THE Department of Transportation (DOTr) has suspended the implementation of reduced physical distance between passengers in all public transport units.
“Sa pulong po ng IATF na nagpapatuloy hanggang ngayon, sinabi po ni DOTr Secretary (Arthur) Tugade na pansamantalang isususpinde ang 0.75 meter physical distancing at ibabalik sa one meter (In the ongoing IATF meeting, DOTr Secretary Tugade said they will temporarily suspend the 0.75 meter physical distancing and bring it back to one meter),” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque told reporters on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020.
“Balik one meter muna tayo sa physical distancing sa pampublikong transportasyon habang wala pang desisyon ang Presidente kung ito nga po ay pwedeng maibaba sa 0.75 (We’re back to one meter physical distancing in public transportation while the President has yet to decide whether or not to bring it down to 0.75),” Roque added.
The DOTr first proposed to reduce the required physical distance between passengers inside public transport units to 0.75 or 3/4 meter from the current one meter to increase ridership.
The measure which was initially approved by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases was supposed to begin implementation on Monday, Sept. 14.
However, the implementation was delayed pending clarifications on the matter before it was declared suspended on Thursday.
The reduced physical distancing proposal inside PUVs received varying reactions from the public and local government officials.
On the national level, a group of Presidential economic advisers supported the move while Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año expressed his reservations.
In Cebu, Victor Caindec, Land Transportation Office-Central Visayas (LTO 7) director, defended the proposed reduction of the distance between passengers inside PUVs saying it was aimed to help commuters.
In a statement on his official Facebook page on Wednesday, Caindec said when the government placed Central Visayas and other parts of the country under the more relaxed modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) until Sept. 30, it actually weighed in on two important factors: continuing measures to help curb the spread of the coronavirus disease and ways to help the public regain their source of income and ultimately revive the badly-hit economy of the country.
Caindec said if the reduced physical distancing in public transport will help the majority, then the public should be more responsible in protecting themselves while inside the PUVs by wearing face masks and face shields.
For Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella, reducing the physical distance between passengers inside PUVs would be too risky.
Labella welcomed the temporary suspension of the plan and issued a memorandum to the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) and Cebu City Transportation Office (CCTO) to continue to enforce the one-meter physical distancing between passengers inside PUVs.
“In order to sustain our efforts in preventing the transmission of Covid-19, you are hereby directed to continue implementing a one meter physical distancing between passengers in all public utility vehicles plying through Cebu City roads, effective immediately,” Labella said in his memorandum dated Sept. 17.
Labella expressed fears that reducing the physical distance between PUV passengers may cause another spike of Covid-19 cases in the city.
“We are really doomed to create a surge again. The farther the distance, the lesser chances of the virus being transmitted,” said Labella.
He noted that the one-meter physical distance is the standard set by the World Health Organization (WHO).
CCTO head Alma Casimero, for her part, said although the PUVs plying the city are still not sufficient to cater to passenger demand, observing a one-meter physical distance between passengers inside the PUVs will ensure the safety of both the passengers and the drivers. (WBS, JJL)