DOTr eyes tapping services of public utility vehicles as part of COVID-19 new normal: official

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 11 2020 07:56 PM

DOTr eyes tapping services of public utility vehicles as part of COVID-19 new normal: official 1
A jeepney is seen filled with passengers at the southbound lane of Commonwealth Avenue on March 16, 2020. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - The Department of Transportation may soon get services from the public transport sector to discourage drivers from violating the government's policy on reduced seating capacities during the coronavirus crisis, an official said Monday.

The measure which is "yet to be presented" to the Inter-Agency Task Force against COVID-19 "may require a bigger budget" from Congress, Transportation Undersecretary Mark Richmund de Leon told the Senate Committee on Public Transportation.

"As much as government will allow, i-kontrata na po natin yung ating mga buses and jeepneys para hindi na nila problemahin yung kanilang biyahe," he said.

"'Pag ginawa natin yan, mae-ensure natin yung compliance nila sa social distancing dahil nabayaran na natin yung kanilang pasada and hindi na sila maghahabol ng kanilang kita at hindi na nila pupunuin yung kanilang sasakyan dahil bayad na sila ng gobyerno," he said.

(If we do that, we can ensure their compliance in social distancing because they don't need to fill their vehicles and reach their quotas because the government has already paid them.)

Under the government's policy, passengers will have to stay at least a meter apart in public vehicles to curb the possible spread of the coronavirus, which can be transmitted through the transfer of fluids from an infected patient.

National agencies also need to find ways to help drivers who may be displaced due to the health crisis, Senate Committee on Public Services Grace Poe said, noting that only 0.5 percent of some 392,000 drivers have received cash aid from the government for the coronavirus crisis.

A group of jeepney operators who attended the hearing said they were willing to comply with the new directives on physical distancing in public transportation, but urged the government to avoid asking operators to apply for new permits.

Poe's panel said it would study all position papers on the matter.

The government said between 700,000 and 900,000 commuters are expected to be back on trains, buses, taxis and jeepneys once the government lifts Metro Manila's enhanced community quarantine on May 15, 2020.

In March, commuters in the capital region disregarded physical distancing policies in public vehicles as they rushed to work amid the coronavirus pandemic.