MANILA - A commuters group on Monday said public transportation is not ready for a shift to face-to-face classes.
Malacanang last week announced that it plans to start a phased transition to in-person classes starting September after Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte proposed a full face-to-face setup by November.
"We are just saying that the government should be wary of the additional demand to our already heavily-burdened public transport system. This problem needs to be addressed to successfully phase back into normal classroom-based education," Passenger Forum Convenor Primo Morillo said in a statement.
The group said the government should add more public utility vehicles to routes, and allow carpooling and company shuttles.
The Department of Transportation is in a race to fix traffic flow issues before face-to-face classes resume. The agency acknowledged that metropolitan areas may see heavier traffic as passenger volumes rise further with the start of classes.
"Yung coordination and preparation namin sa face to face classes ay hindi lang sa kakulangan ng mga sasakyan, but also traffic. Kaya nga we have to work closely with MMDA, PNP, and with AFP with Coast Guard, para yung traffic matulungan natin na mabawasan or hindi masyadong maging malubha yung trafic situation lalo na sa Metro Manila," DOTr Secretary Jaime Bautista said in a Laging Handa briefing.
(Our coordination and preparation for face-to-face classes are meant to address the lack of public vehicles and also traffic. That's we have to work closely with MMDA, PNP, and with AFP with Coast Guard, so we can alleviate the traffic situation, especially in Metro Manila.)
One solution being explored by the government is to rationalize routes based on passenger demand. However, DOTr said the group commissioned to do this has yet to complete its study.
"Kailangan natin ng tamang info kung ano ang availabilty ng sasakyan na gagamitin natin at ano ang pwedeng gawin. Kanina napag-usapan namin na kailangan ituloy yung fleet rationalization. Meron pong isang grupo na gumgawa ng study, unfortunately hindi pa tapos ang study sa fleet rationalization. We will work closely with them bago magstart ang face to face,” Bautista said.
(We need the right info on how many public vehicles are available and what else we can do. Earlier we discussed that we need to continue fleet rationalization. A group did a study on this but has yet to finish it. We will work closely with them before face-to-face classes begin.)
The new transport chief earlier said the long lines at the EDSA Bus Carousel were 'unacceptable.'
Commuters have challenged Bautista to try to ride a bus during rush hour.
Bautista said he is willing to try riding the public buses and jeepneys to see passengers' daily ordeal.
"Sa totoo lang nakikita ko yung hirap ng mga pasahero na by just looking at the lines, ako ay willing na sumakay sa mga bus na yan noh and even kaninang umaga kausap ko ang chairman ng LTFRB at sinabi ko sa kaniya sabi ko tayong dalawa let’s try riding the bus and the jeep. Sabi niya game siya," Bautista said.
(I can see passengers' struggle just by looking at the queues and I'm willing to ride the bus. I told the LTFRB chairman, let's try riding the bus and jeepney and he said he was up for it.)
The agency is also mulling offering free rides to students for one semester on three government-operated rail lines.