The Department of Transportation has submitted, and was granted, its request to increase public utility vehicles’ capacities from 50 to 70 percent, although if it would have its way it want this increased to 100 percent. This would help commuters get to their places of work and destination faster. It also said it does not favor passing on the burden of oil prices to commuters in the form of fare hikes.
There would be greater mobility for people beginning November 4 when public transportation capacity would be raised to 70 percent, closer that of the clamor by the National Economic and Development Authority for increased economic activity.
This is because the Department of Transportation had cited studies abroad that showed no “significant correlation” between public transport capacity and COVID-19 cases. For that matter many people see no correlation between face shield use and COVID 19. (In a public transport, face shields would just add discomfort to commuters who are already inconvenienced by traffic, commuting woes and other problems).
A gradual increase in passenger capacities in railways and all forms of road-based public transport in Metro Manila will be implemented starting Nov. 4, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) announced on Friday.
The DOTr said the Inter-Agency Task Force on managing emerging infectious diseases (IATF) approved on Thursday its proposed initial expansion in capacity to 70 percent from the current 50 percent.
The one-month pilot implementation of the capacity buildup will be adjusted until public utility vehicles (PUVs) reach their full capacity.
The NEDA has also been advocating for increased riding capacity and more public vehicles to be made available so that people can get to their workplaces, schools, and other activities. Such mobility in turn will lead to more consumption.
The DOTr—which earlier pushed for a return to 100-percent capacity, a proposal also backed by transport groups—said it would issue a memorandum to execute the IATF approval, which also authorized the department to later expand the program to other areas and other PUVs.
Even with the new policy, however, the DOTr reiterated that health and safety protocols would still be strictly implemented inside PUVs.
Transportation Undersecretary Artemio Tuazon said the DOTr presented to the IATF its rapid analysis of the link between COVID-19 cases and public transportation and a review of related literature in support of the proposal.
It cited scientific studies in Vietnam and China and a report by the British Medical Journal to argue that “public transport capacity has no significant correlation with the number of COVID-19 cases.”
The DOTr said it suggested the capacity increase in response to the high demand for public transport following the easing of quarantine restrictions and the reopening of more business establishments.
Mark Steven Pastor, assistant secretary for road transport and infrastructure, said the IATF approval would be a big help to PUV drivers.
“This is a welcome development considering the burden on our PUV drivers and operators of implementing the limited passenger capacity rule, which was aggravated by recent fuel price hikes,” Pastor said.
In the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman in Quezon City, jeepney driver and UP Transport Group spokesperson Nolan Grulla said many of them were still off the road due to the impending phaseout of old jeepney units.
Since June last year, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board has been slowly reopening routes for roadworthy PUVs with a valid and existing certificate of public convenience or have applied for an extension of its validity.
However, only drivers and operators who have consolidated their fleets for the government-mandated modernization program were tapped for the Libreng Sakay and PUV service contracting program.
For drivers like him who could not afford the P1.6million to 2.4 million in loan to buy modern jeepneys, they have to deal with a low turnout of passengers due to route changes and the 50-percent capacity limit on public transportation.
Grulla said drivers in six jeepney routes in UP were earning only P81 each trip due to the 50-percent capacity cap that allowed them to accommodate only nine passengers.
Earlier, the DoTr said it would not blink in its recommendation to increase passenger capacity in public transportation, road, and rail in Metro Manila to up to 100 percent amid concerns on the continuous threat of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The DOTr is pushing for Metro Manila as the pilot implementation area for its proposal to passenger capacity.
Pastor said they have already submitted their recommendation to the IATF, a top-level decision-making body on government response on the COVID-19, through a position paper.
“This is one of the measures being considered by the DOTr to help drivers and operators amid the pandemic and the continued increase of fuel prices. Pilot implementation will be in Metro Manila,” said Pastor.
“Nakapag-submit na po ang road sector ng formal position paper na i-increase ang seating capacity from 50 percent na para po sa amin, kung masusunod ang Kagawaran, ay pwedeng maging 100 percent based on medical literature that is available. At the same time, we are ready to defend our position to IATF this Thursday. (The road sector has already submitted a formal position paper to increase the seatinv capacity from 50 percent to 100 percent but if the DOTr is to be asked, it cluld be increased to 100 percent based on medical literature that is available),” he added.
In pushing for increased passenger capacity, the DOTr cited several reasons that focused much on the need to continuously revive the country’s economy and the necessity to assist pubic utility drivers amid the upsurge in oil price.
“Metro Manila is the ideal place to test the proposal considering that 81.4 percent of its population is now fully vaccinated against COVID-19. In addition, public utility jeepneys and buses operating in Metro Manila are well-ventilated,” the DOTr said in a statement.
The department also argued that based on its rapid analysis of available data on seven-day average cases per one million population and public transport capacity, which covered 10 countries, it was found out that public transport capacity has no significant correlation with the number of COVID-19 cases.
The 10 countries are Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, China, Australia, Vietnam, and Malaysia.
Pastor also emphasized that the oil price hike should not be a burden that passengers must bear amid calls from the transport sector for fare hike.
Earlier this month, the DOTr requested the Department of Energy (DOE) to grant fuel subsidy to public transport drivers. The Department likewise welcomes the announcement of the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) for the release of P1 billion to the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) as fuel subsidies.
Tags: #DoTr, #increasedpassengercapacities, #economicrecovery, #transportation, #economy