'Commuting pains': Cramped PUVs, workers stranded on first work day of metro-wide quarantine

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 16) – On the first work day of the implementation of the metro-wide community quarantine, transportation agencies are struggling to address the inconveniences of workers – the ones hit the hardest by the new measure.

While protocols on transport and travel restrictions are in place in Metro Manila, the Philippines' capital region, not all buses and jeepneys are able to accommodate commuters who wish to get to work on time, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority traffic chief Bong Nebrija said.

"There are less cars today, however, the challenge is the social distancing in buses that's why we see a lot of commuters on the ground right now who are stranded. This comes from Commonwealth extending up to EDSA," Nebrija told CNN Philippines' New Day.

Transportation Undersecretary for Administrative Service Artemio Tuazon Jr. said while the rules are being followed in general, they are still trying to advice public utility vehicles to reduce passengers in a bid to observe social distancing and reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus disease or COVID-19.

"Talaga pong if we would think about it we really have an abnormal situation now. Definitely, there will be inconveniences, there will be problems that will be encountered. But we are trying to limit the access of people from outside the NCR to inside the NCR," Tuazon said.

Even CNN Philippines producer Remo Manikan, who commutes to work, said authorities on the ground are having a hard time controlling the situation.

"Iyong mga jeep, punong-puno, minsan nga may nakasabit pa. Hindi na pinapractice yung social distancing kahit sinasabi ng mga awtoridad na kailangan yun. Sa mga bus naman naghihintay ako, mga lima pinara ko pero wala, ayaw ako pasakayin. Tinatanggihan ako ng mga konduktor kasi kailangan sumunod sa mga patakaran," he said.

[Translation: The jeepneys are jampacked, you can still see those by the rear. Social distancing is not practiced even if authorities insist it is needed. For buses, I tried to hail around five but they would not accommodate me. Conductors insist we should follow the rules.]

Nebrija appealed to the public to be a little more patient as the Philippine government enforces the new implementation.

"Everybody's getting the feel of this, even the government side, this is something new for all of us. Maybe it will take three to five days before everybody settles to this kind of situation – the checkpoints, social distancing, and through it all, the enforcement on the side of the government," he said.

On Sunday, police officers started implementing checkpoints in the borders of Metro Manila to comply with the start of community quarantine. Under the measure, non-essential activities and mass gatherings are prohibited. Land, local air, and local sea travel to and from Metro Manila are restricted, but workers are "provisionally allowed" to enter and leave the region, once they present proof of employment or business at border checkpoints.

Some cities in Metro Manila have already enacted measures imposing a curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. following the recommendation of the Metro Manila Council starting Monday. These are Muntinlupa, Navotas, San Juan, Pasay, Quezon City, and Makati City as of Sunday. Meanwhile, curfew in the city of Manila will take effect on Thursday.

The number coding scheme for all vehicles in Metro Manila is also lifted until further notice.

There are now 140 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Philippines, including 12 deaths to date.