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Traffic council deploying 'mystery riders' to protect student commuters ahead of face-to-face classes

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Traffic council deploying 'mystery riders' to protect student commuters ahead of face-to-face classes
Commuters, who are heading to their workplaces, line up at the Nepa Q-Mart station of the EDSA Bus Carousel in Quezon City early Tuesday morning, June 21, 2022, to beat the influx of passengers. The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority estimated last week that there will be a possible increase in passenger volume as fewer private cars may ply EDSA due to the continuing hike in oil prices.
The STAR / Miguel De Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — To ensure the road safety of commuting students, the Inter-Agency Council for Traffic said Thursday that it would deploy 'mystery riders' to ensure that students are safe on public transportation as the return to in-person classes draws closer. 

Deploying mystery riders has become a common tactic of transport authorities as of late. The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Boards deployed these passengers earlier in June to crack down on Transport Network Vehicle Services overcharging their passengers. 

Speaking at the Laging Handa briefing Thursday afternoon, I-ACT chief Charlie del Rosario disclosed this as he said that the council was preparing for the possibility of full in-person classes by August. 

"They can assist our students. As far as I know, the LTO has an ongoing information campaign on how our students should cross the roads," Del Rosario said in mixed Filipino and English. 

"We will be there to help and ensure that health protocols will be followed when they ride buses, especially now that there's an increase in COVID-19 cases," Del Rosario also said. 

In areas under Alert Level 1, 100% seating capacity is allowed in public transportation. However, the I-ACT still enforces a ban on standing capacity in public utility buses, saying this raises the risk of coronavirus transmission. 

I-ACT

Despite what commuter and transport groups say is a surging transport crisis, the I-ACT said its anti-colorum program is set to continue. "That's also how our mystery riders can help," he said, though he did not expound. 

Colorum is the term used by the DOTr when referring to vehicles carrying passengers without a certificate of public convenience, interim authority, or permission from the LTFRB. Although technically illegal, colorum vehicles filled gaps left by licensed public transport amid the commuting crisis.

Asked if the I-ACT will continue operations past the Duterte administration, Del Rosario said that it would be up to the incoming transport authorities. President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Thursday afternoon announced former Philippine Airlines president Jimmy Bautista is his transport chief. 

"That depends on who sits as secretary of the Department of Transportation. If they see that our service is still needed in maintaining our EDSA busway, our colorum activities, and our enforcement of traffic laws, hopefully this can continue," he said in Filipino. 

"The major achievement of I-ACT is forming a group for enforcement agencies to talk [because] enforcing traffic laws doesn't just fall on one body...We've already observed that the attitude of our passengers is slowly changing because of the EDSA Busway, because it doesn't let you alight anywhere," Del Rosario also said Thursday. 

The I-ACT is composed of the Metro Manila Council, the military, the transportation department, the Metro Manila Development Authority, the Land Transportation Office, the LTFRB, the PNP-Highway Patrol Group, and the Liga ng mga Barangay ng Pilipinas. 

Earlier, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año urged newly-elected officials to look at policies that lead to the protection of children from road accidents for this will play a critical role in ensuring that they are safe on the streets and far from road traffic injuries.

He encouraged them to include in their priority programs road safety initiatives protecting children from road accidents and penalizing individuals exposing children to the possibility of road traffic injuries.

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