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Bus firm in mishap suspended for 30 days

By Janvic Mateo

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MANILA, Philippines - The Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) yesterday imposed a 30-day suspension on G.V. Florida Transport Inc. following an accident in Bontoc, Mt. Province involving one of its buses that killed at least 14 people, including comedian Arvin “Tado” Jimenez.

LTFRB chairman Winston Ginez said the suspension covers 228 buses of G.V. Florida Transport and 10 buses registered to Norberto Cue Sr. of Mt. Province Cable Tours.

Virgilio Florida Jr., president of G.V. Florida Transport, and Cue have yet to issue statements regarding the incident.

The LTFRB gave the operators three days to show cause why their franchises should not be suspended, cancelled or revoked due to the accident that also injured at least 31 individuals. A hearing is set on Feb. 19.

Initial investigation showed the bus that fell into a 150-meter deep ravine used the license plate TXT-872 of a bus actually registered to Cue.

The 10-page order also noted that the engine and chassis numbers of the ill-fated bus differ from those indicated in the franchise given to Mt. Province Cable Tours.

It also noted that G. V. Florida Transport Inc. has no authority to operate Cue’s Mt. Province Cable Tours as there was no application for approval of sale and transfer filed by Cue in favor of Florida.

“If Florida bought the company and its franchise, they are only authorized to ply the line with the same bus units obtained. If they used their own buses to ply the Cordillera route, the unit involved in the accident is out of line,” Cagayan Valley LTFRB director Rodolfo Jaucian told The STAR.

The LTFRB routinely imposes a 30-day preventive suspension on bus companies involved in fatal mishaps.

Aside from 10 units of Mt. Province Cable Tours, which plies the Quezon City to Bontoc route, the LTFRB also suspended Florida buses traveling to Cagayan, Abra, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Isabela, Benguet and Bataan.

Also suspended were two buses plying the Kalinga-Baguio route; four buses plying the Bacarra, Ilocos Norte to Ilagan, Isabela route; and four buses plying the Laoag, Ilocos Norte to Claveria, Cagayan route.

The board said it would confiscate the license plates of the suspended buses starting Feb. 9.

The LTFRB also ordered the operators of the suspended buses to bring the suspended buses for roadworthiness inspection at the motor vehicles inspection service of the Land Transportation Office.

The buses and conductors of the suspended buses are also required to undergo drug testing and road safety seminar.

The board said failure on the part of the bus operators to appear at the Feb. 19 hearing will be considered as a waiver on their part, resulting in the cases to be heard and decided based on LTFRB records.

Brakes failed

Edgard Renon, 30, driver of the ill-fated bus, said the brakes of the vehicle failed as it was crossing a sharp curve, causing it to fall into a ravine.

He told The STAR in an interview at the Bontoc General Hospital that he lost control of the steering wheel when the brakes failed, while his conductor managed to jump out of the bus.

Renon said he was not sleepy during the incident because they just had a stopover, adding that he had a substitute driver.

Victims identified

Enmodias said the death toll remained at 14, identified as Canadian Alex Loring, Dutch Anne Martina Adriana Van de Den, Marcial Baranda Jr., Andrew David Sicam, Natividad Ngawa, Gerald Baja, Ana Cruz, Leah Reyes, Emilly Gentalian, Giovanni Morillo, Katrina Gozos, Jonathan Patulot, Rosalina Reyes, and Jimenez.

Among the injured were Austrian Bernhart Beshtold and Dutch Annenmik Verwegen.

Trinity Cordon Funeral Parlor based in Isabela province has brought most of the bodies to Manila.

A representative of G. V. Florida Transport said the company would shoulder the hospital bills of the injured, four of whom were airlifted to the Baguio General Hospital.

Tado’s ‘long trip’

In Tado’s Instagram account, the activist-comedian even posted a photo of the bus, with the caption, “Long trip, as in trip trip.”

An earlier photo shows Tado having his make-up applied, with the caption, “North o South.... cemetery?”

In 2012, the comedian also published a compilation of eulogies from his friends titled, “All About Myself, Not Yours: Bio-Eulogy ni Tado Jimenez.”

Dino Dimar, Tado’s friend, said the comedian was supposed to join his friends, mostly local tattoo artists, for the birthday party of a friend in Kalinga.

Negligence

Administration and opposition lawmakers castigated authorities, particularly the LTFRB, over the spate of deadly road accidents involving public utility buses (PUBs) due to negligence and failure to enforce regulations.

Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap, a member of the minority bloc, asked the House committee on transportation to investigate the operation, management and labor conditions in bus companies.

“With the successive fatal road accidents, many PUBs are becoming ‘rolling coffins.’ This is very dangerous,” he said.

With no less than the LTFRB chief’s admission that private bus companies are neglecting regulations, Hicap said Congress “needs to decisively step in to exercise its oversight responsibilities and recommend measures to ensure the safety of the commuting public.”

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez filed last week a bill mandating the installation of speed limiters in PUBs to ensure better compliance.

He said there are around 4,000 buses plying Metro Manila routes while there are around 7,000 provincial buses, not counting the “colorum” or illegal PUBs.

He said data from the LTFRB also show that for 2011 alone, there were 395 victims of bus accidents, with 74 deaths, 300 injuries and 20 cases of damage to properties.

“All these accidents happen because these PUBs drive all over the country as if they are in a race, always speeding and changing lanes without any concern for their fellow motorists,” Rodriguez said.

Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo, chairman of the House committee on Metro Manila, sought the strict enforcement of the mandatory phaseout of 15-year-old PUBs and their immediate replacement by new bus units to promote road safety and prevent deadly accidents. – With Raymund Catindig, Artemio Dumlao, Jun Elias, Vic Alhambra, Paolo Romero

 

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