MANILA - Authorities apprehended on Tuesday, the first day of the "enhanced community quarantine" in Luzon, some 600 public utility vehicles (PUVs) violating the suspension of public transit in a bid to contain the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Police Brig. Gen. Eliseo Cruz said the Philippine National Police - Highway Patrol Group (PNP-HPG), which he heads, conducted the operations on orders of PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa.
Taxi cab drivers were given warnings, while their operators would be informed of the suspension of mass public transportation, Cruz said.
They were eventually released, and told to adhere to the government's order.
Some drivers told ABS-CBN News that despite the threat of the novel coronavirus, they could not afford not to go to work because of their families.
Meanwhile, several passengers complained about the lack of transportation to make their way around the capital.
"Lahat ay binigyan ng habilin na dapat ang lahat ay makauwi na, at lahat ay maka-settle down na sa kani-kanilang mga tahanan, nang sa gayon ay, the following day, bukas ay inaasahan natin na talagang wala nang kikilos. Standstill na muna tayong lahat para mapigilan natin once and for all ang pagkalat nitong coronavirus-19," Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac, the PNP spokesman, told radio DZMM.
Banac warned that in the coming days, law enforcers will no longer accept any excuses and alibis from violators of the quarantine policies.
"Lahat ay sinasaway natin, umuwi na lang po muna kayo, at kapag bumalik ulit kayo ay arestado na kayo," he said.
"Pag sila ay muling maharang natin, masabat, ay, well, impounded na yung mga sasakyan at arestado ang mga ito sa paglabag, disobedience to authorities."
Banac expressed concern though if arrests are made, saying, "Mao-overwhelm din talaga tayo sa dami ng ating mga kababayan, ay wala rin tayong paglagyan at mava-violate natin yung social distancing."
Under the "enhanced community quarantine," which takes effect starting March 17 until April 13:
- All mass public transport facilities shall suspend operations including train lines (MRT, LRT-1, LRT-2, PNR), as well as public utility vehicles such as buses, jeepneys, ride-hailing services, FX, UV Express, Point-to-Point (P2P) buses, and motorcycle taxis.
- Land, air and sea travel shall be restricted. Travels of uniformed personnel for official business, especially those transporting medical supplies, laboratory specimens related to the COVID-19, and other humanitarian assistance however are exempted from restrictions.
- Outbound passengers, including foreigners intending to depart the Philippines from Luzon are allowed to leave only until March 19 or 72 hours since the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine.
- Inbound international passengers meanwhile who are already in transit upon the effectivity of the enhanced community quarantine will be allowed entry subject to the quarantine procedures of health authorities.
- Inbound flights throughout the quarantine period will be limited for the repatriation efforts of Filipinos overseas.
- Movement of cargo within, to and from the entire Luzon shall remain unhampered.
- Only 1 person per household is allowed to go outside their homes to buy basic necessities. Use of private vehicles for this purpose shall be allowed.
- Media vehicles and reporters shall be allowed to travel within the community quarantine area, provided that they secure a special media pass from the Presidential Communications Operations Office.
- Security personnel of businesses allowed to operate during the enhanced community quarantine period are allowed to travel within the area.
Banac said that majority of those apprehended Tuesday claim they are not aware of the suspension of public transportation. "Alam naman natin na alibi pa rin yan at nais pa ring maaaring pumasada at kumita nang kaunti bago yung tuluyang kanilang pagpigil. Pero hindi natin ito pinabayaan nang ganito."
He said ideally, there should already be no more control points because everyone is supposed to be in their respective homes under the current status of an enhanced community quarantine.
But police need to be out on the streets for patrolling, monitoring and visibility of uniformed personnel.
As of Tuesday, the tally of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Philippines stands at 187 cases, with 12 fatalities.
- With a report from Raffy Santos, ABS-CBN News