Task Force Shield, Angkas team up for free transporation for medical frontliners

Medical frontliners in areas under the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) can now avail themselves of transporation services from motorcycle ride-hailing firm Angkas for free, the Joint Task Force (JTF) COVID Shield bared Friday.

The JTF COVID Shield has forged an agreement with Angkas to deploy 1,000 of its riders to fetch health care workers to and from their workplaces in MECQ areas in Mega Manila -- Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal.

Angkas, led by its Chief Transport Advocate George Royeca,  donated 1,000 motorcycle barriers to the Philippine National Police (PNP) which will be forwarded to various police stations in Metro Manila for distribution to qualified motorcycle drivers.

"This benevolent act of the Angkas Group led by Mr. George Royeca is a clear manifestation that the spirit of 'bayanihan' is very much alive and continues to be a defining value of Filipinos especially in this time of global pandemic," said Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, commander of JTF COVID Shield, during the turnover ceremony in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

Based on the agreement, the Angkas riders will be assigned near the hospitals identified by the Department of Health as having health workers attending to COVID-19 patients -- Philippine General Hospital, San Lazaro Hospital, and Ospital ng Sampaloc in Manila; the East Avenue Medical Center in Quezon City; and the Tala Hospital in Caloocan City.

Some Angkas riders will  be placed on standby at the National Kidney Institute, Quezon City General Hospital, Lung Center of the Philippines, and Quirino Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City; and Ospital ng Maynila and Fabella Hospital in Manila.

"Ang na-identify nating hospitals ay Metro Manila pero puwede silang ihatid even sa labas ng Metro Manila lalo na kung ito ay under the MECQ (We have identified hospitals in Metro Manila but they can be transported to other areas outside of Metro Manila especially if it is under MECQ)," Eleazar said.

Royeca said the program will be implemented starting Saturday.

Medical workers just have to approach the Angkas riders and present their identification cards in order to avail of the free rides, said Eleazar.

"Itong ating mga health workers, probably sa umaga okay pa 'yong biyahe nila masigla pa pero after their shift ito 'yong mga pagod na (Our healthcare workers probably will be able to travel smoothly in the morning but after their shift, we know that they are already tired)," he said.

"So nakastandby sila (Angkas riders) doon para ihatid sila sa bahay and after that puwede may arrangement na sila rin 'yung susundo kinabukasan kung sakali (So the Angkas riders will be on standby in the hospitals to bring them home and after that, there could be an arrangement between them to transport them to work on the following day)," he said.

"This will be done during the rest of our MECQ period hanggang Aug.  18 at tingnan natin kung ano puwede gawin after that (until Aug.  18, and we will see what to do next after that)," he said.

Royeca said the Angkas management will assess if the program will be continued even after the lapse of the MECQ status in Mega Manila on Aug.  18.

"We will analyze the needs of the government hospitals. Right now, we have no public transportation so we need to ferry the medical frontliners. As of now, the free rides will be until the end of MECQ," he said.

On Aug. 4, President Duterte reverted Metro Manila, Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite, and Rizal under MECQ until Aug. 18 as an immediate response to the call of the medical community for a "timeout" to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Under MECQ, public transportation is not allowed which made it hard for medical frontliners and other essential workers to avail themselves  of transportation to report to work and go back to their homes.

As such, the National Task Force on COVID-19, led by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, approved motorcycle pillion riding and even eased the existing rules to accommodate more riders to ferry and fetch Authorized Persons Outside Residence (APOR), particularly the health workers.