BY NOEL TALACAY and MYLA IGLESIAS
PUBLIC utility vehicle operators and drivers were directed by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) yesterday to adopt the “one seat apart” distancing rule in a bid to increase public transport capacity as government continues to ramp up efforts to revive the economy amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade told DOTr-attached agencies to adopt the new policy and allow commuters to sit closer to each other, provided that plastic barriers are placed in between passengers, or that UV lights are used.
The one seat apart policy will replace the one meter physical distance rule inside public transportation units.
Tugade issued his directive after President Duterte and his Cabinet approved the recommendations made by the Economic Development Cluster (EDC), which has been exploring options to spring up the country’s economy which suffered a setback due to the lockdowns imposed to control the spread of the new coronavirus.
Tugade said the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) will come up with a memorandum circular that will lay down the specific guidelines for the policy.
In addition, the transport chief ordered the LTFRB to open up more public transport routes and authorize more roadworthy units, such as provincial and city buses and public utility jeepneys, to resume operations.
He also ordered the agency to allow the accreditation of additional transport network vehicle services (TNVS) units and taxis.
Currently, there is no cap on the number of additional taxis and TNVS units to be deployed for as long as they are duly-accredited by the Transport Network Corp. (TNCs).
With regard to the clamor for the return of motorcycle taxis on the streets, Tugade reiterated that while the DOTr fully supports their return, this must come with the consent of Congress which he said the DOTr will serve as their legal basis for its implementation.
Aside from road transport, Tugade likewise ordered the rail sector to increase the current 12 to 13 percent passenger capacity by 30 percent to 50 percent.
In the maritime sector and aviation sectors, Tugade directed agencies to allow more Ro-Ro (roll on and roll off) ferries to operate and more flights to resume.