Vice presidential candidate to runningmate President Benigno Aquino III and former senator Manuel Roxas III has been sworn in, several controversies later, as secretary of the Department of Transportation and Communication (DoTC). The ceremony was witnessed by friends and family, including his wife, television anchor Korina Sanchez, his mother Judy Araneta-Roxas, son Paolo and sister Ria Ojeda. The newest Cabinet member hopes to cure, not become, the President’s headache, “I hope to be the Tylenol, aspirin, paracetamol,” he joked.]

MANILA, OCTOBER 29, 2011 (STAR) By Rainier Allan Ronda - Transportation and Communications Secretary Manuel Roxas II bared yesterday that he would not take a day off on All Saints’ Day on Nov. 1 and would instead inspect the country’s seaport, airports and bus terminals to ensure the safety of commuters.

“Our main concern during this year’s ‘Ligtas na Undas’ is ensuring that our people arrive in their destinations safely through adequate transport means either by land, sea or air, and afforded convenience in all terminals,” Roxas said.

Roxas instructed all the attached agencies of the Department of Transportation and Communication to be responsive in assisting travelers.

He visited the Batangas port, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3, and the Philtranco bus terminal in Pasay as part of his monitoring efforts under Ligtas na Undas.

At the Batangas port, one of the most populous ports in the south, Roxas checked the port’s facilities and the security procedures enforced by the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA).

He boarded ships en route to the southern provinces and inspected the facilities of vessels, ensuring that there is no overloading of passengers.

At least 5,000 passengers use the Batangas port on peak days, but authorities expect 25,000 to 35,000 travelers before All Saints’ Day.

“We anticipated the increase in passenger volume during Undas. Additional flight and ship schedules for various domestic destinations have been arranged and coordinated with us to ensure the people reach their provinces and be with their families to observe this important public holiday,” Roxas said.

Roxas also visited NAIA Terminal 3 to inspect security procedures, talked with passengers on how long it took them to clear the customs area, and checked the conditions of toilets and waiting areas at the terminal.

He advised travelers to arrive in airports and seaports earlier to avoid the rush and complete the check-in and pre-departure security procedures accordingly.

The DOTC chief inspected the terminal in Pasay City of Philtranco bus that operates as far as the Ilocos region in the north and Bicol in the south.

“Our observance of this tradition is important to us. But we also have to keep in mind that first, we need to guarantee safety of our passengers, or all the essence of what we’re trying to celebrate is lost,” Roxas said.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) had conducted random drug tests on drivers of provincial buses.

Bus franchise operators and drivers welcomed the new testing procedure as their contribution to ensure passengers are in safe hands.

Under the DOTC’s Ligtas na Undas program additional security personnel, traffic assistance, including medical aides will be fielded in various transport terminals. Five helicopters on loan from the private sector are also on stand-by in passenger terminals and transport holding bays ready for use in emergency operations.

Roxas has instructed DOTC attached agencies to immediately report to the DOTC central office any untoward incident. Travelers needing assistance can call the DOTC hotline 7890.

Meanwhile, the Philippine National Railways (PNR) announced that it would deploy additional coaches and trips for the Bicol Express (South Line) operations.

PNR’s commuter train in Metro Manila (Tutuban-Muntinlupa-Biñan) will continue to operate during this period.

Meanwhile, an official of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) said measures have been put in place to address the influx of passengers going to the provinces for All Saints’ Day.

MIAA assistant general manager Gen. Vicente Guerzon told the news forum Balitaan sa Aloha Hotel in Manila yesterday that Philippine Airlines (PAL), Cebu Pacific, ZestAir and Air Philippines would deploy additional domestic flights to accommodate more passengers.

Guerzon said that during normal or regular flights, 70 percent of seats are taken but they expect 90 to 100 percent seating capacity a few days before All Saints’ Day.

Based on the study conducted by the MIAA during the past five years, there is a heavy volume of passengers leaving Metro Manila on Oct. 29 and 30.

“We have the density for passenger movement. There was really heavy influx of about 11,000 or so additional passengers during the times of Oct. 29 to 30. But now Oct. 31 is also a holiday. So most likely, there will be more passengers on the 31st of this month,” Guerzon said during the forum.

Guerzon said these additional flights would accommodate the huge volume of passengers.

He said that they have identified a lot of gateways like Tueguegaro and Ilocos in Luzon; Caticlan, Iloilo, Cebu, Dumaguete City and Bacolod City in the Visayas, and Davao City, Cagayan de Oro City, Cotabato City and Zamboanga in Mindanao. – With Sandy Araneta, Rudy Santos

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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