It has been over 100 days since Metro Manila has been put under community quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With restrictions slowly being eased in order for the country's economy to restart, various modes of public transportation have been allowed to operate once more. These include point-to-point buses (P2P), shuttle services, public utility buses (PUBs), modern public utility vehicles (MPUVs), public trains, taxis, and Transportation Network Vehicle Services (TNVS).

Now, another form of public transport has resumed operations after the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) officially allowed them to pick up passengers starting today, June 29. These are the UV Express Services, and the LTFRB has allowed 980 vans to operate in 47 routes to and from Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

Under Memorandum Circular 2020 – 025, LTFRB Chairman Martin Delgra said that the approved guidelines rationalizing the deployment of 980 UV Express vans along 47 routes are in line with the government's gradual, calibrated, and calculated approach on the resumption of public transportation in Metro Manila under GCQ. However, Delgra said that all UV Express operators and drivers must strictly comply with the guidelines.

LTFRB: 980 UV Express vans to operate in 47 routes starting today image

These included that all UV Express routes will be a terminal-to-terminal basis (no picking up of passengers along the route). They are also not allowed to travel along EDSA or Commonwealth Avenue, except to cross. In addition, Delgra said that the existing UV Express fare rate of PhP 2 per kilometer still stands. No fare adjustment will be applied unless approved by the LTFRB.

In keeping with the strict health and safety protocols, the LTFRB also put up guidelines that will keep the driver and their passengers safe from one another while inside the vans. These are:

• Operators must regularly examine a driver’s fitness to work, checking their body temperature and screening for symptoms of COVID-19;
• Drivers and conductors shall wear masks and gloves at all times;
• Commuters are required to wear masks to be allowed to board a UV (No Face Mask, No Ride);
• Exact fare shall be paid prior to boarding the PUV or operators/drivers may devise any fare collection system (such as the use of a fare drop off) to minimize/prevent transmittal of COVID-19;
• Passenger load must not exceed two (2) passengers per row and passengers should be seated one seat apart;
• Operators shall install impermeable barriers to seal off the driver’s compartment and between rows of seats that are less than one (1) meter apart
• Drivers and conductors shall provide each passenger upon boarding with a Passenger Contact Form which must be filled up by the passenger and submitted prior to alighting the UV for contact tracing purposes;

Failure to comply with any of these rules will net operators/drivers with fines and suspensions, as well as possible cancellation of their franchises.

Below is a list of approved UV Express routes that are operational today.

LTFRB: 980 UV Express vans to operate in 47 routes starting today image

As additional modes of public transportation resume operations, commuters now have more ways of getting to and from their workplace. But with COVID-19 still posing a threat, utmost caution must still be followed by the riding public. Always remember to wear a face mask, follow distancing measures while inside public transportation, and sanitize your hands as often as possible.