MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) assured the public on Wednesday that there will be no fare hikes in all public transportation and expressways this coming All Saints' and All Souls' Day holidays.
Air, sea and land transportation bureaus of the DOTC warned all private companies operating public transportation that they will be penalized once proven to have hiked their fares during the almost week-long break.
Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board Chairman James Jacob also made the assurance that there will be no fare hike for jeepneys until the end of the year.
“Dapat masaya naman ang pasko natin,” he said.
Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) head Atty. Nicasio Conti also said there will be no increase in fare for all types of marine passenger vessels.
“Bawal magtaas ng pasahe sa ano mang uri ng sasakyang pandagat, i-report po ito sa DOTC hotline kung may makitang mananamantala,” said Conti.
Atty. Edmund Reyes, executive director of the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB), also said there will be no increase on toll fees.
The TRB is the government agency that monitors and approves any increase in toll fees for the North Luzon Expressway, South Luzon Expressway, Skyway, Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway and Star Tollway.
The “no fare hike” assurance was made simultaneously with the launching of “Oplan Ligtas Undas 2012,” which aims for a safe and comfortable travel for millions of Filipinos trooping to their respective provinces for a long 4-day weekend.
Newly appointed DOTC Sec. Jose Emilio Abaya made an ocular inspection of the three terminals of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) on Wednesday to make sure everything will be in place for the influx of passengers starting this weekend.
He talked with some passengers, airport crew, and security personnel while being briefed by Manila International Airport Authority General Manager Jose Angel Honrado.
Abaya reminded passengers to avoid last minute travel plans to avoid delays.
“Last minute ka bibili ng ticket, magiging kasama mo ang milyung-milyong last minute ding mag-iisip,” he said.
Abaya said the renovation of 12 restrooms in NAIA Terminal 1 is now underway, and they're making sure there are toilet papers and water supply.
He also mentioned setting up additional immigration desks to accommodate thousands of tourists coming in, especially for the holiday season. The NAIA Terminal 1 has been tagged as one of the “world’s worst airports.”
Honrado clarified that the new policy on shoe inspection will be effective by November 1.
This policy does not anymore require passengers to remove their shoes once passing through the X-ray and metal scanners.
But there are exceptions, Honrado said.
Once the scanner alarm rings, the inspector may opt to have the shoes of the passenger scanned. There will also be random checks by airport security on some passengers.
This, Honrado said, is for faster processing of security checks to avoid further delays for travelers.
“Para mapabilis ang processing, marami kaming natatanggap na reklamo na it is only in the Philippines that we have to remove our shoes,” he said.
To avoid further delays in the processing, Honrado is requesting passengers to be at the airport earlier than the required two hours for domestic travel to avoid congestion at the airport.
DOTC will also be requiring airline operators to provide more counters and personnel who will process the check-in and boarding of passengers to their respective airplanes.
Abaya, meanwhile, also said that while bird strike incidents have been causing problems for airline operators, they have found some ways to neutralize it.
He said passenger safety is more important than the birds.
He said, as short term solution, they will be deploying a number of machines that will produce sound that will annoy birds enough to make them leave the runway.
But Honrado admits they don't have long-term solutions yet as they expect the birds to come back to the runway from time to time especially since there are bird sanctuaries near the perimeter of the airport.
“What is the win-win solution, we have to study all aspects,” he said.
For land travel, Abaya said they are now in the process of issuing special permits for city buses to ply the route of provincial buses to augment influx of passengers going in and out of Metro Manila.
Jacob said out of the 423 units who applied for special permits, they have already approved 60 city buses that will transport passengers to provinces, and they expect this number to rise until next week.
The expressways, meanwhile, are also expecting congestion at toll plazas but have asked toll operators to provide ambulant tellers to speed up the processing of toll payments at exit points. They are also encouraging the public to monitor the traffic situation along the expressways via their Twitter and Facebook accounts.
For sea travel, Conti reminded passengers of buses that will use ro-ro (roll-on, roll off) marine vehicles that they will no longer be allowed to stay inside the bus while on board the marine vessel.
“Walang pasaherong maiiwan sa loob ng bus dahil delikado po ‘yun," he said.
Coast Guard Rear Admiral Luis Tuason Jr. said they will be very strict in monitoring overloading of passengers and cargo in marine vessels.
He said they are now "on heightened alert" for the coming holidays.