MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Transportation (DOTr) said it is prepared to defend its recommendation to increase passenger capacity in public transportation, road, and rail.
In a statement released on Tuesday (October 26), DOTr Asec. Steve Pastor said the Department has submitted to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) its formal position paper on the increase in passenger capacity for public transport.
“Nakapag-submit na po ang road sector ng formal position paper na i-increase ang seating capacity from 50% na para po sa amin, kung masusunod ang Kagawaran, ay pwedeng maging 100% based on medical literature that is available. At the same time, we are ready to defend our position to IATF this Thursday,” he said.
The recommendation to increase passenger capacity in public transport aims to help drivers and operators amid the pandemic and the continued increase of fuel prices.
The DOTr’s proposed passenger capacity increase in public transport, with a pilot run in Metro Manila, is anchored on the following arguments:
1. Metro Manila is now under Alert Level 3, which allows for more businesses to open, and more people going out, which resulted to greater demand for public transport. Studies have shown that reliance on complete face mask use and partial hand sanitizer use were proven enough to contain three very modest COVID-19 waves while preserving normal bus services. Other studies have also revealed that passengers in the high-risk zones (seats in the same row with an infected passenger and within 3 rows) had moderate but not significantly higher risk, and that “rigid” safe distancing rules are an oversimplification based on outdated science and experiences of past viruses.
2. The livelihood of public transport drivers and operators were severely affected with passenger capacity in public transport maintained at 50%. Increasing passenger capacity will mean a higher revenue for the public transport sector. This will be a welcome development considering the increase in expenses brought by increasing fuel prices.
3. Metro Manila is the ideal place to test the proposal considering that 81.4% of its population is now fully vaccinated against COVID-19. In addition, public utility jeepneys and buses operating in Metro Manila are well-ventilated.
4. The DOTr had also conducted a rapid analysis of available data on COVID-19 cases (7-day average cases per 1 million population) and public transport capacity, which covered 10 countries (Philippine, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, China, Australia, Vietnam, and Malaysia). It was found out that public transport capacity has no significant correlation with the number of COVID-19 cases
5. Evidence also suggest that high vaccination rate prompts an increase in allowed PUV capacity. AAC