Transport opening made gradual

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    ‘The lack of land transportation in many areas of Metro Manila and its suburbs has been blamed by many, including members of Congress, on the Department of Transportation.’

    LONG lines of office workers waiting for a ride in such outlying areas as Antipolo City in Rizal province and Marilao and Meycauayan in Bulacan during the first days of transition to easing mobility restrictions were observed.

    This was partly due to the residents’ eagerness to return to work or fulfill their obligations that were temporarily put on hold because of the three-month hibernation imposed by the government to help stem the wave of COVID-19 contagion. Under the general community quarantine (GCQ), citizens thought a new door of freedom and mobility had been opened to them, thus the propensity to go outside and bask in the sunlight.

    The lack of land transportation in many areas of Metro Manila and its suburbs has been blamed by many, including members of Congress, on the Department of Transportation (DOTr). They said the department lacked planning and anticipation, and was even insensitive to the needs of the people.

    We think this game of blame and finger-pointing is somewhat disjointed, just a carry-over of the mindset that still considers this current phase of Philippine society as belonging to the usual normal, not the new one.

    Transportation Assistant Secretary Goddes Libiran admitted that the public transportation on the first day of the GCQ was sparse, and explained that transport was “really insufficient as the government is still limiting the movement of people under the GCQ.”

    According to Libiran, the department thoroughly planned its “gradual, calibrated, and partial” approach to the opening of the modes of public transit system while taking into consideration the mobility, as well as the health and safety of the commuters during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is still very much with us.

    “We need to balance public transportation and public health. This is really more of a public health issue than a public transport issue,” she emphasized.

    The DOTr under Secretary Arthur Tugade decided to implement two phases of public transport resumption in the National Capital Region to limit the flow of commuters as the threat of the coronavirus disease has not waned. Public transportation, as we all know, may be an active transmission vector if safety measures are not imposed. When this happens, our three months of hard work and sacrifice under the quarantine period would be put to naught.

    We are happy to note that the DOTr has been conducting daily assessments on the transportation sector since the shift to the GCQ to help them identify vital routes to be opened. Last week, the LTFRB opened two routes for city buses — Route 5 from Angat, Bulacan to Quezon Avenue in Quezon City, and Route 28 from Dasmariñas, Cavite to the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange. Other areas are monitored daily for similar openings as needed.

    Metro Manila residents should by now accept that the new normal will entail some sacrifices and inconveniences, especially in such activities as commuting and motoring, but that is all part of our national goal to move on and recover our economic losses.