The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) said provincial bus operators that recently changed their operating schedule, leaving scores of commuters stranded, will be held liable.
The LTFRB said the new schedule in fact stems from an agreement with the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, but it did not mean that provincial bus operators could only operate from 10 pm to 5 am, as was announced by a number of bus companies.
The change first caught commuters' attention when provincial bus company, Victory Liner released an advisory stating that starting April 20, their units will arrive at and depart from Metro Manila terminals only from the hours of 10 PM to 5 AM.
Several other bus units followed suit, such as Bataan Transit Bus Corporation, First North Luzon Transit Inc, and Five Star Bus Company, among others. Meanwhile, Baliwag Transit Inc. halted operations on April 20 for the time being.
But the LTFRB clarified that buses are still allowed to enter Metro Manila outside the hours of 10 AM - 5 PM, provided they are headed in the following public integrated terminals:
- Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (PITX) - Quezon, Region 4-A, MIMAROPA, and Bicol
- PITX and Araneta Center Cubao - Region 4-A CALABARZON
- North Luzon Express Terminal (NLET) - Region 1, 2, and CAR
- NLET and Araneta Center Cubao - Region 3
- Santa Rosa Integrated Terminal (SRIT) - provincial buses from Visayas and Mindanao.
The LTFRB said bus operators that revised their schedules misinterpreted their agreement with the MMDA.
"Gayunpaman, nais din naming bigyang-diin na ang pagsunod sa window scheme ng MMDA ay hindi nangangahulugan na ang mga provincial bus operations ay magsisimula lamang at magwawakas ang serbisyo ng pampublikong transportasyon mula 10:00 PM hanggang 5:00 AM," LTFRB said.
Following the inconvenience experienced by commuters, LTFRB said bus operators will be held liable.
"Dahil sa kanilang hindi pagsunod, at lantarang paglabag sa kanilang mga special permit at Certificate of Public Convenience o CPC para mag-operate, tinitiyak ng pamunuan ng LTFRB na sila ay papanagutin sa tahasang paglabag na ito."
Travel requirements for both bus units and passengers have eased with Metro Manila going under Alert Level 1. However, the LTFRB Memorandum Circular No. 2022 - 023 remains the basis of the QR Code system and has not yet been lifted since its implementation on February 16, 2022. Last March, MMDA held a two-week dry run on the return of provincial buses in EDSA.
Netizens have been turning to social media to express their frustrations over the situation. Facebook user Clifford Villas shared a photo of Robinsons Starmills terminal in San Fernando, Pampanga, wherein a number of passengers were lining up in hordes to get to Metro Manila.
"Hindi ba naisip ng mga MMDA at LTFRB na may mga regular na uwiang pasahero?” Cliffored wrote. “Akala ba nila turista lahat sumasakay ng bus?”
He also asked how the schedule change will impact market workers, employees, and those going to Manila for medical reasons.
Other netizens also took to Twitter to share how commuters were stranded in terminals after the announcement.
Twitter user Emong Canton said MMDA personnel blocked provincial buses at Mindanao Avenue.
Mabubulaga mamaya ang taga Bulacan ,.Pampanga at Bataan na mga uwian sa trabaho walang bus.— Emong Canton (@kalakumag) April 20, 2022
Kaninang Umaga hinaharang ng MMDA ang provincial bus sa Mindanao Ave kanina...
Punta ako Trinoma, merong mga UV na Malolos dun at baba ako ng Tabang at mag jeep hoping! pic.twitter.com/Fq0dQzdnRZ
Another user posted photos of the crowd of people waiting for buses going to Metro Manila at the Dau Bus Terminal in Mabalacat, Pampanga.
sitwasyon sa dau bus terminal.— precious (@panalanginn) April 19, 2022
ang daming mga tao ang nka pila na paluwas ng metro manila (sana) kaso putangina ng ltfrb and mmda, nag bigay ng announcement kagabi na 10pm-5am lang pwedi pumasok at umalis ang mga provincial buses sa metro manila tapos ang implementation ngayon? pic.twitter.com/4NROiMjwpk
(Jemina Cruz and Saab Lariosa)