The Department of Transportation (DOTr) said on Tuesday that its proposal to drastically increase passenger capacity in public transportation is backed by pieces of medical evidence.
Transportation Assistant Secretary for Road Transport and Infrastructure Steve Pastor said the road sector has already submitted its formal position to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) and is “ready to defend its recommendation.”
“The road sector has submitted a formal position paper to increase the seating capacity from 50 percent to 100 percent, based on medical literature that is available. At the same time, we are ready to defend our position to IATF this Thursday,” he said.
The transport agency is pushing to increase seating capacity in public-utility vehicles (PUV) to help the industry recover from the ill effects of the pandemic exacerbated by the continued oil price hike.
It proposes to implement this first in Metro Manila, wherein, Pastor said, 81.4 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
Aside from this, he said “studies [from Vietnam] have shown that reliance on complete face mask use and partial hand sanitizer use were proven [to be] enough to contain three very modest Covid-19 waves while preserving normal bus services.” He also cited a study in Eastern China that found that passengers in the high-risk zones—or seats in the same row with an infected passenger and within three rows—had moderate but not significantly higher risk; and another from Oxford that said that “rigid” safe distancing rules are an oversimplification based on outdated science and experiences of past viruses.
Pastor said the DOTr has also conducted a rapid analysis of available data on Covid-19 cases and public transport capacity covering 10 countries, namely: Philippine, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, China, Australia, Vietnam, and Malaysia.
The study, he said, revealed that “transport capacity has no significant correlation with the number of Covid-19 cases.”
This means that increasing the seating capacity of public transport is safe and that this could help transport operators and drivers recoup from the pandemic as well as the increasing fuel prices, Pastor said.
He noted, however, that the agency would still leave it up to the IATF.
“This is not just a matter of public transportation but also a matter of public health,” Pastor said.