MANILA, Philippines — Physical distancing between commuters inside public transportation will be reduced from 1-meter to .75 meter starting Monday as part of a move to “optimize” physical distance between commuters, the Department of Transportation said.
In a statement issued Saturday night, the transportation department said that the decision was made to help in the opening and recovery of the economy as public utility vehicles are expected to accommodate more passengers with the enforcement of the new protocol.
The department added that it would still be requiring masks and face shields before allowing commuters on board, along with strictly implementing “no talking and answering calls” policies on public transportation amid the new shift.
The World Health Organization recommends maintaining a minimum of one metre apart from others amid the coronavirus-induced quarantines.
With the protocol shift, the department said the public utility vehicles can serve more passengers, including:
- Public utility jeepneys will be able to increase their capacity from one to two passengers or 10-12%.
- 2×2 buses can now service an additional 1-3 passengers, while a 3×2 type of bus, it can now serve up to 36 passengers from 24-25
- UV Express can serve an additional 1-2 passengers
- For the LRT-1: one (1) meter: 155 passengers; 0.75-meter: 204 passengers; 0.5-meter: 255 passengers; and 0.3-meter: 300 passengers.
- For the LRT-2: one (1) meter: 160 passengers; 0.75-meter: 212 passengers; 0.5-meter: 274 passengers; and 0.3-meter: 502 passengers.
- For the MRT-3: one (1)-meter: 153 passengers or a maximum capacity of 13%; 0.75-meter: 204 passengers or a maximum capacity of 17%; 0.5-meter: 255 passengers or a maximum capacity of 22%; and 0.3-meter: 327 passengers or a maximum capacity of 28%.
- For the Philippine National Railways: one (1)-meter: 166 passengers; 0.75-meter: 184 passengers; 0.5-meter: 256 passengers; 0.3-meter: 320 passengers.
The department added that the reductions would be carried out gradually and “will be implemented in phases or after every two (2) weeks: from the present 1-meter distance which was enforced last 19 August 2020, it will be reduced to 0.75 meters (starting 14 September 2020), 0.5 meters (starting 28 September 2020), and 0.3 meters (starting 12 October 2020).”
The protocol is “subject to changes should there be any concern after the implementation,” the statement reads.
‘Grievances on public transport woes’
“In recent days, we have seen and heard the grievances of our people on the lack of public transportation, along with the call of the economic team to work together for the sectors to open up and revive the country’s economy,” Transportation undersecretary for administrative service Artemio Tuazon, Jr. said in Filipino at a press briefing Saturday.
Tuazon added that the move comes as a result of a directive from transportation secretary Arthur Tugade “to study how to increase the capacity of our public transport without sacrificing the health and welfare of our people.”
The department added in its statement that it would also allow the opening of 28 more traditional PUJ routes, with 1,159 authorized units to ply in Metro Manila starting Monday to complement the added capacity.
While the recent moves are heralded by the department as a solution to the longstanding transportation woes over the pandemic, though, transport group Piston maintains that the traditional jeepneys now allowed to ply their routes are still a small fraction of the estimated 74,000 traditional PUJs idled by the stoppage in public transportation, and whose drivers have been left jobless for over five months now.
Over the pandemic, transport advocates have long been calling for service contracting and active transport infrastructure.
Transportation undersecretary for railways Timothy John Batan said that apart from consultations with medical experts and simulation activities regarding transmission and exposure, the enforcement of reduced physical distancing on railways was based on the results of a survey of international practice on how railway operators and regulators are handling the coronavirus disease pandemic.
“One of the things we have seen according to our current state of COVID-19 is that we are the only [country] left that enforces this 1-meter social distancing, especially inside the trains. Outside the train, the stations are still observing social distancing, but inside them, according to our study, it’s only us still enforcing this,” Batan said in Filipino. — Franco Luna
Other regions and provinces in the Philippines considered moderate and low-risk areas will be placed under general community quarantine starting May 1. Bookmark this page for updates. (Main image by The STAR/Edd Gumban)
The Department of Labor and Employment says it has released some P6.3 million in livelihood assistance to various workers’ groups in Mimaropa.
The beneficiaries are fishers association, coconut farmers, tricycle drivers, motorcycle shop workers, women’s group, and displaced workers from the provinces of Mindoro and Romblon, the regional office adds.
The Department of Health reports 1,383 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Philippines, raising the national tally to 238,727.
The DOH also confirms 230 additional recoveries, pushing the total of recovered patients to 184,906. The country’s death toll is now at 3,890 with 15 new reported deaths.
With these, total active cases in the Philippines (net of COVID-19 deaths and recoveries) now stands at 49, 931.
The Philippine National Police’s plan to monitor social media for quarantine violators should recognize people’s data privacy rights, the National Privacy Commission says.
“In keeping communities safe in this pandemic, leads and evidence gathered from social media and other digital tools to enforce the law must be legally obtained,” NPC Commissioner Raymund Liboro says, adding police must “use techniques that are not privacy intrusive.”
“It is essential for the police to allay the fears of the community by explaining the measures they employ in enforcing quarantine rules and evaluating possible violators, how they observe the rights of the citizens, and how they mitigate the risks to individuals’ privacy.”
Training of student athletes will be allowed in areas under general community quarantine and modified GCQ, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque says.
Roque, also spokesperson on the inter-agency task force on COVID-19, says the IATF has approved it.
The trainings will be subject to guidelines that will be released by the Commission on Higher Education.
The Philippine government is going in the right direction in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic as all indicators are going down in Metro Manila, the epicenter of the nation’s outbreak, professor David Guido of the UP OCTA Researcg group says.
While the curve is “flattening” in the capital region, Guido notes that there are still areas in the Philippines that need to be concerned about, such as Iloilo and Tacloban, that may be emerging hotspots.
“The government is on the right track and people are doing their part. But the fight is not yet over. This is not the time to relax; this is the time to soldier on,” Guido tells ANC’s “Headstart” Monday morning.
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