MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto has urged the government to relax its restrictions on public transportation to serve commuters during the community quarantine.
“You want to restart the economy? Then let PUVs (public utility vehicles) restart their engines,” he said in a statement on Monday.
“There are three important T’s today: tests, trabaho, transportasyon. Screening for coronavirus is no longer a requisite for returning to work. But without a ride, there is no work. And no work, no pay,” he added.
Recto issued the statement a week after a general community quarantine (GCQ) took effect in Metro Manila which allowed more businesses to reopen and more employees to return to their work.
Public transportation operations were also allowed but only with limited routes and capacity to observe physical distancing and other health measures.
“Allowing workplaces to open without providing the people with the means to go there is like telling the President he can now cross the Pasig River from his residence to his office for as long he does not ride any boats,” he said.
“That, today, is the sink-or-swim situation for the nation’s breadwinners,” he added.
Recto appealed to the government to ease the “brutal” lack of transportation by allowing husband-and-wife to ride a motorcycle in tandem.
“If they share the same bed at night, why can’t they ride a bike together during the day?” he asked.
He also believes that jeepney and UV drivers should be allowed to ply the roads again, subject to health conditions, and called on the government to partly subsidize the seats they are compelled to keep vacant since they are only allowed to operate under reduced capacity.
“And more buses, please, for they are the tickets out of temporary unemployment,” he said.
Recto also said that the establishment of safe bike lanes and mass distribution of bicycles to workers should also be accelerated.
“The Senate-approved bill reauthorizing the Bayanihan Act earmarks P17 billion for bike lanes, sidewalks, bicycles and other things which form the foundation of a national bicycle infrastructure. That amount includes test runs for a “service contracting scheme” for PUVs,” he said.
Other senators have also called on the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to open more bus routes to alleviate the travel woes of commuters.
The DOTr earlier said it has opened 15 rationalized bus routes in Metro Manila and nearby areas. This is half of the 31 routes that the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board planned to open amid the quarantine from the previous 96 routes covering 4,600 buses.
The DOTr also appealed for public understanding as it plans to resume public transport gradually and in two phases to prevent the possible second wave of COVID-19 infections.
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