Physical distancing on PUVs back to one meter for now â Palace
Photo dated September 14, 2020 shows MRT-3 commuters at the North Avenue station observing the reduced physical distancing protocol by the Department of Transportation on Monday morning.
The STAR/Michael Varcas
Physical distancing on PUVs back to one meter for now — Palace
Franco Luna ( - September 17, 2020 - 12:45pm

MANILA, Philippines — Physical distancing requirements on public transportation are back to one meter again for the time being while the matter is decided on by President Rodrigo Duterte, his spokesperson disclosed Thursday. 

Duterte is set to announce his decision on Monday. 

The original proposal to gradually reduce the distancing to 0.75 meters and later to half a meter was made by transportation officials with the capacity increase in mind, they said, though the idea drew the fervor of multi-sectoral groups and other government agencies almost immediately after it was announced. 

Citing figures from the Healthcare Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19, health chief Francisco Duque warned at a Palace briefing that shortening the required distance between passengers from one meter to 0.75 meters could possibly result in 686 additional coronavirus cases recorded per day.

The Department of Health also released a graphic asking commuters to stick to options that could afford one-meter distancing "if possible," while Interior Secretary Eduardo Año warned that it could cause an infection spike that would lead to "going back" to enhanced community quarantine.

In response to the flack, the Department of Transportation reminded the public that the policy had already been approved by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, which is headed by no less than Duque himself. 

'We have no choice but to commute'

At an online forum hosted by the Covid Action Network Philippines on Thursday morning, civil society groups and business groups challenged transportation and IATF officials to try commuting for 30 days for them to experience the daily plight of commuters in the country, which they said was only worsened by the new policy.

The forum was attended by the Move as One Coalition, Action for Economic Reforms, the Health Justice and Healthy Philippines Alliance, the National Confederation of Transport Workers Union, Nagkaisa Labor Coalition, Akbayan Youth, and UP Alyansa. 

"Many of us don't have the privilege of staying at home because if we do not work, including our children and family, we will not be able to eat. We have no choice but to use public transportation, but with the proposal to reduce the distance within public transportation we are more at risk of becoming more infected with COVID-19," Ernesto Ofracio of urban poor coalition Aktibong Kilusan Tungo sa Isang Bayan said at the forum.

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