Aquino, Roxas: All systems go for Lenten exodus
MANILA, Philippines—After inspecting major sea, air and land transportation hubs in Metro Manila, President Benigno Aquino III and Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC) Secretary, Mar Roxas, said that it is all systems go for the highly-anticipated Lenten exodus.
“Authorities have taken the necessary preparations to help ensure a safe and convenient travel for the millions of Filipinos who will make their way to the provinces for the Lenten break,” Roxas said in a statement Monday.
President Aquino and Roxas inspected a passenger vessel in the Manila North Harbor, the Terminal Three of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), and the provincial passenger bus terminal in Araneta Center, Cubao.
At the Manila North Harbor, Roxas and Aquino inspected the MV St. Michael Archangel, a commercial vessel with a passenger capacity of 1,929 that was docked at pier two and was scheduled to depart for Cagayan de Oro with stops at Bacolod City and Iloilo City.
They inspected if there are sufficient emergency life-saving equipment on board the vessel such as life jackets and fire-fighting equipment as well as the security checks and procedures of cargoes and baggage of passengers before they are loaded onto the vessel.
The DoTC cited figures from the Philippine Coast Guard showing that an estimated 147,000 passengers have boarded more than 1,000 vessels that sailed to various destinations nationwide over the past 24 hours.
At the NAIA Terminal Three, Roxas and Aquino inspected the security and check-in procedures as well as the facilities of the terminal.
They inspected security at the main entrances and the check-in counters and talked with passengers about any concerns they may have.
The NAIA in the Philippines was previously heavily criticized after a website ranked it as the number one worst airport in the world.
“We are gradually improving facilities in the airport to better serve our people especially during occasions like the observance of Holy Week,” Roxas said.
At their last stop at the Araneta Center Cubao bus terminal, Roxas and Aquino inspected the random drug testing procedures and security checks on passengers, baggage and cargo.
The random drug testing being conducted by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) and the Land Transportation Office has become a regular part of DOTC’s program to ensure that drivers are safe.
“We are making random drug testing a regular part of our Ligtas Byahe program to make sure that our bus drivers are fit to bring passengers to their destinations safely,” Roxas said.
The LTFRB also inspected buses before leaving the terminal to make sure they are all well maintained. Several buses were prevented from travelling due to safety issues like worn-out tires and broken windshields as well as being colorum or out-of-line.
All hubs of every mode of transportation have been instructed by the DOTC to have tarpaulins displaying the Passenger’s Bill of Rights for the information of the public.
The Passenger’s Bill of Rights states that “all travelers must have access to necessary emergency equipment, while on board the vessel; life-saving jacket to passenger ratio must at least be one to one, [and] the personnel manning the vehicle must also be equipped with radio communications device, fire-fighting equipment and other related rescue devices.”
Roxas said that their inspection “shows how committed is the government in ensuring the safety of our people as they return to their home towns or head to their respective destinations in observance of the annual Holy Week.”
More improvements needed
In a separate interview, Roxas said though services to passengers at Metro Manila’s major terminals have gotten significantly better from last year, but more improvements are still needed to be made.
Having made the rounds last year, Roxas said there were noted improvements at Naia, North Harbor and the Cubao Bus Terminal.
“Last year, there was really chaos. Now, people are queuing properly and we (have) more security measures,” Roxas said.
Despite the improvements, Roxas said Aquino found several problems that he wanted to address immediately.
“One example the President saw was that some of the urinals were not that clean. I will make sure that this is dealt with,” Roxas said.
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