By Chito Chavez and Jeffrey Damicog
Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo M. Año said on Monday that the transportation woes suffered by commuters on the first day of the General Community Quarantine (GCQ) were mostly due to the lack of augmentation rides in the inner streets leading to the major thoroughfares of Metro Manila.
Año made this assessment after pointing out that the traffic flow along EDSA, specifically in the areas near the Metro Rail Transit (MRT), were manageable during the first day of the GCQ in Metro Manila.
On the first day of the GCQ imposition in Metro Manila, commuters, including health workers, complained about the “transportation snafu’’ on Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City and other areas.
“Umalis ako sa bahay namin sa Don Antonio Heights ng 5 a.m. tapos dumating ako sa ospital makaraan ng tatlong oras. Ito ba yung sinasabi ng otoridad na “birth pains’’? Mantakin mo na dumating ako ng 8 a.m. sa pinagtratrabahuhan na malapit na distansiya lang (I left my house in Don Antonio Heights at 5 a.m. and arrived at the hospital where I work three hours later. Is this what authorities call birth pains? Imagine arriving at 8 a.m. in my workplace which is just a short distance),” a nurse who requested anonymity said.
To ease the transport woes, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) deployed at least 48 buses and trucks to transport hundreds of stranded passengers.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the AFP coordinated with the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to augment the limited public transportation in the metropolis.
“Of the 48 trucks and buses, six were dispatched along Commonwealth Avenue for free rides,” Lorenzana said in a Laging Handa press briefing.
“They were working to bring them to EDSA,” he added.
According to the military’s Joint Task Force National Capital Region (JTF-NCR), there are designated pickup and drop-off points for the AFP’s free rides. These include the routes Quezon Avenue to Fairview; Fairview to Makati City; and Litex, Quezon City to Fairview, Novaliches.
Jeepneys may make comeback
Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Athtur Tugade said jeepneys could make a comeback this month should there be transportation shortage.
“Kung kinukulang ho ang mga sasakyan na ina-allow sa hierarchy of transportation, then pwede ho payagan yung traditional jeepneys subject to all those stated conditions (If the allowed modes of transportation are not enough, then traditional jeepneys will be allowed subject to conditions),” he said during an interview over CNN Philippines.
Tugade said jeepneys will be allowed this month if these have been found to be still road worthy and health and sanitation protocols have been met.
Año begged for public understanding for the inconvenience, citing the need to exercise extreme caution as quarantine protocols should still be observed even under GCQ to prevent a second wave of COVID-19.
He said it would not make any sense for them to allow the full operation of all public transport, saying the best option is for commuters to take the LRT (Light Railway Transit), MRT (Metro Rail Transit) and P2P (Pointto-Point) buses at the moment.
“If I am not mistaken, by June 21, other modes of public transport will be operational,” he added.
Under the GCQ, the DOTr decided to bring back public transportation in two phases this month.
During Phase 1, from June 1 to 21, public transportation allowed are trains and bus augmentation, taxis, transport network vehicle services (TNVS), shuttle services, P2P buses, and bicycles but with limited passenger capacity.
Tricycles will be allowed during this phase depending on the approval of the local government unit (LGU).
For Phase 2, from June 22 to 30, public utility buses, modern public utility vehicles, and UV Express will be included among those that will be allowed to operate.
In both phases, traditional jeepneys are not yet allowed to return to the streets.
“Nakikiusap kami at nagsusumamo sa inyo na bigyan ninyo kami ng pasensya at understanding (We ask for your patience and understanding),” Tugade asked the public.
Even if the DOTr has the mandate to provide transportation to the public, Tugade said it never promised that it will be able to provide transportation for all this Monday.
“We have also the equal responsibility to make sure that the spread of COVID-19 is prevented and stopped,” he said.
Año said it will be far worse if Metro Manila and other areas under GCQ will be reverted to ECQ (Enhanced Community Quarantine). (With a report from Martin Sadongdong)