DOTr will ‘aggressively comply’ with 1-meter physical distancing in public transport

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) on Saturday, Sept. 19, said that it will "aggressively comply" with the one-meter physical distancing in public transport, adding that it will release guidelines on its implementation.

"The President has spoken. We shall aggressively comply and strictly enforce the one-meter physical distancing in all public transport as envisioned and mandated," the DOTr said in a statement.

This came after President Duterte decided to revoke the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (ATF-EID) to reduce the distancing rule in public utility vehicles (PUVs) to 0.75 meters.

The move, which was proposed by the DOTr and the Economic Development Cluster (EDC), was implemented on Monday, Sept. 14, but was suspended on Thursday, Sept. 18, pending the decision of the President.

With the latest development, Transportation Assistant Secretary Goddess Libiran said the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) will release guidelines for the implementation of the distancing policy in PUVs, particularly for those in the road sector.

"One seat apart or 50 percent passenger capacity is not one-meter physical distancing. LTFRB will release  for PUVs. Sa railways and maritime, one-meter talaga ang ino-observe (On railways and maritime, one-meter is really being observed)," Libiran pointed out.

"We explained before that if PUVs are strictly enforcing one-meter physical distancing at mabawasan ito into 0.75 meters, madadagdagan ng isa o dalawang pasahero. But then again, hindi capacity ang basehan kung hindi distance. It should strictly be enforced. Otherwise, mababalewala ‘yung discussions about this (We explained before that if PUVs are strictly enforcing one-meter physical distancing, then reduce it to 0.75 meters, one or two passengers will be accommodated. But then again, capacity is not the basis but distance. It should strictly be enforced. Otherwise, discussions about this will just be ignored),” she said.

The DOTr official said the Department will coordinate with the Philippine National Police and the Inter-Agency Council for Traffic (I-ACT) composed of the LTFRB, Land Transportation Office (LTO), Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), and the Highway Patrol Group (HPG) to ensure that the policy will be observed.

"According to various government officials and health experts, one-meter physical distancing is non-negotiable. Walang sense kung hahayaan nating one seat apart lang sa PUVs pero sa tren at barko, one-meter physical distancing (It makes no sense if we only enforce one-seat-apart in PUVs, but on trains and ships, one-meter physical distancing is observed)," Libiran added. 

The DOTr has proposed to gradually ease physical distancing measures between commuters in public transportation to accommodate more passengers as many workers continue to return to their workplaces with the re-opening of the economy.

Under the proposal, physical distancing inside all modes of public transport will be reduced to 0.75 meters, lower than the at least one-meter distance recommended by the World Health Organization to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The DOTr had planned to further adjust this after every two weeks to 0.5 meters, then to 0.3 meters to allow for optimization of ridership.