DOTr to allow buses, modern jeeps by June 21 if Metro Manila shifts to GCQ

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Trains, point-to-point buses, taxis and ride-hailing services will be immediately allowed to serve commuters if Metro Manila shifts to general community quarantine, but city buses and modern jeeps will not be deployed until three weeks later, the Transportation Department says. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 27) – Buses and modern jeepneys will only be deployed three weeks after Metro Manila shifts to general community quarantine, the Department of Transportation said Wednesday.

DOTr road sector consultant Alberto Suansing said the agency will follow a two-phased approach in reopening public transportation at a limited capacity.

Should the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases heed the recommendation of Metro Manila mayors to relax some quarantine restrictions effective June 1, Suansing said trains as well as buses plying train service routes will be allowed to run immediately.

Prior to the lockdown, city buses with special permits ply the same route of the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 to help decongest train coaches during the morning rush hour. A bus augmentation project has also been rolled out for the Cubao to Santolan stations of the Light Rail Transit Line 2 since this segment had to be closed for repairs.

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Apart from these, Suansing said point-to-point buses, taxis, and Transportation Network Vehicle Services like Grab will be allowed to return to roads to ferry passengers.

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority also said bicycles, as well as private cars carrying at least two persons, are encouraged to prevent a traffic build-up in major roads as more people are expected to head out and report to work. Meanwhile, back rides (angkas) on motorcycles are still prohibited as people are forced to sit closely.

Meanwhile, city buses and modern jeepneys will only be deployed by June 21 onwards. Suansing said this was meant to control the volume of commuters.

"We will monitor it if there's an increase in COVID cases," Suansing, who once served as chief of the Land Transportation Office, told CNN Philippines.

READ: How can we make commuting safe in the time of COVID-19?

A shift to GCQ means more businesses are allowed to reopen while those currently operating are authorized to accept even more employees on site, provided that social distancing, the wearing of face masks, and temperature checks are observed.

All public utility vehicles must run at half capacity to ensure that passengers maintain a distance of at least one meter and prevent infections. 

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque earlier said that existing guidelines only allow for 10-50 percent capacity for public transport in GCQ areas. The allowed capacity will be increased under modified GCQ, where the risk of contagion is lower.

Under the IATF omnibus guidelines, the DOTr is tasked to prescribe transport rules during the community quarantine.