Partial PUV operations will be allowed in GCQ areas starting May 1

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 30) — Some public utility vehicles in areas under the general community quarantine or GCQ will be allowed to ply their routes with a reduced passenger capacity, to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Based on the approved Inter-Agency Task Force Resolution No. 30, select sectors of public transportation in areas under the GCQ may operate with a smaller number of passengers, while still observing physical distancing measures.

Under the guidelines read out by Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque during a Palace briefing on Thursday, road, rail, maritime and aviation sectors of public transportation "shall operate at a reduced capacity" starting May 1.

"In all public transports, a strict one-meter distance between passengers shall be observed and appropriate engineering controls in place," Roque said.

However, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said this excludes jeepneys for the meantime, as physical distancing protocols may not be properly imposed due to limited space.

"Iyong jeepney, hindi pa pinapayagan kasi makikita niyo iyong configuration ng jeepney, magkakaharap ang mga tao diyan," said Año, who was also present in the briefing.

[Translation: Jeepneys are still not allowed because if you look at its configuration, passengers are facing each other]

Buses, on the other hand, may only operate at half capacity.

"Kung 50 ang capacity, 25 lang ang pwedeng makasakay doon," Año said. "Gagawan ng paraan na alternate ang pag-upo ng pasahero, at mandatory wearing of face masks and even face shield."

[Translation: If the capacity is 50, only 25 may ride the buses. There will be a way to impose an alternate seating arrangement for passangers, with mandatory wearing of face masks and even face shields.]

Año added that passengers will still have to undergo thermal scanning and hand sanitation prior to their entry.

Meanwhile, major train lines in Luzon are expected to operate at a fourth of their capacity under GCQ.

“We expect to operate PNR (Philippine National Railway), LRTA (Light Rail Transit Authority), and MRT (Metro Rail Transit) sa lahat ng service areas namin. Ang hindi lang namin mas-service ay ‘yung tatlong LRTA stations na nasunog nung nakaraang taon,” said PNR General Manager Junn Magno in a virtual presser Thursday.

[Translation: We expect to operate PNR, LRTA, and MRT in all our service areas. The only services we cannot provide are those concerning the three LRTA stations affected by fire last year.]

Operations at the Santolan, Katipunan, and Anonas stations of the LRT Line 2 in Quezon City have been suspended since October last year due to fire damage.

Magno said the train lines are already at the “IATF’s disposal” and can be used to transport frontliners and cargo next week.

As for tricycle operations, resumption under the GCQ will depend on each local government, said Transportation Undersecretary Artemio Tuazon Jr.

Ang tricycle ay naaayon sa kung ano ang areas na papayagan ito mag-operate. Ili-limit lang din sa isang passenger per tricycle,” he said.

[Translation: Resumption of tricycle operation will depend on the locality. Each tricycle will only have one passenger.]

Motorcycle taxis are still prohibited as they violate physical distancing, Tuazon said, but transport network vehicle services will be allowed and limited to two passengers.

The Department of Transportation will be issuing its guidelines for the partial operability of PUVs.

Public transportation is still banned in areas under the enhanced community quarantine or ECQ until May 15. However, transit of essential workers and workers from approved services and industries in these areas will still be allowed.

Under the approved guidelines, delivery services, whether in-house or outsourced, transporting food medicine, or other essential goods will be allowed in ECQ areas. Airline and aircraft maintenance employees, including pilots and crew, and ship captains and crew may also work subject to guidelines by the DOTr.

Workers accredited by the Transportation Department to work on utility relocation and specified railway projects, including replacement works for the Manila Metro Rail Transit System Line 3 may also resume their specified tasks, provided that on-site or near-site accommodations and/or point-to-point shuttle services should be arranged.

President Rodrigo Duterte has placed the entire Luzon under the enhanced community quarantine last March 17 in a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the region. All necessary modes of public transportation were put to a halt and non-essential establishments were ordered to close down to limit movement.

Stimulus package

With the physical distancing rule, drivers and operators of PUVs are bound to earn less because of lower passenger capacity.

However, the Transportation department said it is not keen on a fare hike to compensate for expected losses. Implementing a higher fare matrix would only further burden commuters who are likewise already affected by the pandemic, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board Chairman Martin Delgra III said.

Instead, Transportation officials are looking into launching stimulus packages for PUV drivers and operators.

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said assistance would include fuel subsidy, cash loans, and payment extension for existing loans.

Tugade said the proposal on the fuel subsidy was already submitted to the House of Representatives.