Palace stands by restrictions on public transportation

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Palace stands by restrictions on public transportation
Jeepney drivers on June 1, 2020 hold up slogans calling to be allowed back on the streets during the general community quarantine.
AFP / Maria Tan

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Sunday stood firm on its decision to prohibit some modes of public transportation as a precautionary measure against the coronavirus despite a poll indicating that the majority of Filipino families view the restriction as burdensome.

A mobile phone survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) found 77% of respondents saying that the suspension of public transport was burdensome to their families. The burden was greater for nearly half or 47% of families that do not own any vehicle, according to the non-commissioned nationwide poll conducted from May 4 to 10.

Four in every ten respondents or 40% said the suspension was "very burdensome" while 37% said it was "somewhat burdensome."  Only 22% said they felt little or no burden from the suspension.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque justified the transportation restriction, saying the government cannot be complacent until a vaccine for the pandemic is developed.

"We heard the sentiments and understand the predicament of workers (who commute) from their places of residence to their workplaces and vice versa when we reopened the economy... We have to consider, however, that Metro Manila, is still under general community quarantine (GCQ); thus, the threat of COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) still exists and is real," Roque said in a statement.

"At this juncture, we still cannot let all modes of transportation to be on the streets. This will defeat the purpose of quarantine. Unless a vaccine or cure is available, we must not let our guards down," he added.

Some forms of mass transportation are already allowed in GCQ areas but they cannot operate at full capacity to ensure safe physical distancing. Despite the relaxed quarantine measures, jeepneys are still not allowed because of difficulties in observing  safe distancing.

Roque said the government is conducting daily assessments on the transport sector.

"The government is trying to do more in order to help everyone...What the administration is doing is balancing the need to revitalize the economy so that we can have livelihood and jobs while looking out for and protecting the health and safety of the public as well," he said.

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Private sector urged to provide shuttle services

Roque also urged the private sector to provide shuttle services to their employees. He said the transportation department opened eight city bus routes last week and intends to open three more on Monday to address the problem of limited transportation.

The transportation department is implementing a gradual, calibrated and partial resumption of public transport under two phases.

From June 1 to 21, the available means of public transportation are trains, bus augmentation, taxis, transport network vehicle services (TNVS), shuttle services, point-to-point buses, public utility buses and bicycles.

Public utility buses, which were supposed to resume operations during the second phase, were gradually allowed to ply roads during the first phase. The second phase, to be implemented from June 22 to 30, will allow modern public utility vehicles, and UV Express to resume operations.

Roque said 28 point-to-point routes with 268 bus units, provided access to commuters from peripheral areas like Alabang, Bacoor, Bulacan, and Antipolo.

About 31,700 taxis and TNVs were likewise deployed, and are using cashless transactions and online payments for fare collection.

"In the case of health workers and medical frontliners, we have been continuously providing free rides in almost 20 routes and 95 hospitals around Metro Manila," Roque said.

As of June 6, 2020, the transportation department's free ride for health workers has reached 1,073,975 persons nationwide.

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