Elvira Medina, Chairperson of the National Center for Commuter Safety and Protection, Inc. (NCCSPI) lauded the Department of Transportation (DOTr) for the release of public transport guidelines in cities under general community quarantine (GCQ) last May 1.
Medina, who is also a former Director of well-known hospitals in Metro Manila, cited that the important features of the guidelines such as social distancing using seat markers, the availability of sanitizers, the mandatory use of face masks for commuters, drivers and conductors, and the sanitation of vehicles after every trip are important protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to arrest the exponential growth of its transmission.
“Commuters are the most important resource of the country, so we are working closely with the DOTr and the transport companies and cooperatives to ensure that we have safe and road-worthy vehicles for commuting,” said Medina.
NCCSPI also supports limited transport mobility, and proposes the priority resumption of operation of industries engaged in Business Process Outsourcing (BPOs) and those located at Export Processing Zones (EPZAs) especially involved in food production since they are the highest contributors to the economy.
The guidelines released by the DOTr places strong emphasis on upholding and reinforcing social distancing protocols and public safety measures. Public utility vehicles (PUVs) will be limited to 50 percent capacity, while drivers, operators and transport terminal workers must wear face masks at all times and employ protective measures such as the use of a plastic wall to separate them from passengers, installation of sanitization facilities in terminals, sanitization of PUVs after each trip, all the while observing a strict one-meter physical distancing rule among passengers.
Areas under GCQ since May 1 include Capiz, Aklan, Davao del Norte, Davao de Oro, Iloilo City and Aurora. By May 16, provinces and cities in region II (Cagayan Valley), III (Central Luzon), IV-A (Calabarzon), CAR, VII (Eastern Visayas), IX (Zamboanga Peninsula), XI (Davao Region), and XIII (Caraga) will also be under GCQ. Medina said that the two months of lockdown is an eye-opener that the current public transport system is unfit in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The public deserves transport services that can respond to the commuters’ evolving needs. This pandemic has shown how the current public transport system needs overhauling. Like every other affected sector, our public transport sector must also transition towards a new normal that is modernized and safer for our commuting public,” concludes Medina.
Prior to release of the guidelines, commuters have expressed concern towards their safety given the current situation with COVID-19. According to commuters, old jeepneys and buses that fail to meet the standards of road-worthiness and the protocols for social-distancing further place them at risk.
“The move to impose a hierarchy of vehicles under GCQ is part of the government’s efforts to ensure that we lessen the risks of spreading the virus,” said DOTr Assistant Secretary for the Road Transport and Infrastructure Mark Richmund de Leon. “This is why modernized buses and jeepneys are given the most priority due to their capabilities to provide an automized fare collection system and higher vehicle capacity.”
Meanwhile, Metro Manila, Laguna province, and Cebu City will still remain under a modified enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) until May 31. Public transportation under ECQ is prohibited.
Other regions considered to be at low risk will no longer be under GCQ or ECQ but will require minimum public health safety standards.
To further ensure the readiness of public transport in cities and provinces under GCQ by May 16, the DOTr also conducted a dry run of public transport vehicles last May 12.
Photo Source: BenarNews/Luis Liwanag