Various youth organizations, civil society and transport groups, dared on Thursday government officials, especially those behind the new policy reducing the physical distancing in public transport, to try commuting amid the coronavirus pandemic.
They issued the commute challenge during a virtual press conference in light of the Department of Transportation’s (DOTR) move on Monday to ease physical distancing from one meter to 0.75 meters in a bid to increase public transport capacity and ridership.
But Malacañang said that commuters will maintain a one-meter distance from each other until President Duterte decides on this matter on September 21.
Vivian Apostol of the Action for Economic Reforms said that while they recognized the need to further open up the economy, the decision of the DOTr was untimely.
“Tunay na mahalaga ang pagbibigay ng attention sa muling pagsigla ng ekonomiya ngunit dapat itong makamtan sa pamamaraan na hindi isusugal ang buhay ng mamamayan (It is truly important to give attention to economy recovery,but it should be in a way that will put people’s lives at risk),” she said.
Apostol cited the pronouncement of the Department of Health (DOH) that shortening the required distance between passengers may result in over 600 additional daily coronavirus infections.
Other groups such as Health Justice and Healthy Philippines Alliance, Move as One Coalition, Akbayan Youth, University of the Philippines ALYANSA, Aktibong Kilusan tungo sa Isang Bayan (AKTIB), National Confederation of Transport Workers Union (NCTU), and Nagkaisa Labor Coalition opposed the new policy on public transport.
With the hashtags #IsangMetroLigtasTayo and #KayoMunaBagoKami, they asked the Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Disease to reconsider the implementation of the reduced physical distancing inside PUVs.
Public transport expert and advocate Dr. Robert Siy said the government could instead consider the service contracting system to ferry passengers and help affected PUV drivers.
National Confederation of Transport Workers Union (NCTU) chair Ernesto Cruz said that more public vehicles should be allowed on the roads instead of easing the one-meter distance rule.
The groups challenged government officials and business industry leaders pushing for this policy to experience what ordinary commuters have to go through, so they would understand the safety risks.
“Ang hamon ng kabataan sa mga pinuno ng IATF at DOTr ay kayo po ang unang sumubok ng inyong rekomendasyon at tingnan natin kung hindi kayo matatakot (The challenge of the youth to IATF and DOTr officials is to try first your recommendation and let us see if you will not be afraid),” said UP ALYANSA chair Kris Miranda.