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DOTr calls for end to âCOVID-19 smugglingâ
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said he was informed that closed vans and trucks smuggle people through the borders of Metro Manila in exchange for cash. Once at the borders, the smuggled people will be fetched by commuter vans.
STAR/Geremy Pintolo, file

DOTr calls for end to ‘COVID-19 smuggling’

Richmond Mercurio (The Philippine Star) - April 7, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Transportation (DOTr) has called on law enforcement agencies, the transport sector and local governments to end so-called “COVID-19 smuggling” involving trucking companies and colorum vehicles that illegally transport COVID untested people into the National Capital Region (NCR) Plus quarantine bubble.

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said he was informed that closed vans and trucks smuggle people through the borders of Metro Manila in exchange for cash. Once at the borders, the smuggled people will be fetched by commuter vans.

These operations, Tugade said, serve as vectors of transmission for COVID as the people being transported have not been tested before entering Metro Manila.

He said the operation is a clear violation of health protocols and must be stopped immediately through the concerted effort of the DOTr, Land Transportation Office (LTO), Land Transportation, Franchising and Regulatory Board, Inter-Agency Council for Traffic, Philippine National Police Highway Patrol Group and local government units.

“These things must not be tolerated. Let’s move strong on this. This should be stopped. They compromise the entire nation. All of our efforts in testing, isolation and treatment will go to waste because of this,” Tugade said.

A viral video reportedly taken in southern Luzon shown to Tugade revealed the illegal operation.

In the video, a truck was shown filled with people huddled inside after it was opened by the truck helper. Many of those inside the van were not wearing masks or face shields.

A man, supposedly the one taking the video, thanked the truck driver for transporting the people.

Once outside the truck, the people were then instructed to board several unmarked commuter vans which would bring them to their destinations in Metro Manila, according to the DOTr.

The LTO yesterday issued a show cause order against the driver/registered owner of the truck with license plate CTJ694.

It said the truck illegally transported commuters/passengers of colorum vans traversing the Quezon-Bicol checkpoints from Ragay, Camarines Sur to Tagkawayan, Quezon.

During the Holy Week, the DOTr said 12 colorum vehicles bound for different cities and municipalities in the Bicol region were apprehended by LTO enforcers.

The Bicol Inter-Agency Task Force noted that there has been an increase in the movement of people trying to cross borders to avoid the impact of enhanced community quarantine in the NCR Plus bubble, which covers Metro Manila and the adjacent provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal.

From March 19 to April 2, there were reportedly 79 persons who tested positive for COVID-19 and arrived in Bicol from Metro Manila aboard colorum vehicles.

The DOTr said investigation showed that the scheme starts with an illegal dispatcher looking for passengers on Facebook, where an online booking is made.

Once a number of passengers is reached, the dispatcher will call a colorum operator for a door-to-door pickup of confirmed passengers.

Tugade said workers outside the NCR Plus bubble classified as authorized persons outside of residence (APORs) could still reach their places of work inside Metro Manila and other areas of the bubble by using authorized forms of travel such as provincial buses, subject to the restrictions and requirements by LGUs and free ride service being offered by the DOTr for health workers and APORs only after proper health screening.

COVID-19 VACCINE
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