Business chamber bats for 80pct public transport capacity

25-Sep-2020 Intellasia | PhilStar | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Public transport should be allowed to carry 80 percent of their typical capacity in order for enterprises to fully restart and support the economy, the country’s largest business group said on Thursday.

“Many of our members continue to hurt even as they have been allowed to reopen because their workers are hampered by the lack of or absence of public transportation,” said Benedicto Yujuico, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), an industry group.

“Moreover, consumer demand continues to be low,” he said in a webinar.

A relaxation to 80 percent from the current 50 percent passenger load of public transport essentially means an easing in 1-metre physical distancing measures enforced to prevent the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19). The transport department moved to ease these prohibitions initially, but was criticised for doing so.

“We recommended for the reduction of physical distancing in public transport so we can increase passenger load. It was approved by the IATF on September 7, however it was met with concerns from various medical experts,” Transport Assistant Secretary Goddes Hope Libiran said in a text message when asked to comment on PCCI’s proposal.

“Also, the President has already spoken. And the decision is to maintain the current 1-metre physical distancing…,” she added.

Realising the health risks of a more packed jeepney or bus, Yujuico suggested that apart from face masks and face shields, additional restrictions such as “no talking, no eating and no using of cellphone inside public vehicles” should be enforced to double-up on health precautions.

Transport operators must also be aware of these restrictions so that full compliance can be ensured, he said.

Libiran said any changes to existing health protocols would have to be decided by the interagency task force for emerging infectious diseases chaired by the health department. For George Barcelon, PCCI president emeritus, workers will not be able to fully bounce back from the pandemic’s impact without bigger public transport capacity.

In fact, as early as June, PCCI has recommended to the government, through the finance department’s Sulong Pilipinas forum, that more jeepneys, tricycles and buses be allowed to operate if only to accelerate economic activity. Their call so far has remained unheeded.

“COVID-19 has been with us for 6 months now, and is not going away soon. We should not let it keep us hostage. Instead, we have to know how to move our way with the virus,” Yujuico said.

Apart from easing transport rules, PCCI was also advocating to reopen more industries so that businesses and workers can earn. Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, the prior day, said he favoured Metro Manila’s shift to a looser modified general community quarantine, under which some restrictions such as in capacity of establishments will be loosened.

President Rodrigo Duterte is set to decide anew on the quarantine regimes that will govern the archipelago for the next month.

“Transportation is crucial to effectively revitalise businesses and help them recover,” Yujuico said.


Category: Philippines

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