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AKB solon urges IATF to allow bus operation

LEGAZPI CITY --- Ako Bicol (AKB) partylist Rep. Elizaldy S. Co has urged the Inter Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-EID) to allow the resumption of bus operation in Luzon.

Co aired his appeal to the IATF to allow the immediate resumption of provincial bus operation in order to bring home stranded individuals subject to clear-cut health, transport and quarantine protocols.

To recall, a single mother, Michelle Silvertino of Calabanga, Camarines Sur, died on the footbridge in Pasay City while waiting for a bus ride back to her hometown.

He said that thousands of Filipinos and overseas workers can’t return home and join their families in the provinces due to absence of bus service in Luzon.

“With all due respect, the national government and local government units (LGUs) must discuss, agree and lay down clear-cut guidelines for bus operators and commuters. The goal is to allow stranded Filipinos to ride provincial buses while minimizing risks of potential Covid-19 infection,” Co said.

He said that aside from congestion and higher risk of infection, inability to return home is a primary cause of depression and anxiety especially for overseas workers.

Citing his personal experience in bringing home stranded construction workers and Bicolano students from UP Los Banos, Co said such effort entailed a lot of coordination between national agencies and LGUs. “It’s difficult, but not impossible,” he said.

Due to lack of public transportation, Co lamented that some Filipino workers died without ever seeing their loved ones.

“It doesn’t have to be this way. I’m sure we can all agree on a set of clear, systematic and non-redundant guidelines. We owe it to our kababayans,” he said.

While inconvenient, Co said requiring passengers to undergo yet another 14-day quarantine upon arrival, if their respective LGUs mandate it, is better than not being allowed to go home at all.

“Cost of rapid tests and protective gear like masks can be included in the cost of tickets so there’s some level of comfort for commuters and bus operators. For those who were tested, cleared and have completed the mandatory quarantine, I don’t think they would mind going through another two weeks of self-isolation in the province just to reunite with their families,” he said.

Co said buses ferry millions of passengers each year, even more than all domestic airlines combined. “Buses are critical in transporting people and merchandise throughout the country,” he said.

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