The Land Transportation Office (LTO) and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) have started a thorough investigation into the tragic bus accident involving a unit of Vallacar Transit Inc. in Antique, which claimed at least a dozen lives and left several injured.
LTO Chief Assistant Secretary Atty. Vigor D. Mendoza II has directed the Western Visayas Regional Office to spearhead the probe “for us to have a clear picture on what really happened and eventually obtain necessary and useful information that will assist us in coming up with more measures to prevent fatal road accidents like this.”
Senator Grace Poe, chairperson of the franchise-granting Senate Committee on Public Services, reiterated the push for her pending bill to create a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to be solely be responsible in investigating transportation-related incidents in air, land and sea, including railways and pipeline systems.
Lamenting the deadly Antique bus crash, Poe said, “As we express our deepest sympathies to the families of the bus crash victims, we expect that all assistance will be given to tide them over this tragic incident.”
“We are enraged with the loss of lives that could have been prevented,” said Poe, noting that “regrettably, crash incidents continue to happen because vehicles that are not roadworthy are still allowed to ply the highways, and some drivers get hold of the steering wheel even without rigorous training.”
The senator added: “We reiterate our push for our pending bill to create a National Transportation Safety Board that will solely be responsible investigating transportation-related incidents in air, land and sea, including railways and pipeline systems.”
Moreover, Poe’s enabling bill “will cover strict inspection of public vehicles, driver’s licensing and safety measures to prevent road accidents.”
According to Vallacar, a Ceres bus liner, carrying 24 passengers, veered off the road and plummeted into a ravine at around 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, resulting in at least 12 fatalities, including the driver, conductor, and line inspector, and injuries to the rest of the passengers.
Based on a document from the LTFRB issued Wednesday afternoon, at least 16 have died from the accident. An official noted that the number could still rise, given that “there are still people in critical condition.”
Vallacar has expressed deep regret and extended condolences to the families of the victims.
The company has voluntarily suspended the operations of 12 units under the same franchise as the ill-fated bus. Additionally, Vallacar has committed to providing financial support, including covering medical and burial expenses for the victims and their families.
“The management has assigned personnel to be on stand-by at the hospital for further updates and assistance. Rest assured that we are doing everything that we can to make sure that this is being handled properly and carefully,” Vallacar said in a statement.
On Wednesday, LTFRB Chairman Teofilo Guadiz III slapped a 90-day suspension on the operation of Ceres bus company.
“We already issued a 90-day preventive suspension to the entire fleet, meaning to say yung mga bus na nagbabyahe ng rutang ‘yon, there are 15 of them, have already issued a preventive suspension right away,” Guadiz said.
He added that the agency is looking into reports that the area was reportedly the same spot where a Ceres bus also fell killing two passengers several years ago.
Aside from this, the LTFRB has started conducting a site inspection and has been coordinating with the insurance company to compensate the victims.
“Ang roadworthiness ay done during the registration but it is incumbent upon the bus company na every time babiyahe ‘yan, sisiguraduhin nila na maayos yung kanilang mga bus. So that’s what I will be looking into, titingnan namin yung ledgers sa terminal kung ano yung condition bago ito umalis, and of course, we will look also into the condition of the driver, “ Guadiz added.
Furthermore, Mendoza emphasized the importance of rigorous roadworthiness inspections for vehicles, especially public utility vehicles.
Following the incident, Mendoza said that the LTO will further “intensify” the enforcement of the “No Registration, No Travel” policy through law enforcement operations and programs to encourage owners to re-register their vehicles, especially public utility vehicles.
“The registration of vehicles is a way for our government to ensure the road worthiness of vehicles for the safety of everyone,” he said, adding that the agency is also exploring the possibility of weekly inspections for passenger buses.
Vallacar noted that it is taking initiative in complying with regulations and laws.
“The management guarantees the riding public that we are taking all the appropriate steps to ensure that our buses are road-worthy and well maintained,” Vallacar said.
With the incident, Mendoza said the agency is collaborating with the LTFRB and the Department of Transportation to develop further road safety measures.
This initiative includes outreach to bus companies and operators to reinforce safety protocols, particularly in anticipation of increased travel during the Christmas season.