The Department of Transportation (DOTr) through its various agencies actively participated in the opening of School Year 2022-2023 on Monday, August 22, 2022, as it rolled-out its “Oplan Byaheng Ayos: Balik Eskwela Program,” to assist students who returned to schools for in-person classes since the pandemic started.
From 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) deployed two (2) buses and provided free rides to students from the Quezon City Hall to the University Belt area along España Boulevard, then to the Rizal Park (Luneta), before heading back to Quezon City.
The PCG’s “Libreng Sakay” operation on the first day of the schoolyear, served a total of 200 students and employees under the DOTr’s Oplan Byaheng Ayos: Balik Eskwela Program.
The “Libreng Sakay” operation aims to help students and employees save on fares with the start of School Year 2022-2023.
Later in the afternoon into the early evening (4 p.m. to 7 p.m.) the PCG buses helped return students and workers from the University Belt area back to their homes and destinations in Quezon City.
DOTr’s Oplan Byaheng Ayos: Balik Eskwela will be in effect from August 22 to August 26, 2022.
The strict enforcement of health protocols was observed inside the buses with Coast Guard personnel reminding passengers to wear their face masks properly, to bring alcohol and hand sanitizers, and maintain social distancing to protect themselves from COVID-19.
Meanwhile, ports controlled by the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), were also placed on heightened alert on Monday to ensure the safe, secure, convenient and orderly embarkation and disembarkation of passengers, following the DOTr’s order as part of the Department’s Oplan Byaheng Ayos: Balik Eskwela.
The alert status at the ports also ensures that minimum public health protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will be enforced. The PPA has assured that the heightened alert status will not impede the smooth flow of passengers going in and out of the ports.
DOTr Undersecretary for Maritime Sector Elmer Francisco U. Sarmiento assured students of a safe, convenient, and affordable travel experience, as they return to their schools for in-person classes after two years amid the pandemic.
The LRT-2 and the DOTr MRT-3 lines also implemented their respective “Libreng Sakay” programs on Monday to assist students who are going back to schools.
The LRT-2’s “Libreng Sakay” for students was orderly implemented in all of the LRT-2 stations.
The Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) also designated a ticket window and an AFCS (automated fare collection system) exclusively for students at each LRT-2 station. These contributed to the smooth, orderly and efficient implementation of the program.
Around 3,200 students availed of the free ride during the peak morning hours from 5:00 am to 9:00 am. The LRTA expects some 10,000 students or more to avail of the free ride for the entire first day of classes.
From 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., a total of 3,201 students have availed of the free rides offered by the LRT-2.
Meanwhile, 209 students availed of the 20% Student Fare Discount at MRT-3 as of 1:00 p.m. on Monday. A total of 1,400 students is projected to avail of the student discount on a daily basis, the MRT-3 management said.
For the first day of classes, the Land Transportation Office-Philippines (LTO) mobilized 438 of its personnel to help in the management of traffic in the vicinity of schools in Region 1, Region 2, Region 3, Region 4-A, Region 5, Region 6, Region 7, Region 8, Region 9, Region 10, Region 11, Region 12, the Cordillera Administrative Region, and in Metro Manila.
Aside from the management of traffic in the vicinity of the schools, the deployed LTO personnel also coordinated the enforcement of road safety with the various school managements. The LTO personnel also assisted schoolchildren, teachers and parents in crossing the streets in the vicinity of the schools.
The LTO personnel also inspected public utility vehicle (PUV) terminals and checked school service vehicles to make sure that these are roadworthy. In addition, the deployed LTO personnel also conducted road safety seminars in some of the schools.
The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) also deployed its personnel to man eight ( Help Desk Areas in the following areas in Quezon City and in Manila’s University Belt Area.
• Station 1 (Commonwealth Avenue corner Katuparan St. in front of Benigno S. Aquino Jr. Elementary School, eastbound.)
• Station 2 (Along Batasan Hills in front of QCPU and Batasan Hills High School)
• Station 3 (Katipunan Avenue Cor. Prior Drive infront of Miriam College, northbound)
• Station 4 (Along Taft Avenue in front of Philippine Christian University, northbound)
• Station 5 (Along España Boulevard corner Cayco Street, eastbound)
• Station 6 (Along España corner Don Quijote Street, westbound)
• Station 7 (Along Legarda St., Corner Rafael St. westbound)
• Station 8 (Along Legarda St., Corner Mendiola, eastbound)
The LTFRB reports that there was a low volume of passengers in the eight stations with traffic being light to moderate. There were also no reported stranded commuters.
Safety and security in the eight station areas were also maintained by personnel deployed by concerned agencies.
Meanwhile, despite the heavy traffic in the vicinity of schools, InterAgency Council for Traffic (I-ACT) operatives were at the scene to manage and direct traffic and were assisted by traffic enforcers from the concerned local government units.
The LTFRB also reported that traffic in the vicinity of some schools were light as some schools did not start classes on Monday, with the opening of classes set on September 12.
There were also adequate buses operating on the EDSA Busway on the first day of classes. At 8:45 a.m., the EDSA Busway was operating normally with all stations reporting light volume of passengers.
The ‘Libreng Sakay’ program in different modes of public land transport is the directive of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and DOTr Secretary Jaime Bautista to ease the burden on the public amidst the rising cost of fuel and other goods and the continuing challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.