Pee for a fee: the issue of sanitary facilities for bus passengers on long-distance trips
posted 11-Mar-2018  ·  
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Aside from attending a Senate hearing on his bill to declare Oct. 26 of each year as a special non-working holiday in the province of Catanduanes to enable the people to celebrate its foundation day, Congressman Cesar Sarmiento last week also showed up in the Senate committee on public transportation to join the deliberations on House Bill 725 that seeks to prohibit the collection of fees from passengers for the use of sanitary facilities in the land transportation terminals, stations, stops and rest areas.

Principally authored by the late Rep. Maximo Dalog (Lone District, Mountain Province), the bill soon had as co-authors Reps. Cesar Sarmiento (Lone District, Catanduanes), Strike Revilla (2nd District, Cavite), Johnny Pimentel (2nd District, Surigao del Sur), Fernando Gonzalez (3rd District, Albay), Winston Castelo (2nd District, Quezon City), Rozzano Rufino Biazon (Lone District, Muntinlupa City), Mark Aeron Sambar (Party-list, PBA), and Marlyn Primicias-Agabas (6th District, Pangasinan).

The bill declares that the right of every establishment to a fair return of investment carries with it a corresponding social responsibility to provide adequate facilities for the comfort of its clientele. Towards this end, the State shall require the owners, operators and administrators of land transport terminals, stations, stops and rest areas to provide and maintain suitable and clean sanitary facilities, free of charge to passengers and travelers.

Section 3 of the bill provides it shall be unlawful for the owner, operator or administrator of land transport terminals, stations, stops and rest areas to collect fees from passengers for the use of regular sanitary facilities therein. The concerned passenger must show the paid bus ticket for the day in order to avail of the free use of the sanitary facility.

The proposed Act, however, will not apply to separate, well-appointed or deluxe sanitary facilities that are operated solely for commercial purposes and for the convenience of passengers who require and prefer such facilities within land transport terminals, stations, stops or rest areas.

For decades now, passengers of buses bound to and from Metro Manila have been forced to answer the call of nature in so-called “comfort rooms” that offer scant comfort. The owner or operator charges one five or ten pesos for the all-too-familiar experience: the foul smell of urine, inadequate maintenance, and the lack of a modicum of privacy.

The passenger does not have much of a choice, for the bus company usually has an arrangement with the rest-stop restaurant to feed the drivers for free as long as it brings passengers to patronize its restaurant and restroom.

There probably would be no need for Rep. Dalog, Cong. Sarmiento and the rest of the co-authors of HB 725 to craft the bill if the local governments have been strict in requiring restaurants and similar establishments within their respective territorial jurisdictions to comply with the Sanitation Code

Perhaps, the concerned national agency could issue a circular or something that would classify such restaurants along the national highway as tourist establishments with adequate and well-appointed sanitation facilities. Buses plying the national highway on long trips would, in turn, be required to make stops only in such DOT-accredited establishments to ensure that their passengers get the comfort that they deserve.


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