January 31, 2023

Juan Kabayan

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Millions of Christmas travelers on the move

THE Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) have said they are ready to handle the surge of passengers who will be traveling by sea or by land to celebrate Christmas and New Year in their home provinces.

PPA spokesman Eunice Samonte said on Thursday the agency expects more than 67 million passengers to crowd seaports across the country, particularly the gateway ports of Batangas and North Harbor in Manila

“Our peak season forecast is 67 million passengers this December. We expect this to further increase as Christmas and New Year draw near,” Samonte said.

The volume of passengers is expected to stay high until December 31.

The highest daily passenger average was 50,000 on December 18, up from only 29,000 the previous week, Samonte said.

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She also dismissed as false news reports that the Port of Batangas and North Harbor would be closed during the peak season, saying that “port operations will continue 24/7 during the holiday rush.”

The PPA attributed the high passenger volume to the lifting of travel restrictions now that Covid-19 cases in the country continue to subside.

Samonte said security measures were in place, with more than 3,000 force multipliers, PPA security force, and police and coast guard personnel deployed in various ports.

She said the agency was closely coordinating with the Maritime Industry Authority in providing additional sea vessels to accommodate the surge of passengers.

Samonte also advised passengers to secure a confirmed ticket, travel light and check in three to four hours before departure to avoid delay.

In the same briefing, LTFRB technical division chief Joel Bolano said the board has issued 639 special permits for north- and southbound buses from Metro Manila.

“As of last night, based on the reports of our people deployed in specific terminals, the volume of passengers and buses were still manageable. But in case of a sudden rise in the volume of passengers, we have people on the ground,” Bolano said.

As the volume of commuters increases, Bolano warned taxi drivers and operators not to be “choosy” in taking in passengers.

He said the LTFRB has partnered with law enforcement agencies like the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and local government units to go after discriminating taxi drivers.

Common violations by taxi drivers range from contracting passengers, overcharging of fare, arrogance and discourtesy of drivers, discrimination, not granting special discounts to senior citizens, persons with disability and students.

Bolano said the LTFRB has already issued summons to about 38 drivers and operators who violated the terms of their franchise.

He also warned ride-hailing drivers who do not comply with the fare matrix and motorcycle riders who refuse to accept bookings, particularly during peak hours.

Bolano said the public can report erring drivers to any law enforcers or to LTFRB’s hotline 1342.