MODERN public utility vehicles (PUVs) can resume operations in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ), like in Metro Manila, starting on June 22 or when the second phase of the Department of Transportation’s (DOTr) transportation plan for Metro Manila takes effect.
Under DOTR’s Phase II plan, which will be implemented from June 22 to 30, public utility buses (PUBs), modern PUVs, and UV Express vans will be allowed to operate at limited passenger capacity.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said traditional passenger jeepneys are still not allowed but “roadworthy” jeeps may already be permitted if the supply of buses and modern PUVs still run short to accommodate commuters.
“We are still under GCQ. Our strategy for public transportation is calibrated, partial and in phases. We have a hierarchy of transport modes… and the traditional PUJs are at the bottom. The priority are the buses, modern PUVs, then jeepneys and tricycles,” he said.
Under the first phase, which covers the period of June 1 to 21, trains and augmentation buses, taxis, ride-hailing services, shuttle services, Point-to-Point buses, and bicycles are allowed to operate at limited capacity.
DOTR-Road Sector senior consultant Bert Suansing said that as of June 18, 2020, 28 bus routes have already resumed operations out of 31 that the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) had identified to service commuters in the National Capital Region.
“We are now in Phase 2. To date, we already have 28 routes serviced by public buses.
These include Quezon Avenue going to Taft Avenue via España and Quiapo, than we have the bus service from Taytay to Gilmore, and the one coming from Pasig passing through Kalentong that will also end up in Aurora Boulevard,” Suansing said.
Phase 1 of the plan was the resumption of the rail systems including the Light Rail Transit Lines 1 and 2, the Metro Rail Transport Line 3 (MRT-3), and the Philippine National Railways (PNR) on conventional tracks.
Also part of the first segment was the rail augmentation consisting of the first few bus routes opened to ferry passengers using the LRT, MRT and PNR coaches. These were the buses plying the routes Antipolo-Cubao, Monumento-Taft Avenue, and North Avenue-Taf Avenue as well as the Point-to-Point buses.
Suansing admitted that implementation has been slow regarding plans to set up 36 bus stops in EDSA to ensure that passengers will observe social distancing and manage the load capacity of public buses.
“As far as the bus stops along EDSA are concerned, we planned on putting up 36 bus stops… (but) so far we have prepared only four. What we are using at present is the MRT terminal,” he said.
The transport executive said the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) is doing the required planning and tests.
However, for passengers coming from the provinces, public bus services would have to wait a little longer as no plan has been forwarded to the relevant agencies.
“As far as the provincial buses operations are concerned, that has to be coordinated with IATF (Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases). We anticipate that there will be challenges there,” he said.
Suansing explained that the provincial bus routes traverse local government jurisdictions, so there is a need to get the approval of provinces, municipalities and cities which will have to be coordinated with the Department of Interior and Local Government.
“The provincial bus operations will continue to be suspended,” he said.
Roque said the government is still studying if the ride-hailing motorcycle service Angkas will already be allowed to operate after it volunteered to use a special suit for their drivers to make their transport service safe against the coronavirus both for the driver and commuter.
TRAINS FOR LSIs
Presidential Management Staff (PMS) Assistant Secretary and Hatid Tulong Program head Joseph Encabo said the PNR is deploying two trains to ferry locally stranded individuals (LSIs) to Bicol on June 20.
Encabo, during the Laging Handa network briefing, said the PNR is looking at providing two more trains bound for Bicol after that. – With Peter Tabingo