TRANSPORTATION Secretary Arthur Tugade yesterday ordered the transportation sector to implement the “one-seat apart” rule while strictly enforcing health and safety protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
This, after President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and his Cabinet approved the recommendations proposed by the Economic Development Cluster (EDC) to aid in economic recovery.
Tugade directed the agencies to religiously adhere to the Department of Transportation’s Operation Plan (OPLAN) AIR (Add routes/PUVs, Increase speed/capacity, Reduce travel time) to serve as the baseline in formulating and implementing transport initiatives to increase public transport capacity, especially at this time when the government is aiming to revive the country’s economy amid the pandemic and under the “new normal.”
The DOTr chief ordered the immediate adoption of the one-seat apart rule to increase the present capacity in public utility vehicles (PUVs), and gradually increase capacity, or allow sitting together— provided that plastic barriers are placed between passengers, or that UV lights are used.
The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) will be issuing a clarificatory memorandum circular explaining in detail the “one-seat apart” rule and the use of measures to increase capacity while ensuring the safety of passengers, such as the use of plastic barriers to separate passengers, or UV lights, inside PUVs.
In addition, the transport chief ordered the LTFRB to open up more public transport routes and authorize more roadworthy units, such as provincial and city buses, as well as public utility jeepneys. He also ordered the agency to allow the operation of additional transport network vehicle services (TNVS) and taxis.
Under the current policy, there is no cap on the number of additional taxis and TNVS units to be deployed for as long as they are duly-accredited by the Transport Network Corporations (TNCs) for purposes of contact tracing, are authorized to operate (with appropriate CPC or P.A.) and, more importantly, are compliant with public health protocols set by IATF.
With regard to the clamor for the return of motorcycle taxis on the streets, Tugade reiterated that the DOTr will fully support this, provided that a Congress Resolution is passed to serve as the DOTr’s legal basis for its implementation.
“The DOTr recognizes the role of motorcycle taxis in transporting our commuters to their destinations. Malaking tulong ho ito lalo na ngayong limitado pa din ang kapasidad ng pampublikong transportasyon. Kaya nga ho ba, as long as there is a Congress Resolution, which will be our legal basis to allow the operation of MC Taxis, we will fully support this. We will abide by the directive of Congress and the IATF on the health and safety protocols,” said Tugade.
Tugade also ordered the LTFRB to speed up the processes needed for the deployment and operation of shuttle services.
“Noon pa man, binigyan ko na ng direktiba ang LTFRB na dapat pabilisin ang proseso. Ayoko ng may prosesong matagal at manghihingi pa ng permit. Nasa pandemic tayo. We should just observe the basic protocols,” he said.
The LTFRB has issued Memorandum Circular No. 2020-039 dated August 17, 2020 which exempts shuttle services for transport workers during the general community quarantine (GCQ) from securing franchise or Certificate of Public Convenience (CPC) so long as they fall under the exemption on the following conditions: 1) Vehicles must be secured by a Contract of Lease for a period of at least three (3) months but not exceeding 31 December 2020, and said contract must at all times be readily available for presentation during on-road operations or as the Board deems necessary; 2) Vehicles must be used and driven by the lessee or his/her authorized representatives; 3) Vehicles must be currently registered and covered by a comprehensive passenger insurance policy; and 4) Vehicles subject of the lease contract shall bear the proper marking of, the company that it is servicing for identification.
PUV operators contracted by private companies for shuttle service may apply for special permits which is expedited through the online facility of LTFRB. The permit is issued within the same day of the filing of application provided all requirements are submitted likewise online.
Meanwhile, to give transport operators and drivers a steady source of income while improving the commuters’ riding experience, Tugade ordered the LTFRB to accelerate the implementation of service contracting for buses and public utility jeepneys by October 2020.
According to the implementing guidelines on the PUV service contracting program released by LTFRB last October 8, 2020, a “Net Service Contracting scheme” will be implemented under which payments will be calculated based on rates set for the distance and routes that drivers will be covering over a particular period. In this scheme, government will pay drivers a subsidy that will cover the cost of service rendered per kilometer by their buses and jeepneys plying on specific routes, in accordance with a set of performance indicators.
Aside from PUVs, Tugade also ordered the rail sector to increase passenger capacity by 30 percent to 50 percent.
In the maritime sector and aviation sectors, Tugade directed agencies to allow more Ro-Ro (roll on and roll off) ferries and more flights to cater to passengers.
In order to curb the spread of COVID-19 amid these developments, the DOTr Secretary ordered transport sectors to ensure the strict enforcement of the following 7 Commandments inside public transport, as recommended by health experts: 1) Wear face masks and face shields; 2) No talking and making telephone calls; 3) No eating; 4) Keep PUVs well-ventilated; 5) Conduct of frequent disinfection; 6) No passengers with COVID-19 symptoms are to be allowed inside the public transportation; and 7) Observe appropriate physical distancing (“one-seat-apart”) rule.