga dalawa  o tatlo para sa dagsa ng mga byahero. (At the moment there are no additional bus trips. After Undas, there might be two to three additional trips to Manila to accommodate the influx of passengers.)”

However, there were two highway police officers inspecting a bus yesterday evening [October 30], and two more police officers from the Naga Central Police Office – one junior police in uniform, and his superior in civilian clothes. Apparently, there might be more officers in civilian clothes.

One of the highway police officers is SPO1 Wency Taday. He explained, “Ginagawa naming ngayon bus inspection, check ng papers, franchise, tapos kung maayos ba ang bus para sa byahe. (We are currently conducting inspections of buses checking for papers, franchise, and whether or not the bus is safe and ready to travel.)”

He stated that there will be additional security in the area. “Sa October 31 pa yata o November 1, magdadagdag ng personnel galing sa PNP ilalagay sa checkpoints pero “Red Alert” na kami nung October 28 pa. (By October 31 or November 1, additional personnel from the PNP shall be deployed on checkpoints but we have been on “Red Alert” since October 28.)” He added that the PNP is working with other agencies for safety and security during Undas.

He also identified the crimes they’re on the lookout for. “Sa ano lang kami, carnapping and highway security. (We are concerned with carnapping and highway security.)” As for other crimes, he said, “Yung iba, sa Naga City Police Office na yun. (The Naga City Police Office will take care of the rest.)” But no major crimes have been reported, only the usual petty crimes.

SPO2 Randy Solano, spokesperson of Naga City Police Office, on the other hand, said that, “Meron na po tayong deployment ng tao, even though, meron na po talaga tayong assigned na pulis dyan sa terminal. Meron po tayo yung motorcycle car na umiikot ikot po dyan sa terminal meron din pong nag-iikot ikot sa portion na ‘yan. (There has been a deployment of police officers even though we already have an officer regularly deployed at the terminal. Aside from that, we have motorcycle cars roving around the area.)”

He also disclosed that a Police Assistance Center will be placed proximate to the bus terminal. “Magkakaroon ng final briefing bukas sa mga tao namin. Nagkaroon na po ng Joint Operations Center yung JOC nagmeeting na po kahapon kasama po yung interagency kasali yung inter-agency task group kagaya ng DOTC, BFP, saka DOH. (There will be a final briefing of police officers tomorrow for Undas. The Joint Operation Center (an inter-agency task group) convened yesterday involving various agencies such as DOTC, BFP, and DOH.) He added that NGOs, in the likes of the KABALIKAT, shall also extend assistance to keep the Undas safe and peaceful.

Recall that in May of this year, two locals going to Manila died of fatal gunshots from alleged robbers.

Francis Joel Morales, who intends to take a take trip from Naga to Cubao terminal via Raymond Bus located at Ragay, Camarines Sur, also said he’s unaware of the DOTC program. “No, I don’t know about that.”

Morales has been residing in Manila and only went home to Bicol to see his father who got sick, so he happens to join the rush of passengers during this time of the year.

But when asked whether or not he thinks Cubao Terminal is safe for passengers, especially during Undas, he said, “I think so. I hope so.” But according to him, there are many bystanders in the Cubao terminal who are likely to create an unsafe ambiance, so he suggests more police visibility.

More About the Oplan Ligtas Byahe Program

The “Oplan Ligtas Byahe: Undas 2012” campaign runs from October 26 to November 5 when people are expected to go back to their hometowns to pay homage to their departed loved ones. To implement the program, there will be help desks in air and sea ports, bus terminals, and major thoroughfares around the country.

The OTS will also inspect all major air and sea ports and bus terminals to ensure passenger safety. K9 units will also be deployed in said ports and bus terminals to inspect for possible bombs or deadly weapons.

The micro site of DOTC, www.ligtasbyahe.org, will also be reactivated, according to the statement released by said agency. The site will present all the coordinated activities among related agencies. Even its Facebook account, LigtasKwaresma; Twitter account, @DOTCPhilippines; and YouTube account will also be reactivated for information sharing.

DOTC Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya also said in a statement that they will be strictly implementing a speed limit in all toll highways. They will also deploy ambulant cashiers for the faster facilitation at the toll gates. (With additional reports from Richard Bulanhagui and Milgrine Genio)