MANILA – Malacañang on Saturday apologized to jeepney drivers as they are still not allowed to operate on June 1, when large parts of the country transition to eased quarantine restrictions.
In a Laging Handa press briefing, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said it would be difficult to practice physical distancing inside jeepneys.
The ubiquitous Filipino public transport are so designed that passengers sit close to each other side by side and face those seated on the opposite row.
“Pasensiya na po sa ating mga kapatid na namamasada ng jeepney. Pero pinag-aaralan pa po paano magkaroon ng social distancing sa ating mga jeepney,” he said.
(I would like to apologize to our jeepney drivers. But we are still studying how social distancing can be implemented in jeepneys.)
Under relaxed rules to take effect in the next two weeks, train and bus augmentation units, taxis, ride-hailing cars, point-to-point buses, shuttle services and bicycles will be allowed to operate in a limited capacity.
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) will also allow tricycles to operate subject to the approval of local government units, while provincial buses are still barred from entering Metro Manila.
This as the capital region, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Central Visayas, Pangasinan province, Davao City and Zamboanga City shift to GCQ on Monday. The rest of the country will be under modified GCQ.
For the second phase in the public transport shift, which will run from June 22 to June 30, public utility buses, modern jeepneys and UV express vans will be allowed to operate, on the condition that people wear masks and observe social distancing.
“Ang mga jeepney po kasi ay harapan so napakahirap magkaroon ng social distancing,” Roque said.
(In jeepneys, [passengers] face each other so it is difficult to observe social distancing.)
He said the country’s coronavirus task force was thoroughly studying how jeepneys could return to the road. Thousands of drivers lost livelihood because of transport restrictions under the lockdown.
A group of jeepney drivers has opposed the decision, saying the government was using the pandemic to phase out traditional jeepneys.
Transport group Piston earlier said there were 500,000 jeepney drivers and 200,000 small jeepney operators affected by the lockdown.
Some jeepney drivers resorted to begging on the streets after losing their livelihood.