Modern jeepneys start plying Metro Manila routes
MANILA, Philippines — Some 300 modern jeepneys were given the green light to start plying Metro Manila roads on Monday, but a think tank warned that the news might not be the reprieve commuters had been clamoring for since COVID-19 ground transportation in the capital to a halt months ago.
The jeepneys will be supplemented by 3,600 buses to ferry commuters who had been inconvenienced by the lack of public transportation, according to Malacañang.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said 1,500 other vehicles would be allowed to ply certain routes to help ease the burden of people who had returned to work after President Rodrigo Duterte further relaxed quarantine restrictions in Metro Manila on June 1.
“Our problem regarding the lack of public transportation will be addressed beginning June 22,” Roque said on Saturday. “But we still need to observe social distancing because there’s no other alternative [to stem the spread of COVID-19].”
The Department of Transportation (DoTr) is implementing a two-phase resumption of public utility vehicles (PUVs), following a “hierarchy of transport,” with priority given to high-capacity vehicles.
The first phase from June 1 to June 21 gave way only to trains, bus augmentations, point-to-point buses, taxis, transport network vehicles and tricycles—all under limited capacity to maintain physical distancing.
During the second phase starting June 22, modern jeepneys and UV Express vans were supposed to also resume operations.
But 9,000 UV Express vans with franchises are not yet allowed to operate in Metro Manila. So are 55,000 traditional public utility jeepneys (PUJs).
Before the pandemic, there were 12,000 passenger buses that operated in the metropolis—4,000 city buses and 8,000 provincial buses.
15 routes for jeepneys
In a statement on Sunday, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) said a memorandum circular it issued on June 19 allowed modern PUJs to start shuttling passengers through 15 routes in Metro Manila this week.
The LTFRB said 308 PUJs that could operate on Monday after complying with the omnibus franchising guidelines (OFG), a set of requirements that operationalized DOTr’s public utility vehicle modernization program.
“The resumption of PUJ operations in 15 routes in Metro Manila is part of our calibrated response to restore mass transportation in Metro Manila and in the adjacent provinces as we transition into the new normal,” LTFRB Chair Martin Delgra III said.
Risks of enclosed jeepneys
Ibon Foundation, however, said commuters shouldn’t be too eager to hop onto the modern jeepneys, arguing that these posed several health risks amid the still raging pandemic.
“Insisting on jeepney modernization unnecessarily puts commuters at risk of possible airborne coronavirus infections,” Ibon said on Sunday. “Enclosed modern jeepneys can become centers for spreading the virus compared to the natural ventilation of traditional jeepneys.”
The group cited multiple studies showing that regular ventilation reduced the risk of COVID-19 infection, with enclosed spaces being particularly vulnerable to the spread of the disease.
This is because small cough droplets that might contain virus particles could stay in the air of indoor environments, Ibon said, referencing studies done by medical researchers and physicists from the University of Amsterdam and Chinese Academy of Sciences.
The limited ventilation in public transport systems is also what led the International Association of Public Transport, which is in 96 countries, to warn these facilities were high-risk environments.
Both the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have also issued guidelines advising the use of windows to increase the presence of fresh, outdoor air, acknowledging that good circulation is necessary to stop the virus.
“The traditional open-air jeepney is likely even safer against COVID-19 than its air-conditioned modernized counterpart,” Ibon said. “The ban on traditional jeepneys should be lifted.”
Passengers who opt to take the modern jeepneys this week will find, however, that the experience is dramatically different from the prepandemic era, just three months ago.
Contactless payment, masks
Modern jeepneys are required to ensure that commuters use mobile phones or contactless smart cards to pay for fares.
As part of contact tracing, drivers or conductors shall provide each passenger upon boarding a contact form, which must be filled out and submitted in a drop box before alighting.
“For easier contact tracing, passengers are advised to take note of the plate number of the OFG-compliant PUJ they rode, date and time they boarded, and the route they took,’’ read LTFRB Memorandum Circular No. 2020-023.
“Operators/drivers shall display this reminder with the plate number of the vehicle prominently visible to all passengers.”
Drivers, conductors and passengers are required to wear face masks at all times, and operators should provide a disinfecting foot bath for commuters to use before boarding a PUJ.
“The passenger load of each jeepney must not exceed 50 percent of its seating capacity,” the agency added.
The routes that open today cover a number of major hubs from north to south, including Quezon Avenue to LRT 5th Avenue Station, Edsa Buendia to Mandaluyong City Hall, Punta to Quiapo, Cubao to Roces Super Palengke, Divisoria to Gasak, and Taft Avenue to PITX Loop Service.
OFG-compliant PUJs will collect P11 for the first 4 kilometers, with air-conditioned and nonair-conditioned units charging P1.5 and P1.8, respectively, for each additional kilometer.
Nine additional routes in Metro Manila will open on Wednesday, followed by another 10 on Friday, the LTFRB said.
DESIGNATED ROUTES FOR MODERN JEEPNEYS
Routes to open on June 22:
1. Novaliches–Malinta via Paso de Blas
2. Bagumbayan Taguig–Pasig via San Joaquin
3. Fort Bonifacio Gate 3–Guadalupe-Market Market-ABC Loop Service
4. Pandacan–Leon Guinto
5. Quezon Avenue–LRT 5th Avenue Station
6. Cubao (Diamond)–Roces Super Palengke
7. Edsa Buendia–Mandaluyong City Hall via Jupiter, Rockwell
8. Divisoria–Gasak via H. Lopez
9. Punta–Quiapo via Sta. Ana
10. Boni Pinatubo–Stop and Shop,vice versa
11. Boni Robinson’s Complex–Kalentong/JRC vice versa
12. Nichols–Vito Cruz
13. Filinvest City Loop
14. Alabang Town Center–Ayala Alabang Village
15. Vito Cruz Taft Avenue–PITX Loop Service
Routes to open on June 24:
1. Bagong Silang–SM Fairview
2. Malanday–Divisoria via M.H. del Pilar
3. Parang, Marikina–Cubao
5. Gasak–Recto via Dagat-dagatan
9. PITX–SM Southmall
Routes to open on June 26:
2. SM Fairview–Commonwealth via Regalado Avenue
3. Quezon Memorial Circle Loop
5. Antipolo–Pasig via EastBankRoad
6. Rosario–Pinagbuhatan Pasig
7. West Avenue–P. Noval via Del Monte
8. Biñan–Balibago via Manila South Road
10. San Isidro–Congressional Junction Dasmariñas
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