MMC chair: Metro mayors not consulted on relaxed physical distancing in PUVs
MANILA, Philippines — The easing of physical distancing measures between passengers in public utility vehicles (PUVs) amid the threat of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pushed through without proper consultation with the mayors of Metro Manila, Metro Manila Council (MMC) chairman and Parañaque City Mayor Edwin Olivarez said Wednesday.
Olivarez said the local chief executives of the National Capital Region (NCR) and some members of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases met by teleconference on Sunday where they discussed the reduced physical distancing in public transport.
“Sa aming discussion, nagtaka kami kasi hindi nagkaroon ng proper consultation ‘yan with the 17 mayors. Nagulat kami na biglang nilabas lang ang guidelines na iyon na wala man lamang consultation dito sa ground, dito sa NCR, na alam naman natin ang epicenter ng COVID-19 ay Metro Manila,” he said during the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum.
(We were shocked to learn that it was not properly consulted with the 17 mayors. We were shocked that the guidelines were released without consultation on the ground, especially here in NCR, which we know is the epicenter of COVID-19 in the Philippines.)
Olivarez said similar resolutions normally undergo a consultation with the MMC, which is composed of the mayors of Metro Manila.
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade earlier announced that the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases approved the proposal to reduce the physical distancing in PUVs from one meter to 0.75 meters starting September 14.
On September 11, Tugade said the government also plans to further ease the physical distancing limit to 0.5 meters after two weeks, then to 0.3 meters after another two weeks.
But for Olivarez, such adjustments would mean inconsistent guidelines to be followed by the public as the physical distancing rule outside of PUVs remains at one meter.
He said the MMC believes the government should not sacrifice the health protocols being enforced to contain the spread of COVID-19 in its move to reopen the economy.
“We have to open the economy but we should not compromise the health protocol at pangalagaan ang kalusugan ng taong-bayan (and we should take care of public health),” he said.
He said the MMC believes that sufficient physical distancing should be maintained in PUVs.
“We have to maintain physical distancing sa ating constituents, lalo na sa public utility vehicle na talagang very congested po sa loob noon (especially in PUVs where it is very congested),” he said.
“Regardless na may face mask at face shield, kailangan siguro pag-aralan nang mabuti ng ating health experts kung ‘yung 0.75 meter is enough, pero definitely ‘yung 0.5. at 0.3 meter, palagay ko po kaming 17 mayors mag-object po kami doon,” he added.
(Regardless if there is a face mask or face shield, studies should be conducted if the 0.75 meter for physical distancing is enough, but definitely I think the 17 mayors would object to the 0.5 and 0.3 meters.)
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año earlier pointed out that he favors the deployment of more PUVs in roads instead of reducing the physical distancing requirement among commuters.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III also warned that reducing the physical distancing in public transportation might result in additional 686 daily infections in Metro Manila and increase the number of deaths, citing a study by the Health Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19.
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