MUDDLING THROUGH

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Transportation

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THE LACK of transportation marred the transition planned for the National Capital Region (NCR) to move toward a general community quarantine (GCQ) on June 1.  

Most of the jeepney lines were still shut down, as many jeepney drivers could not fulfill the new requirements set by the transportation authorities. Many returning workers expected to find transport facilities running to take them to work, and found none and were forced to walk long distances and hitch rides with any vehicle which would take them. 

The bus augmentation program did little to help as thousands were still left stranded all around the metropolis. 

The DOLE had issued the requirements for companies to provide for the needs of their employees, including transport and shelter as necessary. But in issuing directives for the reopening of Metro Manila to GCQ status, the guidelines did not include the different kinds of workers and businesses primed to get back to work. 

Media reports fully captured the misery shared by almost everyone who returned to work that day, the long wait on the streets, the punishing trek to their destinations. But only a few focused on the failure of government to prepare for what was the paramount need of commuters.

The lockdown had disrupted businesses of all kinds. But government seemed oblivious to the small-to-medium sized companies which would not be able to afford to provide transportation, much less shelter for their employees. 

It would not have been so difficult to do as so many bus companies could have been placed in government service for the period. There were also military vehicles which in the past had been commandeered by government to augment transportation in a period of shortage. 

The two months in which to prepare a plan for this reopening would have been enough to set up all kinds of contingencies, assign routes to PUV drivers who were ready to ply the streets, and call in government vehicles as necessary. 

Only a few journalists were bold enough to point to the shameful lapse of government service, as the administration called on Filipinos to restart the economy. 

Government officials, however, added insult to injury. 

In a radio interview on June 2, Jose Arturo Garcia, MMDA General Manager, blamed the commuters for their lack of discipline for the chaos on the streets. “They were focused on traveling even though they (knew), just as the Department of Transportation said, our first priority is health and safety.” 

Transportation Secretary Arturo Tugade had this to say during an interview on CNN Philippines: “Wala kaming pinangako o sinabi na ang transportasyon ay magiging (We did not promise that transportation would be…) extensive and will meet the requirements of all on the first day of GCQ – and even in the duration of the GCQ for that matter. Because as I’ve said, our approach is partial, limited, calculated and gradual.”  

Reports carried these ludicrous excuses, but most let these thoughtless and uncaring remarks pass. Only Interaksyon attempted to hold government to account for their negligence and lack of foresight.

The transport sector kept announcing more ill-conceived policies, only to swiftly withdraw their implementation. The public rightfully ridiculed the use of motorcycle barriers and the reduction of distancing in public transport from one meter to 0.75. CMFR noted efforts of Rappler, GMA-7 and Inquirer to point out problematic pronouncements and the lack of coordination between member agencies of the IATF.

READ CMFR MONITORS ON THE ISSUE:

  • Why the government failure, when there was enough time to work on a plan, assign routes to PUV drivers who were ready to ply the streets, and call in government vehicles if necessary? Only a few journalists were intrepid enough to point out the shameful lapse of government service, as it decided to call back Filipinos to restart the economy.” |Commuting horrors on GCQ day: Only some reports noted government incompetence