By Vanne Terrazola
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto on June 8, Monday, appealed to the government to ease its restrictions on transportation to serve commuting workers during the quarantine.
Recto underscored the importance of public transportation in the efforts to restart the economy following the COVID-19 outbreak and the lockdowns imposed to contain it.
“You want to restart the economy? Then let [public utility vehicles or PUVs] restart their engines,” he said in a statement.
“There are three important T’s today: tests, trabaho [jobs], transportasyon [transportation]. Screening for coronavirus is no longer a requisite for returning to work. But without a ride, there is no work. And [when there is] no work, [there is] no pay,” he pointed out.
It has been one week since a general community quarantine (GCQ) took effect in Metro Manila on June 1, when more businesses were allowed to reopen and more workers returned to their jobs. Public transport operations, however, remained limited due to physical distancing and other health measures.
Recto asked the government to relax its “brutal” transportation policies, such as the no-backride rule for motorcycles, and allow spouses to ride in tandem.
“If they share the same bed at night, why can’t they ride a bike together during the day?” he said.
Like his colleagues, he said jeepney and UV drivers who have resorted to begging for alms should be allowed to ply the roads again, subject to health conditions, and with subsidies, since they will only operate under reduced capacity.
“And more buses, please, for they are the tickets out of temporary unemployment,” he added.
Senator Grace Poe recalled that the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) said during a hearing of the Senate committee on public services on May 11 that bus routes will be rationalized during the GCQ to also address the problem in traffic in Metro Manila.
From 96 routes covering 4,600 buses, the LTFRB planned to reduce it 29, and later revised it to 31.
“So far, the [Department of Transportation] has opened eight bus routes last week and promised to open four more today,” Poe said in a separate statement.
“We call on the DOTr to act with more urgency and [open] the rest of the bus routes immediately so as to alleviate the suffering of the commuters. The 20 un-deployed bus routes cut off thousands from their place of work,” she appealed.
“The existing bus routes must also be supplied with enough bus units and bus stops with the information properly communicated to the public,” she added.
Aside from PUVs, Recto said authorities should also speed up the construction of bike lanes and distribution of bikes to workers.
He said he hopes that these programs be implemented even without the proposed “Bayanihan to Recover as One” Act, which earmarks P17 billion for assisting displaced workers in the transport sector, such as a “service contracting scheme” for PUVs, as well as the construction of bike lanes, sidewalks, and procurement of bicycles.