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Bacolod City, Philippines Thursday, March 26, 2020
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Cargo transport operations assured


The Committee on Transportation of the Inter-Agency Task Force for COVID-19 in Dumaguete City assured Tuesday that air, land, and sea transportation will continue but on regulated and controlled basis to ensure there will be no shortage of supplies in Negros Oriental.

The assurance was given by Dante Uymatiao, chairperson of the Committee on Transportation, during a meeting in Dumaguete City attended by representatives from the government and private sector.

Uymatiao said they had to deliberate on scheduled barge and boat trips that would ferry goods from nearby provinces while land transportation, such as passenger buses, will also be operating but on a reduced number of trips to and from different points in the province.

The regulation of land travel via public transport is also meant to discourage people from traveling unless necessary and to reduce the number of people out in the streets, he said.

Uymatiao, who owns and operates MaayoShipping Inc., said that he has seven barges that ferry passengers and cargo from Negros Oriental to Cebu and vice versa.

After Gov. RoelDegamo ordered the closure of the borders of the province and Cebu implementing the same measure, Uymatiao said the barge trips still continue but only those from Negros Oriental who could present proper identification were allowed on board.

He said he is awaiting an executive order, which the governor is expected to release soon that all borders of Negros Oriental will be sealed totally, without exemption, except for commodities and emergency cases.

This means that passengers are no longer allowed on the barges, even if they can present IDs that show they are from Negros Oriental.

Vallacar Transit, Inc., which operates the Ceres buses in the province, had requested to add more trips but Uymatiao said their committee declined, saying this would only mean that there will be more people traveling or out in the streets.

Meanwhile, another concern raised during the meeting was the so-called social distancing of passengers in public transport such as buses, jeepneys, and multi-cabs.

Reports on social media say many of these public transport vehicles are not observing such rules.

Dennis Caballero, a member of the committee, said they have to clarify if it is part of their role to ensure that public transport operators and drivers are observing the physical distancing between passengers, or if it was the role of the police or the local government unit instead.

“Our role is a delicate balance of ensuring the health security of the entire province and the transports of goods and cargoes to, from, and within the province and elsewhere in the region,” he said.

Among those present in the meeting were officials from the Philippine Ports Authority, Philippine Coast Guard, the Provincial Health Officer, Vallacar Transit (Ceres), Maayo Shipping, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, and Suzanne Lu-Bascara, representing the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector.*PNA


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