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Solon says 1.7M workers still stranded despite optimized physical distancing in public transpo

Marikina City Representative Stella Quimbo on Tuesday said that an estimated 1.7 million workers will still not be able to get a ride to their workplaces even as the physical distancing in public transportation systems have been reduced and jeepney units have been increased.

Quimbo made the remark during the House appropriations panel deliberations on the proposed 2021 budget of the Department of Transportation (DOTr).

"Ang estimate ko ng stranded workers is something like 1.7 million. This is even after yesterday's increase in jeeps and reduction dito sa 1 meter to .75 meters," said Quimbo, an economist.

"Sa tingin ko kailangan pa natin pag-isipan ano pa ang puwede nating gawin," she added.

The DOTr earlier said the one-meter distance between passengers in public transportation will be reduced 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.

DOTr Assistant Secretary Steve Pastor said that with the optimized physical distancing protocols in public transportation systems, public utility buses with four columns of seats could accommodate two more passengers, while those with five columns of seats could add two to eight more passengers.

Modern jeepneys, meanwhile, could accommodate two more passengers, and one more passenger for traditional jeepneys and UV Express, he added.

"Based on our computation, we can have an additional 1,647,930 passengers," Pastor said.

Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board chair Martin Delgra said that based on their latest figures, there are a total of 77,609 public transportation units currently plying Metro Manila roads.

These include 17,372 traditional jeepneys, 786 modern jeepneys, 3,854 public utility buses, close to 2,000 UV Express units, 20,891 taxi units, and 23,968 transport network vehicle service units.

But Quimbo believes that DOTr should allow more units to operate to actually meet the demand of the commuting public.

"Sa totoo lang sa pagkakaalam ko, and please confirm, na ang total number of jeeps is about 55,000. So puwede pa talaga nating i-increase ang namamasadang jeep," she said.

"Ang sa tingin ko as of today, nagdedebate pa ang iba't ibang grupo ng doktor as to whether it is wise to reduce itong social distancing protocol natin. Hayaan na lang natin ang health experts to debate that. Ang sa tingin kong simpleng solusyon para tugunan ang shortage is increase na lang natin ang number ng namamasada," she added.

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, however, said that in realistic terms, the shortage of public transportation units cannot be completely addressed.

"Let's be realistic. It (shortage) has always been there and we have been looking for ways and means to address this shortage. We are willing to listen for suggestions and recommendations. But to say that there is no shortage, hindi totoo 'yan. To say that we can address completely the shortage, hindi totoo 'yan," he said.

"Pero ang katotohanan, 'yung Kagawaran ng Transportasyon at this moment in time are adopting measures and means to address the issue of transportation shortage," he added.

The DOTr is proposing a budget of P143 billion for 2021, which is 44% higher than their allocation of P99 billion under the 2020 General Appropriations Act. —KG, GMA News