LANDTRANSPORT and security sector representatives in Mindanao will forge stronger coordination to prevent safety threats to commuters, starting with ensuring compliance to the required security plan for all service operators.
“The policies are in place, we just need to reinforce implementation,” Transport Undersecretary Raul L. Del Rosario, head of the Office for Transportation Security (OTS), said during the 1st Mindanao Land Transport Security Summit held on Thursday.
The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) issued a memorandum circular in September last year requiring all bus operators and transport terminals, whether public or private, to have a security plan approved by the OTS.
In Mindanao, the southern Philippine mainland, only 12 of 40 bus operators and five out of 135 terminal operators so far have approved security plans, based on OTS data.
Winston Antero P. Barquez, head of the OTS Risk Assessment Division, said the “absence of effective security screening prior to entry into the bus or terminal” was the main “security gap” identified in the four bombing incidents in Mindanao this year.
These bombings “highlighted the need to fully operationalize and effectively enforce existing policies that govern security measures,” said Assistant Secretary Romeo M. Montenegro, deputy executive director of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), which organized the summit and will be helping coordinate action plans.
The meeting participants — which included representatives from national and local governments, police, military, transport operators, and the private sector — committed to form local-level groups to firm up security plans and integrate these initiatives into a Mindanao-wide strategy.
Davao City’s transport security framework will be tapped as one of the blueprints for the local programs. It includes multi-sector participation in security enforcement and supported by ordinances that provide legal basis for implementation.
In February this year, bus services between Davao and Marawi — passing through two other urban centers, the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan — and several other new routes intended to boost economic and cultural activities within Mindanao were launched.
Among these main bus lines is between the cities of General Santos and Dipolog via Cotabato.
Other shorter routes such as between Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur and Marawi, and Iligan-Marawi will be served by jeepneys.
“It’s time for Mindanao to have all these,” MinDA Chair Maria Belen S. Acosta said at the launching ceremony held in Marawi City.
Bangsamoro Minister of Transportation and Communication Dickson P. Hermoso, for his part, said the opening of these new services will be followed by other initiatives to improve people and cargo movement.
On June 8, MinDA and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s Ministry and Transportation and Communication signed an agreement to set up mechanisms that will enhance collaboration on project development and investment promotion. — MSJ