1 Meter distancing in public transport should remain, insist Metro Manila mayors

Modern public utility vehicles. Photo: DOTr/FB
Modern public utility vehicles. Photo: DOTr/FB

The Department of Transportation’s planned move to reduce physical distancing in public vehicles does not have the approval of the National Capital Region’s mayors, Metro Manila Council (MMC) chair and Parañaque Mayor Edwin Olivarez said yesterday in a virtual forum.

The MMC is composed of the 17 Metro Manila mayors. Olivarez said the organization met with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) on Sunday to discuss the Transport Department’s surprise announcement.

Read: 1 Meter, Not Less: Health workers reject reduced physical distancing in commute

“We were perplexed because there was no proper consultation with the 17 mayors and we were surprised that they suddenly announced these guidelines without any consultation on the ground. We all know the National Capital Region is the COVID epicenter,” the mayor said.

He said that the new transport policy would lead to an “inconsistency in messaging.”

“Outside of a public utility vehicle, we are implementing the one-meter distancing [rule]. And then inside a public utility vehicle, it will become 0.75 [meter]….The Metro Manila Council thinks that we cannot sacrifice our health protocol because we need to maintain physical distancing among our constituents,” he said.

Read: Adios, Physical Distancing: Public transport to accommodate more passengers from Sept. 14

“Even if people are wearing face masks and face shields our health experts should study if 0.75 is enough. But definitely 0.5 and 0.3 [meter distancing], the 17 mayors object to that,” Olivarez added.

It was on Monday when physical distancing was reduced inside all public transport to 0.75 meters. The Transport Department plan to reduce this to 0.5 meters after two weeks, then to 0.3 meters after 14 more days. The department said that with the mandatory wearing of face shields and face masks, it was supposedly safe to reduce the distance between passengers.

Spokesman Harry Roque said yesterday that the IATF would assess the policy and come up with a recommendation for President Rodrigo Duterte, who has the final say on whether or not the measure should continue to be implemented.


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