Still no public transport in areas under prolonged quarantine
Authorities on Friday turned down suggestions to allow even the partial operation of public transportation after President Rodrigo Duterte extended the lockdown in large areas of Luzon, including Metro Manila, for two more weeks until May 15.
In line with the extension, the country’s largest airline and ferry companies said regular passenger operations will remain suspended through May 15.
At the briefing by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said the suspension of public transport remained in effect where the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) has been extended, particularly in the National Capital Region, Calabarzon and Central Luzon.
Earlier this week, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said the government was considering bringing back buses, trains and jeeps — but only at 30-percent passenger capacity —should the IATF decide to move toward a general community quarantine (GCQ) to restart the economy.
It was earlier anticipated that Metro Manila would be placed under GCQ by April 30 as authorities hoped to mitigate the consequences of stalling economic activity in the capital.
But reports of a second wave of coronavirus cases in countries like Singapore prompted the IATF to reconsider relaxing the current restrictions.
“We will be stricter in our ECQ so that we can increase our doubling rate while we augment our current resources,” Año said. “What we’re really after is to get Manila down to a GCQ, But until we achieve this, we have to work together.”
“Because of this decision of our President to downgrade several areas in Luzon to general community quarantine, our sectoral agencies like the departments of trade and industry and of transportation are currently working on their proposals on which types or modes of public or mass transportation to reopen and what kind of reconfiguration will be done in terms of seating,” he said.
“Definitely in the GCQ areas we need transport there, but with regards to the configuration, we will have to wait,” he said.
Also on Friday, spokespersons for Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and AirAsia Philippines said regular passenger flights will resume on May 16 at the earliest.
The three carriers have limited their activities to rare special flights and cargo-only operations since the Luzon-wide lockdown took effect on March 17. Affected passengers may avail themselves of full refunds, store the value of their tickets on a travel fund or rebook their flights without penalties.
More than five million passengers were affected in the first month of the ECQ, according to the Air Carriers Association of the Philippines.
Large passenger ferry operators will also suspend operations.
Chryss Alfonsus Damuy, chief executive officer of Chelsea Logistics and Infrastructure Holdings Corp., told the Inquirer that its passenger services remained closed but cargo and tanker operations continue.
Chelsea Logistics owns Starlite Ferries, Trans-Asia Shipping Lines, Supercat Fast Ferry, and a stake in 2GO Group.
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