PNP says heavy traffic, stranded commuters expected in coming days

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
PNP says heavy traffic, stranded commuters expected in coming days
Bumper-to-bumper traffic along Marcos Highway at the boundary of Marikina and Antipolo cities in Rizal as police flag down motorists on the first day of the reimplementation of enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila and nearby provinces on Monday, March 29, 2021.
The STAR / Boy Santos

MANILA, Philippines — The national police warned that more commuters in the so-called NCR+ bubble would find themselves stranded in the coming days with other transportation modes going into maintenance.

This comes as the police admit that quarantine control checkpoints, particularly those placed along the northern border of the bubble, have caused heavy traffic.

To recall, over 9,000 police personnel have been deployed to man the 1,106 checkpoints within the so-called NCR+ bubble to strictly implement protocols amid the ECQ and uniform curfew. Police leadership said each control point would be put in charge of checking motorists' documents to verify whether or not they're allowed outdoors. 

In an assessment of the first day of the enhanced community quarantine implementation sent to reporters, the PNP admitted to the effects of the newly-hoisted checkpoints on the traffic situation within the so-called bubble area.

"Heavy traffic will be experienced particularly in Northern Borders. Due to the limited and strict public transport guidelines, authorized persons outside residences tend to walk along streets," the assessment read. 

"There are still UPORs apprehended despite the announcement of ECQ within NCR. More locally stranded APORs are expected during the cancelled operations of MRT, LRT and PNR starting March 30 to April 4."

READ: Familiar transport woes show no lessons learned from last ECQ

Transport group: Remove internal checkpoints 

Much like 2020's iteration of the ECQ, the same transportation woes marred Monday morning, plaguing commuters earlier on in the pandemic. Many were left stranded and unable to find rides in transportation hubs, and major thoroughfares were left congested amid the slow-moving checkpoints. 

Police personnel also confirmed observations that public utility vehicles were largely not present to service commuters. In its assessment, the PNP listed 57% of vehicles plying the streets were of private motorists, versus just 39% of PUVs for commuters — a figure that does not bode well for the 88% of households in Metro Manila that do not own private vehicles. 

"While checkpoints have been established by many local government units in many parts within NCR+, they are counterproductive. The checkpoints restrict the mobility of all essential workers, prevent the smooth operation of public transport, and become hotspots for virus transmission," the Move as One transport coalition said in an open letter to the transportation department. 

"There were many reports this morning of commuters unable to access public transport, indicating a significant shortage in supply... Detaining people at checkpoints leads to crowding, which prolongs their exposure to the coronavirus and the elements in a small area."

READ: Cops sent to checkpoints in 'NCR+ bubble' ahead of ECQ implementation

PNP recommends: Arrest vendors, take photos of suspected fakes

On the first day of ECQ alone, the PNP disclosed that nearly 2,600 were arrested for various quarantine violations across Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal.

This comes on top of the over 17,000 have been apprehended for supposed quarantine violations since the PNP started deploying cops to enforce uniform curfew hours in the capital region.

Heavy-handed enforcement?: In response to "challenges" experienced by police enforcers, the PNP recommended even tighter measures to implement the already-strict quarantine classification in the bubble. These include: 

  • Police enforcers also listed 84 individuals who claimed to be essential workers or APORs but "could not show proof," recommending instead the re-implementation of quarantine passes to address what they said was the difficulty of enforcers in determining authorized and unauthorized persons outside residences walking along the streets.
  • The National Capital Region Police Office noted in its assessment that peddlers and vendors selling food along highways were attracting commuters and recommended closer coordination with local governments and the Metro Manila Development Authority "to apprehend, warn and compel them to stay at home." 
  • Metro Manila police also recommended that enforcers "document or take photos of medical certificates, RT-PCR Test and IDs of the bearers for possible filing of appropriate charges in case the documents are proven fake or falsified" in response to supposedly fake medical certificates being presented to enforcers. 

Move as One in its statement called for "compassionate rather than punitive approaches to enforcement." 

"The use of harsh measures by the police and traffic enforcers only underscores that the government is insensitive to the plight of Filipinos who are forced to crowd into scarce public transport or who cannot afford to buy face masks or shields. The emphasis on penalizing PUV drivers and operators has the unintended effect of reducing public transport availability, worsening the already difficult public transport situation," it said. 




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