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Palace says transport woes to be over by June 22

Commuters riding a bus in La Union observe physical distancing on May 13, 2020.

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang is optimistic that transportation woes will be over starting Monday with the resumption of the operations of buses, modern jeepneys, and UV Express.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said no fewer than 3,600 buses and 1,500 other vehicles are expected to ply roads as the government starts the second phase of the resumption of public transportation.

"Well, alam po ninyo siguro matatapos na iyong hinagpis natin sa kakulangan ng public transportation beginning June 22 po (Perhaps, you know that our suffering caused by lack of public transportation would end beginning June 22)," Roque told state-run PTV-4 on Saturday.

"But we need to observe social distancing because we do not have an alternative. We have to make sure that buses would fill up only up to 50% of their capacity because while we need transportation to go to work, the absence of social distancing could cause sickness and deaths," he added.

Roque said the public should always remember that the threat posed by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) persists until a vaccine or medicine is developed.

Mass transportation was suspended in March when the government placed various parts of the country under community quarantine.

The government gradually allowed some modes of public transportation when quarantine restrictions were eased nationwide this month. However, many workers who were required to report to their offices were stranded because of limited public transportation.

The transportation department had planned to resume mass transportation in two phases.

The first phase, which was implemented from June 1 to 21, allowed trains, bus augmentation, taxis, transport network vehicle services, shuttle services, point-to-point buses, and bicycles to ply roads. The second phase, which will start today, will permit all buses, modern jeepneys, and UV express to resume operations.

To ensure safe distancing, only up to 20% of the capacity of modern jeepneys may be filled up while buses may ferry up to half of their passenger capacity. UV Express units, meanwhile, can accommodate up to nine passengers per trip.

Roque said a preliminary review of COVID-19 data would be conducted this week to determine whether quarantine measures in Metro Manila can be adjusted.

"We can determine whether it (Metro Manila) will remain under GCQ (general community quarantine) or measures will be relaxed further to MGCQ (modified general community quarantine) or revert to modified ECQ (enhanced community quarantine)," the Palace spokesman said.

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