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Commuter group: Allow more PUVs before imposing number coding

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Commuter group: Allow more PUVs before imposing number coding
Vehicles crawl through traffic along EDSA in Makati on July 14, 2021.
The STAR / Walter Bollozos

MANILA, Philippines — Commuter group The Passenger Forum on Sunday welcomed the decision to keep number coding suspended but urged transport authorities to deploy more public utility vehicles to address the shortage of transport options for commuters. 

This comes after Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman Benhur Abalos assured the public that the number coding scheme will remain suspended.

In a statement, The Passenger Forum said that “the decision of the MMDA is rational and guided by common sense.”

"We believe it is premature to implement the said scheme given the lack of sufficient public mass transportation options for commuters," TPF Convenor Primo Morillo said in a statement. 

“We are happy that Chairman Abalos decided not to lift the suspension of the number coding."

READ: MMDA: Coding scheme still suspended, traffic manageable

On Friday, Abalos said that traffic along EDSA was "still manageable" but pointed out that public utility vehicles remain limited to 50 percent of their maximum passenger capacity and there is still a need for more PUVs on the road

“If we implement the number coding scheme now, can our public transport accommodate passengers given the minimum health protocols such as social distancing needed to be implemented?” Abalos said.

But earlier in June, Abalos admitted it is “expecting the worst” for traffic on EDSA as the number of cars using the major thoroughfare is approaching pre-pandemic figures.

Morillo said that amid the lack of mass transport, passengers opt to ride transport network vehicle services such as Grab.

“If we reimpose the number coding scheme now, even the TNVS units will be affected and their patrons will either use their own cars or just add to the long lines in the stations of the MRT, LRT, PNR, and the EDSA Carousel system,” he added.

TPF in its statement said that the real solution to traffic is to provide more mass transport options and allow more PUVs to ply their routes.

“Our group believes that the government is on the right track given the allotment of separate lanes for buses and for bicycles. There are, of course, rooms for improvement,” Morillo said.

"Given that commuters are still wasting hours lining up in order to go to work or get home, we need to reach pre-pandemic levels of passenger capacity first, by adding more PUVs on the road, before we can even ponder on reimposing the number coding scheme."

READ: Allowing more PUVs will help ensure compliance to COVID-19 protocols — commuter group

As far back as March, groups have called for more public utility vehicles to be allowed to ply their routes once more, with 88 percent of households in the Philippines without cars reliant on public transportation. 

According to transport group Piston, restrictions on public transportation have left thousands of drivers and operators jobless and without government aid amid the longest community quarantine in the world. 

But relief is nowhere in sight, as the national government's service contracting program—which paid drivers a subsidy to ply their routes and service commuters—remains suspended sans a funding source. 

READ: Service contracting to use 2021 budget with Bayanihan funds expiring — LTFRB

 with a report from The STAR 

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