Buses and jeepneys for public transport will still be barred in Metro Manila even when it shifts to a more relaxed general community quarantine (GCQ), the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) said Wednesday.
Authorities will have a difficult time monitoring buses and jeepneys since these vehicles drop off and pick up passengers along the road, MMDA General Manager Jojo Garcia said.
READ: NCR mayors push for GCQ after May 31
Physical distancing will also be difficult to observe in such vehicles, he added.
Garcia, however, said the recommendation exempts point-to-point (P2P) bus services since these can easily be monitored by authorities. P2P buses ferry passengers straight to their destination, with no pickups en route.
“They're easy to monitor because P2P buses are not allowed to pickup and drop-off along the way,” Garcia said in Filipino.
Taxi cabs, ride-hailing services, and tricycles, may resume operations once Metro Manila is placed under GCQ, Garcia said, noting that these vehicles can only ferry a limited number of passengers.
The proposal was unanimously backed by the Metro Manila Council, composed of mayors of the metropolitan region's 16 cities and lone municipality.
The council also recommended placing the capital region under GCQ by June 1. Metro Manila is under modified enhanced community quarantine until Sunday.
“Our mayors have said that there's no perfect decision here because you really have to balance the economy and health,” Garcia said.
The director for operations of MRT-3, Michael Capati, meanwhile, said the train system is ready to reopen if Metro Manila is placed under a GCQ next week.
Only 153 passengers will be carried per trip, however, far below its capacity of 1,200 people to ensure proper physical distancing, he said.
All passengers will be required to wear face masks and have their temperatures checked, he added.
Earlier, the Palace suggested Metro Manila might be downgraded to a GCQ in June.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, citing the statements of National Policy Against Covid-19 Chief Implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, raised the likelihood of imposing GCQ in Metro Manila on June 1.
“I quote both of them (Galvez and Año) that chances are, we will in fact be transitioning to GCQ in Metro Manila, according to the chief implementer and the DILG Secretary,” Roque said in an interview with the ABS-CBN News Channel.
READ: ‘Quarantine eased in June’
All 17 mayors of Metro Manila on Tuesday approved the recommendation to place the National Capital Region under GCQ on June 1.
The recommendation is set to be submitted to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).
People living in areas under a modified ECQ like Metro Manila have to limit their movements to going to work and availing of essential services.
Roque said the government already knows “what is going to happen,” should it impose GCQ in Metro Manila.
Acknowledging that the implementation of GCQ would be a “big change” for Metro Manila, he reminded employers to finalize their working arrangements with their employees to ensure that the quarantine protocols set by the government would continue to be followed.
READ: New wave of cases feared
Researchers from the University of the Philippines, however, said Metro Manila and other high-risk areas for COVID-19 should remain under modified ECQ after May 31.
"We recommend that the national government continue the MECQ in the NCR and consider the same in other high-risk areas," UP Diliman Political Science Department Assistant Professor Ranjit Rye, a member of the team, said.
READ: Palace claims PH meets goal of 30,000 daily testing capacity
"The reproduction number of NCR, which is oscillating at around 1.0 rather than showing a discernible decrease, is a sign that it might be premature to relax the MECQ to GCQ (general community quarantine)," he said.
In related developments:
* Medical frontliners are exempted from the modified number coding scheme the MMDA intends to enforce after May 31. The modified number coding scheme was among the items discussed during the virtual meeting conducted by members of the Metro Manila Council Tuesday night. Under the modified number coding scheme, coded-vehicles are allowed on major roads subject to condition that vehicles carry at least one passenger to maximize the use of the vehicle.
* The Bureau of Immigration (BI) said its offices are prepared to resume full operations starting Monday, June 1, and issued a set of guidelines and protocols for employees and stakeholders to follow and observe under a “new normal” environment after the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) is lifted in Metro Manila and other areas of the country. Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said the new protocols will be implemented at the BI main office and other immigration field, satellite, and extension offices as soon as the government places Metro Manila under a GCQ.