PNP, DOTr to heed PRRD order
PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has decided to retain the one-meter physical distancing among commuters in public transportation, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque announced Saturday.
“Ang desisyon po ng Presidente, mananatili po ang one-meter social distancing sa pampublikong transportasyon na sasamahan ng pagsusuot ng mask, face shield,” Roque said in an interview over state-run PTV 4.
Roque said health and safety protocols would also be in place, including the “no speaking, no eating” rule inside a public utility vehicle.
The one-meter physical distancing in public transport was reduced to 0.75 meters beginning Sept. 14 to increase passenger capacity to help revive the economy.
It was supposed to be reduced further to 0.5 meters (approximately 1.8 feet) on Sept. 28 and 0.3 meters starting October 12.
However, it was suspended following calls from experts who warned of increased risk of coronavirus disease transmission.
Acting on Duterte’s orders, the Philippine National Police will continue to strictly enforce the one-meter physical distancing rule in public transportation to help prevent further spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus.
Joint Task Force COVID Shield commander, Lieutenant General Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar said that in coordination with PNP chief, General Camilo Pancratius P. Cascolan, they will also strictly enforce the mandatory wearing of face masks and face shields in public transport.
Eleazar said the PNP Highway Patrol Group headed by Brigadier Gen. Eliseo DC Cruz will continue to inspect public transport terminals to see to it that the health protocols are being strictly enforced.
The PNP-HPG will also conduct random checking of passenger buses to accost drivers who are allowing their passengers to violate the protocols.
On Friday, Cruz led his men in the conduct of random checkpoints in areas going to Tagaytay City as Lt. Gen. Eleazar said that Metro Manila residents and others living in areas under General Community Quarantine or Modified or Enhanced Community Quarantine they still need to observe strict travel protocols while going to Tagaytay City which has already opened its doors to tourists.
Eleazar said members of the PNP-HPG and other Land Transportation Office-deputized police officers will confiscate the licenses of drivers of public utility vehicles who will be found violating the one-meter social distancing rule between their passengers.
“Members of the PNP-HPG and other law enforcers deputized by the LTO can cite the drivers, issue traffic citation tickets and confiscate their driver’s license one they are found to be violating the one-meter social distancing rule. Once apprehended, they have to pay corresponding fines to the LTO,” the official said.
Cascolan has ordered the deployment of police marshals in bus and jeep terminals to check the compliance of public transport operators and drivers to the protocol.
“Random checking lang kasi ginagawa natin because we cannot check all these vehicles specifically in EDSA as it further create traffic. But the point is if ever that there is violation na makikita ng law enforcers inside the vehicle and even ang sasakyan sa mga terminal, the drivers will be cited,” Eleazar explained.
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) headed by Secretary Arthur Tugade earlier came under fire from some health officials after it decided to shorten the social distancing from 1 meter to 0.75 meters inside PUVs last Monday.
The DoTR decision was suspended after top IATF officials led by Department of Interior and Local Government Sec. Eduardo M. Año and Dept. of Health Sec. Francisco Duque disagreed with the DoTR decision citing observations from medical experts that the move will trigger the further spread of the unseen virus among commuters.
As the provincial government of Cavite decided to open its borders for tourists especially those heading to Tagaytay City, Eleazar said there are still travel protocols issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to be followed in the province in order to protect it from the killer virus.
The official said that Cascolan has also ordered police commanders to maintain coordination with their respective LGUs in terms of the entry of non-residents in their respective areas of responsibility.
The Joint Task Force COVID Shield commander emphasized that only those coming from areas under the Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ) or no community quarantine status are allowed to enter the LGUs that opened their borders for tourists without the need for a Travel Authority.
“Local tourists who would come from areas under General Community Quarantine (GCQ), Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ), and Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) are still required to secure a Travel Authority,” said Lt. Gen. Eleazar.
The official however, stressed that the National Task Force on COVID-19 chaired by Secretary of National Defense Delfin N. Lorenzana is still giving the LGUs the discretion in implementing rules that would manage and control the entry of non-local residents.
“LGUs may or may not require a Travel Authority for entering tourists. We leave the decision to them for as long the travel protocols are still observed when they open their borders to tourists,” he said.
Eleazar issued the reminder after Tagaytay City decided to open their area to tourists as part of the move to revive its local economy. Some LGUs are also planning to do the same.
Based on the Omnibus Guideline issued by the IATF-MEID, only LGUs under the MGCQ status and no quarantine status are allowed to open their places for tourists.
But the Omnibus Guideline also stipulated that the tourists who should be accommodated are those from MGCQ status and no quarantine status.
Currently, Metro Manila, Batangas, Bulacan, Tacloban City and Bacolod City are under the GCQ. Iligan City is under ECQ.
Since Cavite is under MGCQ, tourists that would enter the province through Batangas and Metro Manila are required to present a Travel Authority at the border control checkpoints, Eleazar said.
At the same time, the DOTr said it will comply with Duterte’s decision to maintain the one-meter social distancing in public transportation.
According to DOTr Assistant Secretary Goddes Hope Libiran, in compliance with the order of Duterte, they will strictly enforce the one-meter physical distancing in all public transportation especially in MRT-3 starting Saturday.
Meaning they will maintain the 153 passengers seating capacity in each train, or 53 passenger each coach.
At the same time the all personnel of the department will strictly implement the health and safety protocols in all stations inside and outside of the trains.
Among those are wearing face mask and face shield all the time, regular disinfectant in all facilities, as well as no call, talking and receiving call and using of any communications devices while inside the train.
Also according to Libiran, they will closely coordinate with the PNP, I-ACT, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and Highway Patrol Group for the aggressive implementation of 1-meter physical distancing policy.
The (LTFRB) is set to issue a new guidelines for the public utility vehicle accordingly.
– with JUN I. LEGASPI, PNA