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School reopening to cause heavier traffic – DOTr

Elijah Felice Rosales - The Philippine Star
School reopening to cause heavier traffic â DOTr
These numbers were revealed yesterday by Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista, who stressed the need for authorities, especially the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), to coordinate their efforts to avert a traffic crisis.
Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — Expect heavy traffic on major roads when in-person classes begin on Aug. 22, as passenger volume is projected to increase by 15 percent due to the return to school of more than 27 million students.

These numbers were revealed yesterday by Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista, who stressed the need for authorities, especially the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), to coordinate their efforts to avert a traffic crisis.

“We are really expecting a heavy flow of traffic at the start of the face-to-face classes,” said the new secretary of the Department of Transportation (DOTr).

He said that by August, not only the quality, but also the safety, of the transport units plying the roads must be ensured by the DOTr for the convenient and safe conveyance of students to their schools and back home.

At least 27.56 million students, along with 876,000 teachers, are scheduled to return to school starting Aug. 22, according to the Department of Education (DepEd).

For his part, DOTr Undersecretary Mark Steven Pastor assured the public that all of government’s public transport units will be maximized in bringing learners and teachers to schools.

“There will be a 15 percent passenger increase because of face-to-face classes. Our capacity is enough. We have the rail sector; we have the ferry system; we have the MMDA and we have the local government units,” Pastor said.

Moving forward, Bautista said the DOTr will relay to President Marcos a list of proposals for the expansion of the transport sector’s capacity in handling the expected spike in passengers.

Among these recommendations is to extend for another two years the lifespan of school services that will reach their 15-year maximum limit by the end of 2022. The DOTr also intends to condone the penalties for non-confirmation during the pandemic, from March 2020 to October 2022.

The DOTr also hopes to widen the “Libreng Sakay” at rail lines operated by the government. The government will extend free rides for students at the Light Rail Transit Line 2 from Aug. 22 to Nov. 4.

The President had to take out the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 and the Philippine National Railways from the Libreng Sakay to give the rail lines the opportunity to recoup their pandemic losses.

Meanwhile, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) chair Cheloy Velicaria-Garafil said they are recommending the reinstatement of old city bus routes in Metro Manila to augment the supply of public transportation in time for the reopening of classes.

“That’s what we recommend to the Secretary (Bautista),” Garafil said in Filipino during a press briefing. “We could at least reinstate 30 percent of the old pre-pandemic bus routes, particularly for the U-Belt (university belt) and school areas.” – Romina Cabrera

JAIME BAUTISTA

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