MODERN RIDES. The 25 modern public utility buses launched at the Tacloban new bus terminal on Wednesday (Feb. 12, 2020). The new buses will ply from Tacloban to the cities of Catbalogan and Calbayog in Samar as part of the government's public utility vehicle modernization program. (PNA photo by Gerico Sabalza)

TACLOBAN CITY –-The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) launched on Wednesday here the 25 modern buses in Eastern Visayas as part of the government’s public utility vehicle modernization program (PUVMP).

All buses will be plying Samar routes with 10 going to Calbayog City operated by Davao Shuttle Metro and the remaining 15 to Catbalogan City from the regional capital managed by Grand Tours.

Each modern bus is equipped with an automatic fare collection system, a global positioning system, closed-circuit television cameras, television, and toilet.

LTFRB Chairman Martin Delgra III led the launch held at the city’s new bus terminal. He said this is pursuant to a memorandum circular issued by the board to open additional units in the region. With the rigid selection process, the public is assured that these buses are compliant with the requirements and specifications under the Omnibus Franchise Guidelines.

He told reporters in an interview that modernization will transform the transport system in the country by moving people in a safe, convenient, and sustainable manner.

“If we take the unregistered vehicles off the road, we will have a problem in providing public transport. That is the reason why in the long term we need legitimate vehicles and routes that will be run by valid and competent operators,” he said.

The chairman added that vans or utility vehicles (UV) express taking the same routes can continue and legitimately operate under the PUVM program.

He said the UV express is originally the premium version of public utility jeepneys (PUJ) in terms of mode and convenience.

“That is the original concept of UV express to complement with the PUJ. Their mode of transportation was from origin to destination or point to point, but what happened, they went to the highway taking longer routes than they should,” Delgra said, adding that the board will place a policy to put UV Express where they should be, such as the 60-km ceiling distance.

The highways, especially on long haul routes, Delgra said, is meant for buses because they have a safe, convenient, and comfortable ride for the commuters compared to the UV Express.

“PUVM is a big program. There are many issues and concerns to be addressed and including the funding. But if all government agencies, local government units, operators and drivers will unite, I don’t think this will be impossible to achieve in a short time,” Delgra said.

The PUVMP is a flagship program of the Duterte administration which envisions a restructured, modern, well-managed and environmentally sustainable transport sector where drivers and operators have stable, sufficient and dignified livelihoods while commuters get to their destinations quickly, safely and comfortably. (PNA)