In this April 15, 2020, photo, personnel of the Highway Patrol Group and Metro Manila Development Authority check the quarantine pass of motorists plying EDSA amid the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine.
The STAR/Michael Varcas

Biz group wants phased resumption of Metro Manila trains, buses to restart economy

Ian Nicolas Cigaral ( - April 21, 2020 - 8:41pm

MANILA, Philippines — With the six-week Luzon lockdown coming to an end by April 30 unless extended, the government should allow trains and buses to operate again in Metro Manila to help essential companies partially resume operations and maintain a skeletal workforce, a business group said.

In an April 20 letter to Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) said the government should gradually open public transportation in key routes in the capital to ensure unhampered movements of essential goods and services, as well as to avoid more business closures and layoffs.

MAP said the phased resumption of transport services must be based on demand, adding that “more or less” 250,000 employees out of an estimated 5.4 million total workers in Metro Manila as of July 2019 need to commute to work in order for companies to operate under skeletal force.

As the situation improves, MAP said the government could gradually allow more workers in Metro Manila to go to work.

“There is a need to allow more companies to open in the priority sectors for which public transportation, initially buses including the LRT/MRT and PNR, are required,” MAP told Tugade.

“In other words, the proposed system is a demand-driven transport system where the number of transport vehicles to be authorized will be determined by the size of the requirements for transport service,” it added.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Philippines reported 6,599 cases of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Of those infections, 437 died due to complications while 654 patients survived.

MAP submitted the proposal as government officials debate over when to reboot an economy hammered by wide-ranging lockdowns without causing a second wave of infection. The business group stressed that reopening public transportation “must be balanced by the need to optimize protection from COVID-19 for commuters to minimize the possibility of infection and spread of the virus.”

Should the government decide to adopt the proposal, MAP said transport authorities should discuss the plan with bus operators and railway administrators so they can “identify and plug its weaknesses and blind spots” and come up with a compensation system "that is fair to both the operators and the drivers.”

“If DOTr/LTFRB find the proposal feasible, they can begin by experimenting it on a limited basis (such as starting with EDSA) and expand it gradually to other routes,” the group said.

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