Commuter group hopes for limited PUV operations instead of transport ban
File photo dated March 17, 2020 shows commuters scrambling for a ride in Commonwealth market after the government suspended public transportation following the announcement of enhanced community quarantine.
The STAR/Michael Varcas
Commuter group hopes for limited PUV operations instead of transport ban
Franco Luna ( - March 25, 2020 - 8:01pm

MANILA, Philippines — A commuter advocacy group on Wednesday called on the Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases to reconsider its ban on public transportation, which has suspended the operations of trains, jeepneys, taxis and buses for the duration of the enhanced community quarantine.

In an open letter to Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, who is also IATF-EID spokesperson, AltMobility PH appealed for the total ban on public transport to be relaxed by allowing public utility vehicles to operate in a limited capacity. 

Pointing out that many other cities decided to keep public transportation running, the group also mentioned that healthcare workers, expectant mothers, persons with disability (PWDs) and cancer and dialysis patients have been forced to walk for hours to get to hospitals amid the lack of transportation options. 

"People need to go to the market to buy food, to the pharmacies to buy medicine, and to the hospital to get operated on. How can the pregnant get to the hospital to give birth and the elderly get dialysis  if we don't have public transportation?" the letter read in Filipino. 

"Ordinary citizens have limited access to basic needs such as food, medicine and healthcare services."

"With the ban on public transport, [...] the government has fundamentally removed the capacity of the majority to undertake these essential trips," they added. 

Acknowledging that safety measures must be observed, AltMobility PH appealed for the task force to: 

  1. Allow LGUs to identify skeletal public transport routes necessary to serve essential trips for frontliners, health workers, and even ordinary citizens within their locality 
  2. Allow LGUs to permit tricycle operations at limited capacity

In an earlier online exchange, Jedd Ugay, chief mobility officer of AltMobility PH, told that what happens while waiting for a ride is also cause for more concern.

READ: Why some are saying 'social distancing' is a privilege

"If the lines are long and cramped, people are still exposed. If they wait in line for a long time, the effects of having few passengers are offset," he said in Filipino. 

According to a 2015 study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, they said, "only 12% of households in Metro Manila own a private vehicle."

Thus, the group said, the remaining 88% of Filipinos were left without any other options besides walking or cycling. 

AltMobility PH said that as it stands, the current options for health workers, which largely involves shuttles, do not sufficiently meet the existing demand. 

They also asked local government units to ensure a number of safety measures for public utility vehicles and tricycles, including: 

  1. Providing drivers protective equipment
  2. Restricting passenger numbers to half of each vehicle's capacity per trip
  3. Installing barriers between drivers and passengers 
  4. Limiting human contact when giving cash payments
  5. Providing disinfection services to all vehicles 
  6. Regulating the number of vehicles on the road and their operating hours 

"Public transport is a public health issue. We need to provide our people with clean, efficient and safe public transport for essential, unavoidable trips. Otherwise, we are putting our people at risk of getting unnecessarily tired, going hungry, and ultimately more vulnerable to COVID-19," Ugay said.  

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