MANILA, Philippines - Instead of the four-day school week proposed by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the Federation of Associations of Private Schools and Administrators (FAPSA) yesterday suggested carpooling to help decongest traffic in Metro Manila during the construction of 15 major road projects this year.
FAPSA is not in favor of the recommendation of MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino to reduce the number of school days for elementary and high schools in the metropolis.
Tolentino earlier said the four-day school week would help lessen traffic buildup once the construction of government infrastructure projects starts.
Advance work on Skyway Stage 3, which will complete the Metro Manila Skyway System from Alabang to Balintawak, started last night. It is expected to be completed within two years.
FAPSA president Eleazardo Kasilag said a car should have four to six passengers, including students, teachers as well as school administrators, to be able to pass through main thoroughfares.
“All schools need to support this privilege to use the school parking area,” he said.
He said schools only need to issue a memorandum to implement this.
“Carpooling enjoys four-fold advantages: you save on gas since you take turns in using the car, you help those who do not have the money, you are not susceptible to robbers for they have to deal with six people and you cooperate with the MMDA guideline,” he said.
Another FAPSA suggestion is for the schools to contract public buses to pick up students from one locality, Kasilag said.
He also urged the government to use buses for the same purpose, even to collect fees equivalent to transport fares.
The Department of Education (DepEd) and the Commission on Higher Education have expressed their support for the proposed four-day school week but stressed that the recommendation must be studied carefully.
Public schools have a 200-day school calendar, 180 of which need to be spent in the classroom, Education Secretary Armin Luistro said.
“It must be noted that the school year is about to end, so any changes in class schedule for the affected areas will be implemented next school year,” he said.
DepEd Assistant Secretary Tonisito Umali said less than 20 public schools in Metro Manila would be affected by the road works.
10-hour, 4-day work week
A lawmaker yesterday urged the government to consider implementing a 10-hour, four-day work week for state workers to enable them to cope with Metro Manila’s worsening traffic congestion.
Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo also re-filed his bill seeking the implementation of the Monday-to-Friday work schedule for public sector employees as traffic jams are expected to worsen as a result of the construction of the 14.8-kilometer Skyway-Stage 3 project and two other major infrastructure projects in the metropolis.
He said the proposed 10/4 work schedule could complement the four-day school week earlier proposed by the MMDA.
The proposed work week, which did not prosper in the 15th Congress, has been revived in the 16th Congress to lessen the commuting days and ease the plight of workers.
Castelo said the move to solve traffic woes should not be limited to limiting school days, but should extend to what he described as “creative approaches” to provide some relief to the working class.
“Our workers serve as our economic backbone. We should not close our eyes to their difficulties, especially now that major infrastructure projects are set for construction,” he said.
He said the 10/4 work week could mean weekly savings of at least 20 percent in expenses, adding it can be a poverty alleviation program by itself for cash-strapped workers.
He also cited some studies, which showed that the 10/4 work week could heighten productivity because it makes workers more focused.
“Besides, it gives them an extra day for recreation and other activity,” he said.
Flexible work scheme backed
The country’s largest labor group is backing the proposed compressed work scheme to ease traffic congestion due to major road projects in Metro Manila.
The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) said workers support a flexible work schedule as long as it is implemented voluntarily and would not affect their salaries.
“If the work scheme is deemed mandatory by government, the plan will create more problems than solutions. But if it is adopted voluntarily after consultation and dialogue using the Decent Work Framework of the International Labor Organization, the compressed workweek can help alleviate traffic congestion, help save energy and reduce operational costs,” TUCP said in a statement.
The group said there are industries that may be adversely affected by lesser working days.
“We have to consider the consequences of prolonged work hours to workers. On one hand, we are also thinking of the dire consequences to the economy if we have a gridlock in traffic. So, we have to qualify, we have to make a balance in the implementation of the scheme,” TUCP spokesman Alan Tanjusay said. – With Paolo Romero, Mayen Jaymalin, Mike Frialde