Mass transport back in some areas, but riders limited
Public and mass transportation will resume in limited capacity in parts of the country where the lockdown is being relaxed starting Friday as the government begins a phased exit from quarantine to revive the economy.
But in Metro Manila and other regions where the lockdown has been extended to May 15, public transport remains suspended, Transport Undersecretary Artemio Tuazon said on Thursday.
The Department of Transportation announced the new guidelines on Thursday after approval from the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, the temporary government body overseeing the Duterte administration’s response to the new coronavirus pandemic.
Health and safety
The guidelines stress physical distancing in the operations of a public transport system long plagued by overcrowding and congestion.
The return to operations “will be predicated on health and safety,” Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade said. “As to how long this will take, nobody can say when … There are too many unknowns.”
According to the guidelines, buses and jeeps will operate at a maximum of 50-percent capacity. This means a 50-seater bus can only ferry up to 25 passengers at a time, and a 20-seater jeep only 10.
Taxis and ride-hailing services will be allowed to ferry one passenger each only, while UV Express vehicles will be allowed to seat only two passengers per row.
Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) chief Martin Delgra said his agency was not approving any fare hikes despite the reduced passenger capacity. The government, however, is planning stimulus packages to help the sector cope with lost income.
In areas where buses are not enough or road characteristics do not permit the operation of buses, jeepneys or UV Express vehicles may operate, Delgra said.
Tricycles, meanwhile, will be allowed to operate subject to city governments’ approval. But they must ferry only one passenger at a time.
Motorcycle taxis are still banned from operating as these vehicles do not allow physical distancing.
In both lockdown and eased-quarantine areas, private cars and motorcycles will be allowed strictly for essential travel only. As earlier stated by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, only four people would be allowed in a sedan and only two people in a row in an SUV.
Delgra said the LTFRB would issue special permits for public utility vehicles allowed to operate starting on Friday. Both drivers and operators are required to observe proper sanitation and hygiene measures, wear masks and gloves, and to allow for an automatic fare system if possible.
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