Commuters will have to keep a one-meter distance from each other pending President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision on the new policy to ease social distancing rules in public transport, Malacañang said Thursday.
Duterte’s spokesperson Harry Roque said Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade made the announcement during the meeting of Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) on Thursday.
“Pansamantalang isususpinde ang implementasyon ng 0.75 [meter] na distancing sa mga pampublikong transportasyon at ibabalik po ito sa sa one meter,” Roque said in a televised briefing.
Roque said the President may decide on the matter on Monday next week.
Explaining Tugade’s pronouncement, Roque said the transportation chief did not want to pressure the President to come up with a decision “as if he is duty bound to make it within a period of time.”
“Kung i-implement ‘yan parang it becomes urgent, the President must act on it right away. So sabi niya, ‘to give the President all the time that he needs to study the matter, balik muna tayo sa one meter and until he says so we will not implement the 0.75,’” the Palace official said.
Under the new protocol released by the Department of Transportation last week, the current one-meter distance would be optimized to 0.75 meters beginning September 14. It could be further reduced to 0.5 meters after two weeks, and to 0.3 meters after another two weeks.
Tugade on Tuesday defended the decision to reduce social distancing on public transport, saying it was a product of research and simulation by the Philippine National Railways.
Some medical experts and government officials opposed the policy, arguing it could trigger a spike in COVID-19 cases.
The Metro Manila Council, composed of mayors in the National Capital Region, said it was not consulted by the DOTr regarding the reduced physical distancing.
Some experts, however, including former Health secretaries Manuel Dayrit and Esperanza Cabral, said evidence from several studies support the gradual reduction of social distancing inside public transportation vehicles. —KBK, GMA News