EDITORIAL - Commuting Nightmare
(The Philippine Star) - June 3, 2020 - 12:00am

Several lawmakers pointed it out: the government had 11 weeks to prepare for the easing of community quarantine restrictions. So why did commuters in Metro Manila go through hell as they returned to work on the first day of the general community quarantine on Monday?

Pre-pandemic, the daily commute in the National Capital Region had been horrid for a long time. Inefficient, uncoordinated deployment of public transport assets, ineffectual traffic enforcement, and a system of paying public utility drivers based on the number of passengers they picked up aggravated the inadequate road infrastructure amid a continually growing number of vehicles. Before the coronavirus pandemic, a morning rush hour commute of up to three hours was not unusual for those working or studying in the National Capital Region.

On Monday, the first day of the NCR’s shift to general community quarantine, that commute stretched up to four hours one way. Some workers weren’t even able to commute and were forced to return home. In several areas, physical distancing flew out the window as commuters desperate for a ride competed for the few public transport vehicles that came their way.

Yesterday, senators and labor groups blamed the Department of Transportation for the mess. DOTr officials, for their part, appealed to employers to provide shuttles for their workers. Other officials described the commuters’ ordeal as birth pains, as more buses were fielded yesterday and the commuting experience improved.

Those birth pains should leave indelible lessons on the need to take into consideration the situation of the country’s workforce, the majority of whom depend on public transportation. The government has stressed the need to gradually restart the economy. This cannot happen if employees are unable to reach their workplaces.

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