A female legislator on Wednesday urged the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) against Covid-19 to allow motorcycle taxis to operate provided they install plastic shields to separate the driver and passenger.
“They have already permitted motorbike taxis to resume operations in Indonesia. If they can do it, we can do it to help millions of our people who still have no jobs and income due to quarantine restrictions,” Quezon City Rep. Precious Castelo said.
Castelo, vice chair of the House committee on Metro Manila Development, said the installation of a plastic shield or separator would be required in compliance with physical distancing protocol and to ensure that there would be no contact between the driver and passenger.
“Other health protocols would be observed. The driver should be wearing Department of Health-accepted protective personal equipment, while the passenger should have his/her own helmet and face mask to ensure hygiene protocols. There should be contactless payment with the use of G-Cash or PayMaya. The use of government endorsed StaySafe app to determine probability of contamination could be required,” she said.
Castelo suggested that the IATF pattern the design of the passenger separator from that being used in Indonesia, where many commuters patronize motorcycle taxis as a form of transportation similar to the Philippines.
“Allowing motorcycle taxis to run again will ease congestion in public transportation” she stressed.
Motorbike taxis are a cheaper, faster and more convenient means of transport for workers, she said. She noted that in areas under general community quarantine, half of public transportation, including jeepneys and taxis, remains grounded.
Castelo said the other half that has been allowed to run “cannot accommodate workers, who get stranded or late in arriving at their workplaces.”
“As a result, they suffer salary cuts as penalties, or worse, they are handed their walking papers for being frequently late. The IATF could help them avoid those consequences if it allows motorcycle taxis that comply with physical distancing and other health protocols to operate again,” she said.
In a related development, Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Ferdinand Gaite has backed calls of transport groups to allow public utility vehicles, especially jeepneys, to ply the road again, after the government extended the general community quarantine (GCQ) in Metro Manila up to June 30.
“Bayan Muna deplores the ongoing ban on jeepneys, a decision that was imposed without warning and without consulting jeepney drivers and operators,” Gaite said in a statement.
“The government is denying drivers of their livelihood and now they are robbing them of their last penny and forced them to beg for like the PISTON 6 who they imprisoned. This is utterly merciless,” said the Makabayan lawmaker.
“What the Department of Transportation did was completely callous, these drivers have been off the road for the whole duration of the lockdown, earning nothing and barely receiving any help from the government. Most, if not all of them are already cash-strapped, their families hungry, and they desperately need to continue their livelihood,” he said.
Gaite said the ban couldn’t be described as anything else but a traitorous act just so the Department of a Transportation can fulfill its desire to rid the roads of jeepneys and push their anti-poor modernization program.
Gaite said the result was, it was not just drivers and operators who suffered, but also thousands were stranded on the streets, as commuters have to walk to and from their places of work.
“And with absolutely no plans on how to address the public’s need for mass transport, the best the IATF can advise is that—just walk or buy a bicycle,” Gaite said.
“These just reveal how oblivious our government officials are about the daily sacrifices our workers and the commuting public have to face even before the pandemic hit,” Gaite said.
“Authorities are clearly flexing their muscles as they await the signing of the Terror Law. They are giving us a taste of how ruthless they would be against dissent, how intolerant they would be of activism. This incident thus gives us more reason to continue opposing the Terror Law,” he said.
Anger mounted in Metro Manila over lack of public transportation for workers allowed to return to their jobs after three months of quarantine, with senators calling the situation an emerging crisis and slamming transportation officials for their insensitivity and lack of foresight.
Senator Nancy Binay has dared transportation officials to try commuting amid the limited number of public utility vehicles allowed on the road, and said they seemed to be favoring a particular segment by banning jeepneys—the backbone of public transportation in the country.
Jeepneys, UV Express vans, and most public utility buses remain prohibited, even though more businesses were allowed to resume operations.
Transport officials allowed three metro trains, so-called augmentation buses, and Philippine National Railways to operate at limited capacity to prevent the spread of the coronavirus that causes the severe respiratory disease COVID-19.