It was a slow day for public transport operators as the government finally lifted on Monday the restriction on inter-town travel as part of COVID-19 safety measures.
Ryan Hamid, van driver of P. Rabbit Transport covering Sofronio Española to Puerto Princesa City, said that during his first day back at work, he only had three “pick up” passengers on his route.
“Lima o hangang anim lang talaga siguro ang puwedeng isakay namin dahil 50 percent load capacity ang order sa amin,” Hamid said.
Hamid pointed out that several other public transport services from southern Palawan are even competing for the few passengers needing to travel.
He said even the local stranded individuals (LSI) who recently returned to the province did not need to take the public utilities because they were serviced by government vehicles.
In Sofronio Española, the fare has almost doubled to P500 from its pre-lockdown regular rate of P250.
The provincial government of Palawan eased the inter-town travel restrictions starting Monday (June 1), allowing all persons to travel within the mainland province without travel or quarantine pass.
The Puerto Princesa Land Transportation Terminal (PPLTT) on its May 30 meeting presided by head Vincent Carpio sought to increase the fare to compensate for the reduced seating capacity.
Jonathan Flores, a passenger from El Nido, said that he had no choice but to follow the new fare matrix.
“Dati ang pamasahe mula El Nido hanggang Roxas ay P200 to 250 lang pero ngayon ay P500 na. Wala tayo magawa kailangan ko kasi umuwi ng Roxas dahil namatay ang uncle ko,” Flores said.
In a separate interview, Eulen Joy Express transport opted to maintain regular fare rate to its passengers contrary to the temporary doubled rates imposed by the PPLTT.
“Hindi namin sinunod ‘yon dahil kawawa din ang mga tao. Tulungan na lang tayo dahil naiintindihan namin ang sitwasyon ng mga tao ngayon kaya ‘di kami magtaas,” said owner Eulen Joy Distal.
Edgar Adoptante of Soycar Transport management told Palawan News that they are still testing the waters before they increase their fares.
“May dokumento na pinapipirmahan sa amin pero hindi kami pumirma doon. Makikiramdam muna kami kung magkano talaga ang maging pamasahe natin. Kasi ang nakalagay doon sa papel ay P800 ang pamasahe mula El Nido to Puerto,” Adoptante said.
Temporary Fare Regulation
Adzhar Akkoh, owner and operator of Akkoh Van Transport in San Vicente, reiterated that the fare increase was merely temporary as several public transport services were easing back their operations.
“Sanay kasi talaga tayo sa bagsak price pero sa totoo lang umaaray na kaming mga operator samantala ang krudo at maintenance mahal din. Sana maunawaan niyo kami,” Akkoh said.
Akkoh also stressed that the owner-operators have obligations to pay for their loan payments after more than two months of lockdown which forced the transport operations to halt.
“Halos buhay ko na kapalit ng negosyo na ito sa sobrang stress. Ilang buwan na din ako hindi nakakahulog,” Akkoh added.
Representatives from PPLTT and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) have yet to comment on the increased fare.
Minimum Health Standards
Alberto Pe Jr., manager of El Nido Transport Terminal, assured the passengers that all health protocols set by the Department of Health (DOH) and Department of Transportation (DOTr) are being followed including physical distancing and holding of information record of passengers for purpose of contact tracing and or monitoring.
“Sinisigurado namin na lahat ng mga pasahero ay dadaan sa terminal para ma-record natin ‘yong names nila para sa contract tracing in case may mangyari,” Pe said.
“May social distancing talaga ang mga pasahero sa loob ng sasakyan kaya dito namin sila pinapapunta upang sumakay at nang masiguro na namo-monitor namin temperature nila bago bumiyahe,” Pe added.
(With reports from Alex Baaco, Bella Mutia, Ruil Alabi, and Romar Miranda)