BY GLENDA TAYONA and RUBY SILUBRICO
ILOILO City – The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) has suspended for 30 days the operation of 10 Ceres buses of Vallacar Transit, Inc. plying the route Iloilo City (Molo Terminal) to Caticlan, Malay, Aklan (via San Jose, Antique) and vice versa.
The suspension took effect yesterday, three days after a Ceres bus fell into a 30-meter deep ravine in Barangay Igbucagay, Hamtic, Antique. Three passengers died and seven others were injured.
Vallacar Transit, Inc. was ordered to surrender the buses’ yellow license plates to LTFRB Region 6.
“Automatic na once may aksidente, regardless kun sin-o ang tag-iya, we have to issue a preventive suspension to give way to an investigation,” said LTFRB regional director Richard Osmeña.
The probe begins this week.
“We have to find out, first of all, what caused the accident. We hope to prevent similar incidents in the future,” said Osmeña.
He ordered his office’s staff and asked the help of the Land Transportation Office and Philippine National Police – Traffic Management Group to monitor if Vallacar Transit, Inc. is indeed heeding the suspension order.
Units that continue to operate would be impounded, said Osmeña.
The accident happened around 9:45 p.m. on April 5. The Ceres bus (body number 6228 and plate number FMS 949) was headed to San Jose, Antique from Iloilo City when it fell into the ravine and landed on the remnants of other similarly-fated vehicles in the accident-prone area.
The driver reportedly lost control of the bus while negotiating a steep portion of the mountainside highway.
WHAT ABOUT LENT TRAVELERS?
Osmeña acknowledged that the suspension of the 10 Ceres buses may adversely affect the movement of people in the Iloilo City – Caticlan (Malay, Aklan via San Jose, Antique) route.
“That is my problem now. I cannot lift the suspension order unless the LTFRB central office tells me due to public demand,” he said.
The regional director said he plans to urge other bus companies to secure special permits to serve the route of the suspended Ceres buses.
He advised the riding public not to patronize colorum or franchise-less motor vehicles.
Vallacar Transit, Inc. would shoulder the burial of the three casualties and the medical expenses of six injured bus passengers.
“We sent our staff to the hospital in San Jose to extend assistance to the victims and their families,” according to Jade Seballos, legal and media relations manager of Vallacar Transit. “We have to make sure nga ara na sila sa maayo nga condition, nga may advice from the doctor nga okay na sila.”
The casualties were fresh John B. Lacson Foundation Maritime University graduate Grade 10 student Earl Aron Omanio, 18; Omanio’s mother Vivian, a 58-year-old music teacher at Belison National High School in Belison, Antique; and Evangeline Chicano, 58.
Those injured were bus driver Ramon Abellar, 33, of Tibiao, Antique; Edwin Omanio, 48; Hans Gabriel Omanio, 16; Lorie Mae Onera (19, student of the University of Antique); Janine Chicano (26, of Barangay Guinbangga-an, San Jose, Antique); bus helper Ervic Nepomuceno, 33, of Barangay Sta. Cruz, Pandan, Antique; and John Lorenz Sanchez (of Barangay La Paz-Tubog, Hamtic, Antique).
Seballos also said the bus company would conduct an investigation on what really happened.
She stressed that all Vallacar Transit buses undergo regular preventive maintenance.
Bus drivers are constantly reminded, too, to follow traffic safety rules and regulations and made to undergo drug tests, said Seballos.
The bus company also uses breath analyzers to check if its drivers are under the influence of liquor, she revealed.
Those who fail the tests are prohibited from driving, stressed Seballos./PN