INTERIOR Secretary Eduardo Año yesterday said commuters planning on riding motorcycle taxis should bring and wear their own helmets to better protect themselves from contracting the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Año, a key member of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), also said motorcycle drivers are mandated to install barriers or body shields between them and the passenger.
Año said the House of Representatives, on the recommendation of the IATF-EID, has already passed a resolution allowing the continuation of the pilot study for motorcycle taxis, pending deliberation on the proposed law allowing the operation of such mode of transportation. The last pilot study ended last April.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque on Saturday said the Department of Transportation (DOTr) may now allow motorcycle taxis to ply after House committee on transportation issued a resolution allowing the continuation of the pilot study.
Año stressed anew that the operation of motorcycle taxis is needed as the country is slowly opening up the economy and more businesses have started to resume operations, which he said requires increasing the number of workers manning certain establishments.
Last week, the government also allowed the reduction of physical distancing among passengers in public transportation vehicles from one meter to one seat apart.
While the reduced physical distancing in public transportation increased the number of passengers inside these vehicles from 30 percent to 50 percent, Año said more transport vehicles are still needed to transport commuters.
“More or less mga 400,000 ‘yung ma-stranded diyan, hindi nakakapasok, and the motorcycle taxis – plus we have appropriate barrier naman – ay additional ‘yan, napakalaking tulong niyan sa ating mga commuters (More or less 400,0000 will be stranded, they won’t be able to go to work and the motorcycle taxis, plus we have appropriate barriers, they’re additional units, they will be a big help for our commuters),” he said.
But Año reminded riders and motorcycle taxi firms that barriers are required to be installed between the motorcycle taxi drivers and their passengers.
“At saka ‘yung paggamit ng helmet, ini-encounrage natin ‘yung mga commuters sana meron kayong sariling helmet para hindi kayo manghihiram (And on the use of helmet, we encourage commuters to have their own helmets so you wont borrow one),” he said.
Año said commuters are not actually required to bring their own helmets, noting that motorycle taxis have extra helmets for passengers. He said these helmets will be regularly disinfected after they are used by passengers.
“Although the helmets that passengers are lent to use will be disinfected, we’re still encouraging that you should have your own,” Año said, referring to commuters having their own helmets.
“Additional gastos na naman sa ating mga kababayan kapagka nirequire mo. Highly encouraged natin … Depende na sa ating mga commuters kasi mahirap din kasi magrequire na bumili ka ng ganito, ng ganyan this (That will additional expense for our people if we require them. We just highly encourage it… that will depend on the commuters because it’s difficult to require anyone to buy this and that,” he said.
Año said drivers of motorcycle taxis, as a precaution, are also advised to subject their passengers to temperature check.
To workers and other commuters, Año said they should not go to work and stay at home if they have COVID-19 symptoms.
“Kung meron kang symptoms, may lagnat ka, huwag ka na papasok. Dapat bawat isa, ‘yan ang sinasabi natin na ang pag-iingat nagsisimula sa individual (If you have symptoms, fever, dont report to work. This applies to everyone, precaution starts with every individual),” he said.
In the event COVID-19 cases spikes, Año said the government would have to stop the pilot study on motorcycle taxis and other measures that relaxed protocols in public transportation.
“Yes, ‘yan naman ang condition natin. Kapag nagkaroon ng surge, spike, wave ay sigurado dapat stop muna natin yan, lahat ng mga pagluluwag na ginagawa natin kapag nagkaroon ng another wave talagang we have to stop it. (Yes, that is our condition. If there is a surge, spike, wave, surely we will stop it, all measures that eased protocols we have to stop it if there is another wave),” said Año.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque on Saturday said President Duterte no longer needs an emergency power to allow motorcycle taxis to resume their operations following a House of Representatives.
Roque said the DOTr had already said that it will allow motorcycle taxis to ply the roads based on a resolution passed by the House Committee on Transportation to continue the pilot project on the motorcycle taxis like Angkas and JoyRide while awaiting the approval of their franchise.
Prior to this, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has endorsed the drafting of a “Congress resolution” that would allow motorcycle taxis to operate.
Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) assistant secretary Celine Pialago said traffic has been observed in certain choke points in Quezon City because of city buses have been using the corner of Agham Road and Quezon Avenue as a loading and unloading point and stays in the area for 15 to 20 minutes.
Pialago said the MMDA has opened new routes for the city buses to take to address the traffic build-up issue.
“We considered it before as one of the choke points along EDSA because drivers of these city buses are using those areas as terminals, with this, it deviates from the main purpose of the EDSA Busway,” she said. – With Jocelyn Montemayor and Noel Talacay