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Eased transport rules start Monday to boost economy

THE government started implementing today (September 14) eased transport rules to increase the capacity of various transport modes and “help in the opening and recovery of the economy.”

Department of Transportation (DOTr) Assistant Secretary Goddes Hope O. Libiran said her group will implement the eased rules as planned, as the InterAgency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases “approved on September 7” the reduced physical distancing requirement for transportation.

The physical distancing requirement for various transport modes will be implemented in phases per fortnight—from the present 1-meter distance which was enforced last August 19, it will be reduced to 0.75 meters starting September 14; 0.5 meters starting September 28; and 0.3 meters starting October 12.

In effect, this will increase the capacities of transport modes available during the pandemic, including railways, jeepneys, buses, and sea vessels.

Despite the reduction in physical distancing, the government now requires a “no talking and no answering of calls” policy to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. The usual health protocols such as the wearing of face masks and face shields and constant disinfection will still be in place.

“In the past few days, we have seen and heard the plea of commuters for the lack of public transportation. We have also taken into consideration the call of the economic team for the transport sector to help the economy open and recover,” Transportation Undersecretary for Administrative Service Artemio Tuazon Jr. said.

With the easing of physical distancing requirements, the capacity of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) Line 1 will be gradually increased from 155 passengers per trip to 300 passengers per trip by October; LRT Line 2 will have a max capacity of 502 passengers per trip; the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) Line 3 will have 327 max capacity per trip; and the Philippine National Railways (PNR) will have a max capacity of 320 passengers per trip.

Transportation Undersecretary for Railways Timothy John R. Batan noted that this move is being implemented after consultations with medical experts as well as simulation activities in regards to transmission and exposure. His group also considered “international practices” in the pandemic.

For the road sector, jeepneys will have maximum increase in capacity of 12 percent, while 2×2 buses can accommodate as much as three more passengers. UV Express units can also ferry at most two more passengers.

Maritime vessels will have a gradual increase in passenger load between 75 percent to 100 percent through October.

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