‘Avoid ‘Train to Busan’ scenario,’ says Sen. Recto, as he bats for return of jeepneys to increase public transport capacity

Senator Ralph Recto said the government should avoid a "Train to Busan" scenario in considering to ease physical distancing measures in public transportation.


The Senate President Pro Tempore on Thursday likened to the Korean zombie blockbuster film the risks posed by the Department of Transportation's (DOTr) proposal to reduce the physical distance between commuters in an attempt to address the lack of public transport and help in reviving the economy.
Recto maintained that science should prevail in implementing such policies amid the lingering COVID-19 outbreak in the country.
"Let science be the arbiter of this intra-Cabinet debate—which we should welcome, because best ideas are forged when they clash," he said in a statement.
"Science should solely decide if the proposal, when applied to the LRT (Light Rail Transit) and MRT (Metro Rail Transit), will make them safe, or as dangerous as the 'Train to Busan'," he added.
On Thursday, the Interagency Task Force (IATF) on the Management of Infectious Diseases announced that it will suspend the DOTr's move to lower to 0.75 meter the space among passengers of public transport vehicles.
The DOTr said its Secretary Arthur Tugade "does not enjoy" creating a  perception that members of the Cabinet were divided and that the DOTr was deciding ahead of the President.
Meanwhile, Recto echoed the appeals to allow traditional jeepneys to operate as an added measure against the pandemic while restarting the economy.
"We do this not for sentimental reasons, but because it is based on science. With their open windows and a layout which guarantees free flow of air, they are, from a health point of view, one of the safest forms of public transportation," he said.
"Drivers, on their own, have reconfigured their jeepneys to comply with health rules like physical distancing. They are good to go," he added.
He further said: "It is a pity that only a reported one-third of the NCR jeepneys have been allowed to ply the streets. For every jeepney denied to operate (there) are hundreds of breadwinners denied a safe ride to work and back home."
Recto also proposed that jeepney drivers be prioritized in the service contracting scheme provided under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act.
"It would also be better if they are first in line to benefit from the service contracting scheme which Bayanihan II mandates. There is a P5.58 billion allocation for this. This kind of transport subsidy is nothing new. Billions in taxpayers’ money has been lubricating MRT, PNR operations through the years," he said. 
"Transportation joins test, track and treat as our tools in fighting the pandemic. But workers should only be allowed to get back to work if it is guaranteed that COVID will not be hitching a ride. Hanapbuhay, hindi hanap sakit (Allow jobs, not spread of disease)."
"On how we observe the new normal in travelling, let science be the main pilot, and economy the co-pilot. The two should complement and not contravene each other," he stressed.