Rethink policy on installation of plastic barriers in PUVs, IATF urged
MANILA, Philippines — A lawmaker is urging the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to rethink its policy on the mandatory installation of plastic barriers in public utility vehicles, saying that it poses a hazard during accidents.
Muntinlupa City Rep. Ruffy Biazon made the call Monday, one day after a bus caught fire along Commonwealth Avenue in Barangay Greater Fairview in Quezon City.
In an interview with witnesses, Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) Senior Fire Officer 1 Robin Topacio, arson investigator, said that prior to the fire, a male passenger of the bus had an argument with the bus conductress. During the argument, the man doused the conductress with gasoline and set her on fire.
Should eyewitness accounts of the incident prove to be true, Biazon said the IATF should rethink its policy on the plastic barriers.
“Transportation authorities should investigate what eyewitness accounts say about the plastic barriers inside the bus that caught fire. This could be a basis for IATF to rethink the policy of installing plastic barriers in public transportation,” Biazon said in a statement.
“The plastic barriers appear to be fatal in an accident, not only because of their flammability but also as a hindrance to the movement of passengers rushing to exit a vehicle,” he added.
Biazon said there is “no doubt” that the plastic barriers pose a danger during a fire onboard a vehicle due to their flammable nature.
“Either the fumes and smoke will choke passengers, or the melting plastic will burn them,” he said.
The lawmaker said that while it is understandable that the plastic barriers were put in place in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the use of face masks with face shields should already be enough.
“It is understandable for the IATF to come up with various measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 but the measures should also take into account other dangers inherent in public transportation,” Biazon said.
New policy on use of fireproof materials
Biazon also said that the fire incident underscored the need for a policy or legislation mandating the use of fire retardant or fireproof materials in public transportation, particularly those assembled or manufactured in the Philippines, such as those usually used as passenger conveyances.
“As can be seen in photos of the bus that caught fire, all that remained of the seats were the metal frames indicating that the material that the seats were made of were combustible,” Biazon said.
“We should not just look at this just as an unfortunate incident but as one that we should learn from and take action. It is imperative that existing policy is reviewed and amended or a new one adopted if found necessary,” he added.
Biazon pointed out that thick black smoke can be seen in the videos of the incident, showing that the seats of the vehicle were made of flammable materials.
“Two lives were senselessly lost due to the act of the person who caused the fire, but other lives were put on the line because of conditions in the vehicle,” Biazon said.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.