The Department of Transportation (DOTr) was urged to allow more public utility vehicles (PUVs) back on the road to meet the increasing demand of passengers and ensure the observance of strict health protocols in public transport.
Commuter advocacy group The Passenger Forum (TPF) issued the appeal after transport regulators warned that they will go after PUV operators and drivers who will violate the health guidelines.
"Bus and jeepney passengers know the rules and we believe that most of them want to obey these rules. However, it is a fact that there is a supply problem in the current public transportation landscape and this is a great hindrance in how to effectively implement our coronavirus disease (COVID-19) protocols," TPF convenor Primo Morillo said in a statement.
Morillo noted that the lack of seating spaces in PUVs has been forcing commuters to occupy the remaining seats or even aisles in passenger buses that are meant to be vacant for the one-seat apart distancing rule.
"It will be very helpful if the DOTr will give a go-signal for more PUVs on our roads," he added.
However, Morillo clarified that the group fully supports the implementation of the government's COVID-19 protocols in public transportation to help in curbing the spread of the virus among passengers and transport workers.
"We are united in defeating COVID-19. With the most recent rise in active cases, it is even more pressing for us to look for measures that will truly make our protocols more practicable," the TPF head emphasized.
The Inter-Agency Council for Traffic (I-ACT) announced over the week that it will intensify its operations against protocol violators in public transportation after recording several breaches of such violations in their random daily inspection of PUVs.
Based on the data from I-ACT, a total of 517 PUV drivers have been apprehended for violating COVID-19 guidelines from January to February 2021 alone.
"We are hoping that the DOTr will see that while apprehensions are necessary to remind the public, one of the best ways to implement COVID-19 protocols in public transportation is to solve the apparent lack of jeeps and buses on the road," Morillo said.