Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade.
By Tracy Cabrera
MANILA — Road transport, railways, aviation and airports and maritime sectors have all been placed on full alert by orders from the Department of Transportation (DoTr) after general community quarantine status was imposed on the National Capital Region (NCR), including Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal from March 22 to April 4 2021 in an effort to curb the spike in new Covid-19 infections.
Transport officials held a virtual press briefing on orders of transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade to announce the development even as President Rodrigo Duterte approved IATF Resolution Number 104 issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) to impose stricter measures in combating the spread of the novel coronavirus (nCoV) and its mutant variants.
During the online media briefing, DoTr representative to the IATF and undersecretary for administrative services Artemio Tuazon Jr. clarified that essential road, railway, air, and sea travels are not prohibited but are subject to stricter implementation of minimum health and safety protocols.
Tuazon said that only authorized persons outside of residences (APORs) will be allowed to travel to and from GCQ areas, now collectively called ‘NCR Plus’.
Considered as APORs are essential workers (who will have to show their identification); health and emergency frontline services personnel; government officials and government frontline personnel; duly-authorized humanitarian assistance personnel; persons traveling for medical or humanitarian reasons; persons going to the airport for travel abroad; anyone crossing zones for work or business and going back home; and returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) and returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
The transportation undersecretary added that the strict implementation of the ‘7 Commandments in Public Transportation’ will also be strictly observed. These include the wearing of masks and face shields; no talking and making phone calls inside public vehicles; no eating inside public vehicles; keeping public utility vehicles well-ventilated; conducting frequent disinfection; barring from public vehicles passengers with Covid-19 symptoms; and the observance of appropriate physical distancing.
In the road sector, DoTr assistant secretary for road transport and infrastructure Mark Steven Pastor said various measures are in place to ensure the safe and efficient travel of commuters. These include the completion of several vital infrastructure projects and the transition to contactless payment in public utility vehicles (PUVs).
Meanwhile, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) chairman Martin Delgra said that appropriate physical distancing shall continue to be observed inside public utility vehicles (PUVs), while inspections shall be done in transport terminals to ensure compliance of drivers, operators, and passengers to the health protocols
For his part, assistant secretary for special concerns Manny Gonzales said the Inter-Agency Council for Traffic (IACT) will activate ‘Oplan Biyaheng Ayos’ during the Holy Week break. The public can expect intensified implementation and enforcement of health and safety protocols in various transport terminals and on the road, including checking on vehicles for roadworthiness.
In the aviation and airports sector, Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) executive director Carmelo Arcilla cleared that the IATF restrictions do not apply to flights but to the nature of the travel, which means that any essential travel in and out of ‘NCR Plus’, including returning to residences will be considered allowed, provided that the traveler will show proof of residence.
Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) general manager Ed Monreal disclosed that designated temporary isolation areas have been identified at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) should there be a need for a traveler to be quarantined. Monreal added that as part of the protocol, quarantine procedures will be coordinated with the Bureau of Quarantine (BoQ) and the concerned local government unit (LGU).
For his part, Office for Transportation Security (OTS) Administrator Undersecretary Raul Del Rosario said the country’s main gateway is implementing the CAB order, stating that international inbound arrival at the NAIA shall be limited to a maximum of 1,500 passengers per day starting on 18 March 2021 until 18 April 2021.
As for the regional airports, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) director-general Jim Sydiongco said they have not suspended flights, but is enforcing limitations on passengers as to the purpose of their travel even as all regional international airports remain operational.
In the Maritime sector, Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) general manager Jay Daniel Santiago said that leisure and tourism travel will not be allowed in sea transport but those going to their residences outside the ‘NCR Plus’ using sea transport will be allowed once they show proof of residence. Passengers are also advised to prepare for requirements asked by their respective LGUs.
Finally, for the railway sector, the undersecretary for railways Timothy John Batan announced that the 30 to 40 percent passenger capacity in the country’s rail lines is being maintained while ongoing works for various infrastructure projects are expected to continue. These initiatives, Batan said, aim to increase the capacity of the railway lines in terms of operational trains, increase the train speed, decrease travel time, and reduced headway or waiting time between trains. (AI/MTVN)