MANILA, Philippines — The government has approved a proposal to reduce the physical distance between commuters in public transport vehicles starting September 14, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade announced Friday.
Tugade said the Economic Development Cluster (EDC) and the Department of Transportation’s (DOTr) proposal was approved and supported by the National Task Force against COVID-19 and the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Disease.
“There is a need to safely optimize the carrying capacity of the various public transport modes as Metro Manila and its adjacent areas continue with the transition towards the ‘new normal’ where more workers are expected to return to their re-opened workplaces and more businesses are expected to resume operations that were stopped during the enforcement of strict quarantine measures,” Tugade said in a statement.
The DOTr said it is “receptive to an initial optimization of the physical distancing measure being enforced inside public transport units to .75 meters between commuters starting Monday, Sept. 14, before it could be further optimized to 0.5 meters after two weeks, and to 0.3 meters after another two weeks.”
He said DOTr had explained during a presentation to the IATF that with strict health protocols against COVID-19 such as the mandatory use of face masks and face shields by commuters, the one-meter physical distancing measure can be safely adjusted to allow increased ridership in public transport.
He added that the EDC also supported the DOTr and called for the reduction of physical distancing requirements among passengers in public utility vehicles, provided that commuters will observe strict health and safety measures.
Such measures include the mandatory wearing of face masks, face shields, and barring passengers from talking or making phone calls while on board public transport, according to the official.
Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr., NTF against COVID-19 chief implementer, meanwhile said the easing of physical distancing rules, without sacrificing strict health protocols such as wearing face masks and face shields, “will help soothe the transportation woes of Filipino commuters.”
The expected increase in passenger capacity in railway lines is supported by data based on physical simulation, according to Tugade.
Below is the adjusted passenger capacity of railway lines based on reduced physical distancing per trainset:
For class 2 modern public utility vehicles and public utility buses, optimizing the physical distance between passengers inside the vehicles will mean that standing passengers may be accommodated, Tugade said.
More passengers will also be allowed to enter airports and seaports.
According to the transportation chief, this will also mean an increase in the passenger load capacity on roll on-roll off passenger vessels, as follows:
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