MODERN JEEPNEYS BEGIN PLYING METRO MANILA ROADS
At least 300 modern jeepneys were given the green light to begin plying Metro Manila routes on Monday; however, a think tank cautioned that the news might not be the commuters had been calling out for since coronavirus ground transportation in the capital to a stop months ago.
According to Malacañang, jeepneys will be supplemented by 3,600 buses to transport riding public who had been burdened by the scarcity of public transportation.
Palace spokesman Harry Roque said 1,500 other vehicles would be authorized to ply particular routes to help alleviate the burden of Filipinos who had begun to work again after President Rodrigo Duterte further loosened quarantine restrictions in Metro Manila last June 1.
“Our problem regarding the lack of public transportation will be addressed beginning June 22. But we still need to observe social distancing because there’s no other alternative [to stem the spread of COVID-19], ” Roque said.
Currently, the Department of Transportation (DoTr) is enforcing a two-phase resumption of public utility vehicles (PUVs), following a “hierarchy of transport,” with priority given to high-capacity vehicles.
The first phase, which started June 1 to June 21, gave way merely to trains, bus augmentations, point-to-point buses, taxis, transport network vehicles, and tricycles, all under limited capacity to maintain physical distancing.
The DOTr was supposed to implement the second phase on June 22, where modern jeepneys and UV Express vans were supposed to likewise resume operations.
However, 9,000 UV Express vans with franchises are not yet permitted to operate in the country’s capital. So are 55,000 traditional public utility jeepneys (PUJs).
Prior to the pandemic, there were 12,000 passenger buses that operated in the metropolis, 4,000 city buses, and 8,000 provincial buses.
The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) on Sunday said a memorandum circular it issued on June 19 allowed modern PUJs to shuttle passengers through 15 routes in Metro Manila this week.
LTFRB Chair Martin Delgra III said: “The resumption of PUJ operations in 15 routes in Metro Manila is part of our calibrated response to restore mass transportation in Metro Manila and the adjacent provinces as we transition into the new normal.”
But Ibon Foundation said commuters shouldn’t be too excited to hop onto the modern jeepneys, contending that these posed several health risks amid the still fuming pandemic.
“Insisting on jeepney modernization unnecessarily puts commuters at risk of possible airborne coronavirus infections,” Ibon said. “Enclosed modern jeepneys can become centers for spreading the virus compared to the natural ventilation of traditional jeepneys, ” it added.
Ibon mentioned the multiple studies revealing that regular ventilation lessened the risk of COVID-19 infection, with enclosed spaces being extremely vulnerable to the spread of the disease.
The group said this is because small cough droplets that might contain virus grains could stay in the air of indoor environments.
The limited ventilation in public transport systems led the International Association of Public Transport, which is in 96 countries, to warn these facilities were high-risk environments.
“The traditional open-air jeepney is likely even safer against COVID-19 than its air-conditioned modernized counterpart,” Ibon said. “The ban on traditional jeepneys should be lifted.”
Nonetheless, commuters who opt to take the modern jeepneys this week will find that the experience is dramatically distinct from the prepandemic era, just three months ago.
Modern jeepneys are required to guarantee that passengers use mobile phones or contactless smart cards to pay for fares.
For the purpose of contact tracing, drivers or conductors shall provide each passenger upon boarding a contact form, which must be filled out and submitted in a dropbox before alighting.
LTFRB Memorandum Circular No. 2020-023 read: “For easier contact tracing, passengers are advised to take note of the plate number of the OFG-compliant PUJ they rode, date and time they boarded, and the route they took.”
“Operators/drivers shall display this reminder with the plate number of the vehicle prominently visible to all passengers.”
Drivers, conductors, and passengers are required to wear face masks at all times, and operators should provide a disinfecting foot bath for commuters to use before boarding a PUJ.
“The passenger load of each jeepney must not exceed 50 percent of its seating capacity,” the agency added.