DOTr eyes pilot run of full PUV passenger capacity in Metro Manila

Public utility bus

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) is eyeing to implement a pilot run for increased passenger capacity for public utility vehicles in the National Capital Region.

Assistant Secretary for Road Transport and Infrastructure Steve Pastor said during a public hearing on the proposed 2022 DOTr budget that they have already submitted to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) its formal position paper on the matter.

Nakapag-submit na po ang road sector ng formal position paper na i-increase ang seating capacity from 50 percent na para po sa amin, kung masusunod ang Kagawaran, ay pwedeng maging 100 percent based on medical literature that is available (The road sector has already submitted a formal position paper to increase the seating capacity from 50 percent which for us, if the Department will be allowed, can be adjusted to 100 percent based on medical literature that is available),” Pastor said.

“At the same time, we are ready to defend our position to IATF this Thursday. Alam naman natin na mayroon pa rin tayong dapat idulog sa IATF dahil this is not only a matter of public transportation but also a matter of public health (We know that we still have something to report to the IATF because this is not only a matter of public transportation but also a matter of public health),” he added.

The pilot implementation of the agency — members of which will meet with the IATF-EID on Thursday — will be in Metro Manila.

Public utility bus

The DOTr shared that the proposed passenger capacity increase is anchored on the following arguments:

  • Metro Manila is now at Alert Level 3, receiving a higher demand for public transport due to more businesses reopening.

The DOTr claimed studies showed that “reliance on complete face mask use and partial hand sanitizer use were proven enough to contain three very modest COVID-19 waves while preserving normal bus services.”

The agency continued, “Other studies have also revealed that passengers in the high-risk zones (seats in the same row with an infected passenger and within three rows) had moderate but not significantly higher risk, and that ‘rigid’ safe distancing rules are an oversimplification based on outdated science and experiences of past viruses.”

  • Livelihood of public transport drivers and operators are severely affected with passenger capacity in public transport maintained at 50 percent.

Increasing passenger capacity would yield in higher revenue for the public transport — a welcome development considering the increase in expenses brought by increasing fuel prices.

  • Metro Manila is the ideal place to conduct the test run.

It is ascertained that 81.4 percent of the total population in the region is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and that public utility jeepneys and buses operating there are well-ventilated.

  • Public transport capacity has no significant correlation with the number of COVID-19 cases.

The said finding was found based on the DOTr’s rapid analysis of available data on COVID-19 cases (seven-day average cases per one million population) and public transport capacity, which covered 10 countries (Philippine, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, China, Australia, Vietnam, and Malaysia).

Further, the agency claimed that “evidence also suggest that high vaccination rate prompts an increase in allowed PUV capacity.”

Photos from Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Facebook page

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