THE heavy traffic as far as Liloan in north Cebu and Naga City in the south on Monday, Aug. 3, 2020, seemingly transported motorists and commuters back in time—as if they were moving in the pre-pandemic days.
Images and videos of the bumper-to-bumper traffic in Cebu City and other parts of Metro Cebu flooded social media.
A Naga City resident who works in Cebu City was stuck in Minglanilla town for over an hour. In northern Cebu, a Liloan resident observed that the big Ceres buses parked by the side of the road in Consolacion town caused the traffic.
In major thoroughfares in Cebu City, the first Monday of the iteration of its general community quarantine (GCQ) status was a traffic nightmare in broad daylight.
Cebu City Police Office Director Josefino Ligan said the heavy traffic was expected as employees from other local government units had begun to work in business establishments allowed to operate.
The other contributing factor, Ligan said, was the border checkpoints—the police have to check the travel documents of motorists and commuters before allowing them entry into Cebu City.
Expect traffic every day and that employees must leave their houses early to avoid it, Ligan said.
Some police officers helped in managing the traffic flow in the city.
Aside from Cebu City, the cities of Talisay, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu, and the municipalities of Minglanilla and Consolacion are also under GCQ status from Aug. 1 to 15. Naga City, Liloan and the rest of the 41 municipalities and five component cities are on modified GCQ status.
The government has imposed community quarantines since March to slow down the transmission of the new coronavirus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
Under GCQ and modified GCQ, minimum public health standards such as wearing of masks and observing physical distance must be complied with at all times.
In a place under GCQ, public movement is limited to getting essential goods and services, and work in the offices or industries permitted to operate.
Persons below 21 and those who are 60 and above, those with immunodeficiency, comorbidities or other health risks and pregnant women must stay home at all times unless they have to buy essential goods and services, or are allowed to work in permitted businesses.
In a modified GCQ setting, all persons are allowed outside their houses.
Public transport is allowed in both GCQ and modified GCQ settings provided that the physical distancing is observed inside permitted public utility vehicles.
Tales of other cities
In Talisay City, traffic started to slow down at 6 a.m. and it eased around 11 a.m. on Monday, according to the city’s traffic head Jonathan Tumulak.
The border between the cities of Talisay and Cebu on a portion of Natalio Bacalso Ave. in Barangay Bulacao, Talisay City is still closed to traffic as Talisay City has not lifted its one-entrance, one-exit policy. All vehicles going to and from Cebu City must take the Cebu South Coastal Road.
At the city’s border, the police conduct their routine checkpoints, delaying the flow of vehicles.
The same dilemma was experienced in Mandaue City. Traffic jams were everywhere—at the city’s border control point with Cebu City in Barangay Subangdaku, along the streets of Lopez Jaena and Hernan Cortes, Ouano Ave. and a portion on Cebu North Road in Barangay Jagobiao.
Just like other local government units, several Mandaue City residents are employed in Cebu City; the reclassification of Cebu City’s quarantine status to GCQ allowed them to go back to work in select businesses in Cebu City.
Lawyer John Eddu Ibañez, executive secretary of Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes, said people were coming out again because of Cebu City’s GCQ status.
Ligan, Tumulak and Ibañez urged the public to stay in their homes most of the time.
As Cebu City is back on GCQ status, the permitted public utility vehicles (buses, modern jeepneys and taxis) from Mandaue City are now allowed to enter Cebu City.
When Cebu City was placed under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and later on modified MECQ last month, the buses from Mandaue City going to SM City Cebu, Cebu I.T. Park, Gaisano Country Mall and Ayala Center Cebu stopped at the border.
There are 120 buses running within Mandaue City and its neighboring cities and towns.
Ibañez said the travel intervals of the buses have been shortened to around 10 minutes because there are now more buses in the streets. But waiting for buses could take much time if there is traffic just like what happened on Monday, Aug. 3.
GrabCar, a transport network vehicle service, resumed its operations with 250 drivers in the cities of Cebu and Talisay as these two local government units are now on GCQ status.
The Grab management assured it will provide safe and reliable mobility solutions for its commuting public.
“As Cebu City graduates to GCQ, transportation will remain a beating lifeline of our economy, and Grab will remain an enduring partner to the City of Cebu by providing safe and reliable transport services to the commuting public. While public health restrictions ease, let us not lose sight of our commitment to safety—not just for ourselves, but for our communities as well,” Grab Philippines senior city manager for VisMin Raymond Dejan said.
Dejan, in a press statement, said they are ready to transport people under the new normal, saying they have implemented their GrabProtect features.
GrabProtect, Grab’s safety and hygiene program, will be thoroughly implemented in all GrabCar services to ensure communities of Grab’s deep commitment to safety.
The Grab management said to further their commitment of helping the Cebuano economy, for the first two weeks of GCQ, GrabCar rides paid through GrabPay have a 50 percent fare reduction.
Grab will also be waiving its commission to its Cebu-based driver-partners for the first two weeks of GCQ in the city.
Each GrabCar has a maximum seating capacity of two passengers, and each of them must sit close to the windows at the back of the vehicle.
Only public health vehicles are allowed to transport Covid-19 positive individuals.
Grab’s driver-partners and passengers are required to wear masks at all times, and they are also required to keep their vehicles disinfected at all times, especially at the end of the trip.
Each vehicle is required to have a non-permeable acetate barrier installed between the passengers and the driver-partner.
To aid in an effective contact-tracing procedure when deemed necessary, passengers are not allowed to book for others. They are required to show their booking code to their driver-partner before entering their assigned vehicle. (AYB, JOB, KFD, BBT)