Higher capacity in transportation urged

Published September 25, 2020, 6:00 AM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

The business sector has urged the Inter Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to increase the passenger capacity of buses and allow public utility vehicles to operate to at least 80 percent to enable the economy to efficiently bounce back and sustainably recover. 

This was the call of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) as they renewed their appeal on government to allow more industries to operate, make returning to work easier on employees and improve consumer confidence.

“Transportation is crucial to effectively revitalize businesses and help them recover. Many of our members continue to hurt even as they have been allowed to re-open because their workers are hampered by the lack of or absence of public transportation.  Moreover, consumer demand continues to be low,” Amb. Benedicto Yujuico, PCCI President said.

“The public health threat of COVID-19 is testing the willingness of workers and consumers to get back to their pre-COVID-19 routines,” Yujuico added.

The challenge for businesses, even for those that have the capacity to provide shuttle services, is to have their workers get to the pick-up points which were normally served by jeepneys and tricycles.  Those without shuttle services who take their rides in buses and trains along major thoroughfares are forced to take tricycles and pay more than the regular fare, or jostle for one of the few jeepney rides that have been allowed to operate.

“COVID-19 has been with us for 6 months now, and is not going away soon.  We should not let it keep us hostage.  Instead, we have to know how to move our way with the virus,” Yujuico stressed.

PCCI said a coordinated response by government, the private sector and the riding public can help mitigate the spread of the virus.

“Since government says the use of face mask and face shield provides 96% safety or protection, we suggest to also add protocols such as no talking, no eating, and no using of cellphone inside the public vehicles to provide more safety measures,” Yujuico said, supporting the earlier call of other business organizations to adopt “The 7 Commandments”, which medical expert proponents believe can manage viral transmissions well even when reducing physical distancing requirements.

In addition, Yujuico said such measures must be properly communicated to transport operators and the riding public to regain people’s confidence in the public transport system and encourage them to engage in economic activities that can revitalize local industries.

PCCI President Emeritus George Barcelon also echoed Yujuico’s call stressing that limiting to 50 percent ridership will not make bus companies profitable. He said that transport operators should be able to get funding under the Bayanihan 1 and Bayanihan economic stimulus pacakges to encourage more companies to field their buses and create more economic activities and employment.

Transport buses should increase their capacities but under strict compliance of the 7 Commandments on the management and prevention of virus transmission for all commuters.

“Fielding of more buses public utilities and  jeepneys are very crucial because that is the last mile for working class so we hope that this strong lead from business community will make government take heed,” he said.

PCCI, which was the first business organization to call for the lifting of transport restrictions to improve the mobility of workers and ensure the efficient resumption of business, expressed their appreciation that there is now an increasing support for full transport reopening in support of the revitalization of businesses.