MECQ guidelines released; PUV ops suspended anew

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    BY MYLA IGLESIAS, NOEL TALACAY and JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR

    TRANSPORTATION Secretary Arthur Tugade said public transportation in Metro Manila, Cavite, Laguna, Bulacan and Rizal will be temporarily suspended while the five areas are under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ).

    Tugade said the operation of the following public utility vehicles (PUVs) will be suspended for two weeks: buses, jeepneys, taxis, transport network vehicle services (TNVS) units, the railway system – Philippine National Railway (PNR), Light Rail Transit line 1 (LRT-1, LRT-2, and Metro Rail Transit line 3; and domestic airlines.

    Tricycles are also not allowed, but with exceptions, subject to guidelines set by the Department of Interior and Local government (DILG) and respective local government units (LGUs).

    Public shuttles will be allowed for frontline workers or workers who work in industries allowed to operate under the MECQ.

    The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) encouraged private companies to lease PUVs such as buses, UV express vans, and modern or traditional jeepneys as shuttle service to their employees. There will be no special permits for tapping PUVs as private shuttles, but an authorization letter or certificate from the company indicating the route will be provided as proof of lease. Shuttles will only be allowed 50 percent of their passenger capacity.

    The DOTr said airline operations for domestic flights are suspended but international operations are still allowed.

    The Manila International Aviation Authority (MIAA) yesterday called on local air carriers to properly inform their passengers about rebooking instructions in view of the temporary suspension of domestic flights in and out of Manila under MECQ.

    The DOTr said it will continue to provide free ride for health workers in 20 NCR routes.

    The Philippine Airlines (PAL) announced all of its domestic flights to and from Manila from August 4 to 18, 2020 are canceled. However, it said that domestic flights between Clark, Cebu, Davao and cities other than Manila are not affected and shall remain operational.

    International flights to and from Manila shall continue to operate, subject to guidelines from authorities in line with quarantine capacity and related arrangements.

    Domestic passengers of canceled flights have options to rebook, refund or convert their ticket into a travel voucher.

    MECQ GUIDELINES

    Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said shopping malls and non-essential stores, dine-in restaurants and recently partially opened industries are again suspended for next two weeks.

    Roque said LGUs and COVID-19 Code Teams would ensure public compliance with ntensified lockdown strategies and the implementation of Oplan Kalinga to limit people in public, and identify, isolate and treat those infected with COVID-19, respectively.

    The government also intends to distribute some 20 million masks to the poor during the same period.

    Roque reminded the people to comply with minimum health standards as well as the guidelines in areas under MECQ that includes observance of “strict home quarantine in all households” especially for those age below 21 and those who are age 60 and above; and those with immunodeficiency, comorbidity, or other health risks; and pregnant women.”

    He said individual outdoor exercises like walking, jogging, running, biking will still be allowed but mass gatherings are again prohibited. He said only gatherings of up to five persons for religious meetings and those providing government services and humanitarian activities are authorized.

    He said there shall be no face-to-face or in person classes at all levels in schools operating in MECQ areas but online classes may proceed. Classes for school year 2020-21 are expected to start on August 24.

    He added that the Department of Education had already mentioned that face-to-face classes will be allowed in January 2021, or the third quarter of the school year.

    ALLOWED INDUSTRIES

    Roque said essential industries along with those under Category I and II that were previously identified by the Department of Trade and Industry are allowed to continue operation at a limited capacity, like supermarkets, pharmacies, banks, export-oriented firms and business process outsourcing (BPO) companies.

    He said no dine in activities would be allowed and shopping malls would again be closed. Industries that were allowed to open last August 1 under the GCQ classification had again been ordered temporarily closed.

    Roque said industries allowed in MECQ areas are: agriculture, forestry and fisheries, manufacturing of essential goods, essential retail, groceries, markets, convenience stores at drugstores, food preparation including take outs and delivery services, water refilling stations, laundry services, public and private hospitals, logistic service providers, delivery and courier services, and water supply and sanitation.

    Also allowed are those engaged in repair and maintenance of machinery and equipment, telecommunications companies, energy and power companies, gasoline stations, airline and airline maintenance, pilots and crew and employees of aviation schools for purposes of pilots recurrent training, public and private construction projects that are essential, manufacturing companies and suppliers of equipment or products necessary to perform construction works such as cement and steel.

    Also permitted to operate are BPO and export oriented companies including mining and quarrying, printing presses authorized by the BIR or other appropriate agencies to print official receipts,mining and quarrying, electronic, commerce companies, postal and courier and delivery service for articles and media establishments.

    Roque said allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity are manufacturing firms engaged in producing beverages, electrical machinery, wood products, wood products, furniture, non-metallic products, textiles, tobacco, paper and rubber; those in real estate including parking space leasing companies; those involved in administrative and office support, veterinary activities, security and investigation activities, funeral and embalming activities, banks, money transfers services, pawnshops, micro finance institutions and credit cooperatives and capital markets.

    Also allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity are financial services, money exchange, insurance to insurance, legal and accounting, management and consultancy activities, architecture, engineering activities, scientific and research and development, computer programming, publishing and printing services, film, music and TV production, recruitment and placement agencies for overseas employment, photography services, fashion, wholesale and retail trade of motor vehicles, motorcycles bikes; and those in repair of motor vehicles, motorcycles and bicycles.

    UTILITY RATES

    Roque said while utility firms like the Manila Electric Company might not be able to conduct meter readings during the MECQ period, they should have already learned from their previous experience where they were asked by the Energy Regulatory Commission to refund their consumers due to high rates that they imposed.

    “Hindi na po siguro maulit iyan, dahil hindi naman sila nakalusot noong unang pagkakataon. Sinita po sila ng ERC at inorderan po sila na mag-refund doon sa napakataas na singil nila sa ating mga kababayan (It will probably not be repeated because they were not allowed to slip the last time. The ERC had called their attention ordered them to refund the high rates that they imposed on the public),” he said.

    Meralco and other utilities had charged consumers based on the monthly average consumptions of before the lockdowns were imposed after they were unable to do meter readings due to the lockdowns.

    The monthly average consumption from March to May was then consolidated and consumers were urged to pay the total amount in instalment.