Manila, July 18, 2003 (MALAYA) Tourism Secretary Richard J. Gordon last week led other government officials in launching the Worry-Free on Wheels project that would require all taxi cabs in Metro Manila to sport big body numbers for easy identification and processing of complaints by passengers.

In the ceremony held at the San Ignacio Plaza, Intramuros, Manila, and graced by officials of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) and the Land Transportation Office (LTO), Gordon said the project would provide a quick response mechanism for the public to report abusive taxi drivers and transportation-related crimes.

The tourism chief explained that all Metro Manila taxicabs will be assigned body numbers to be painted on the front, sides, back and even inside the cabin. The assigned numbers will be painted over color-coded backgrounds corresponding to the place where the taxicab is kept when not on the road.

"All the other body markings will have to go so that passengers need only take note of the body numbers and color background of taxis when reporting them to authorities. Definitely this will help protect the general public as well as tourists, " Gordon said.

Gordon added that it would not be necessary for the taxicabs to change body colors as the assigned colored background for the body numbers will not cover the entire vehicle but only specific fields.

Taxi operators will be given ample time to comply with the memorandum circular to be issued by the LTFRB regarding the color-coded number scheme, even as he revealed that plans are also in the works to require taxis to issue receipts to passengers.

The project aims to ensure the safety of the commuting public and to professionalize taxicab operations in the country. He said the concept worked well in Olongapo City when he implemented it there in the 1980s while serving as city mayor.

"Drivers and operators of taxis, as well as all other PUVs, have a responsibility to safely bring their passengers to their intended destinations. With this system we are implementing, the days of abusive taxi drivers who choose passengers, charge exorbitant fares and commit all other irregularities, would be finally over," Gordon said.

Atty. Ma. Victoria V. Jasmin, Director of the Office of Tourism Standard, said the public can call telephone numbers 524-1660 and 524-1728 for their complaints and when seeking assistance for the recovery of items left in taxis.

"Through this project, the public can also commend taxi drivers who have been very professional and courteous and fair in their dealings. We also wish to bring forth the positive in us Filipinos in the same way that the DOT trumpets the good deeds of our countrymen," Jasmin said.

"An example of this would be the people whom Secretary Gordon presented to the public and the media for their exemplary actions like returning money and other valuables left by tourists in hotels and airports," she added.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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