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Solon: Rethink plastic barriers’ use in PUVs

THE Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) should rethink the policy of requiring plastic barriers in public utility vehicles should eyewitness accounts of the bus that caught fire along Commonwealth Avenue on January 3 prove to be true, Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon said Monday.

“Transportation authorities should investigate what eyewitness accounts say about the plastic barriers inside the bus that caught fire. This could be a basis for IATF to rethink the policy of installing plastic barriers in public transportation,” Biazon said.

“The plastic barriers appear to be fatal in an accident, not only because of their flammability but also as a hindrance to the movement of passengers rushing to exit a vehicle,” he added.

Biazon said there is “no doubt” that the plastic barriers pose a danger during a fire onboard a vehicle due to their flammable nature.

“Either the fumes and smoke will choke passengers, or the melting plastic will burn them,” he said.

The lawmaker stressed that while it is understandable that the plastic barrier policy was adopted as an anti-COVID measure, the use of face masks with face shields should already be enough.

“It is understandable for the IATF to come up with various measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 but the measures should also take into account other dangers inherent in public transportation,” he said.

Moreover, Biazon said the January 3 bus fire should bring about a policy or even legislation mandating the use of fire retardant or fireproof materials in public transportation, particularly those assembled or manufactured in the Philippines, such as those usually used as passenger conveyances.

He lamented that while the use of fire-retardant fabric, foam, or plastic in vehicles manufactured abroad are mandated by laws in other countries, there seems to be a policy gap in the Philippines,” he said.

“As can be seen in photos of the bus that caught fire, all that remained of the seats were the metal frames indicating that the material that the seats were made of were combustible,” he said.

“We should not just look at this just as an unfortunate incident but as one that we should learn from and take action. It is imperative that existing policy is reviewed and amended or a new one adopted if found necessary,” he stressed.

The Muntinlupa lawmaker said the thick black smoke as seen in video footage of the incident supported the same theory that the seats were made of flammable materials.

“Two lives were senselessly lost due to the act of the person who caused the fire, but other lives were put on the line because of conditions in the vehicle,” he said.