Metro Manila transport problems seen as workers go back to work

/ 05:38 AM May 14, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Commuting is bound to be a problem when workers troop back to offices and factories in Metro Manila on May 16, the first day of the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ), business groups said on Wednesday.

Malacañang officials announced that certain industries will be allowed to operate at half of their workforce under MECQ, but said that public transport were still banned.


While companies could deploy shuttle buses, they could prove inadequate to ferry all the workers since no jeepneys, buses, or trains, will be operating that day.

“That will pose a problem because many employees do not have their own private vehicles. Employers will have to provide shuttle buses and that’s an added cost of doing business during these difficult times,’’ said Francis Lim, president of Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), in an interview. ‍


Walk to work

“Maybe it will be like the first day of the lockdown,” said Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr., president of Employers Confederation of the Philippines, when asked for comment.

In the first few days of lockdown, the government suspended mass transportation but allowed essential companies to operate. This forced many workers to walk to work.

Luis said he did not expect all permitted companies to open right away, given the lack of basic rules on how the MECQ would work.

“There should be [an information] campaign telling workers that they should not go to work unless advised by the company, since not everyone would be hired back,” he said, referring to the 50 percent workforce limit set by the inter-agency task force (IATF).

250,000 workers

“That’s the challenge,” said Ebb Hinchliffe, executive director of American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, noting that “the private sector can’t provide sufficient transportation.” Back in April, MAP suggested to the Department of Transportation and the IATF that the current fleet of buses and trains was capable of ferrying some 250,000 workers, the estimated number of skeleton workforce in essential industries in the metropolis.

MAP proposed to ramp up the operations of buses and trains based on demand until the entire metro workforce would be able to commute to work. Adopting MAP’s proposal, however, would entail more responsibilities for the government, including subsidizing bus operators who would not be able to run at full capacity.


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