The Department of Transportation said Thursday the capacity of the MRT-3 would be reduced on July 6 after the number of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases among its depot personnel increased to 127.
The agency said the 127 cases consisted of 124 Sumitomo Depot Personnel and three MRT3 Depot Personnel. MRT3 has 1,714 depot personnel.
At the same time, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board has allowed the limited operations of roadworthy traditional jeepneys starting today (Friday).
The agency said that it has allowed 49 routes for 6,002 vehicle units, or less than 10 percent of the total number of jeepneys that used to ply the streets of Metro Manila.
Based on data previously released by the LTFRB, there are 579 routes through which approximately 74,000 jeepneys operate in Metro Manila alone.
Swab testing of all personnel enabled MRT3 and Sumitomo-MHI to immediately identify and quarantine all affected personnel, allowing MRT3, with IATF-EID guidance and upon advice of Sumitomo-MHI, to continue operations at reduced capacity.
MRT-3 management has given assurances all its stations personnel remained COVID-19 free.
Transportation Undersecretary for Railways Timothy John Batan said that with the guidance of the IATF-EID and upon advice of Sumitomo-MHI, MRT-3 was able to continue operations, with the possibility of reducing capacity) starting July 6, due to the number of maintenance personnel at the depot currently on quarantine.
The extent of operating level reduction (i.e., number of reduced trains) will be advised by Sumitomo over the weekend.
“Sumitomo requested to discuss on a day-by-day basis the level of operations that they can sustain as results of the mass swab testing continue to be released. In the meantime, Sumitomo advised that they are able to continue with operations to service MRT-3’s tens of thousands of passengers, although at a reduced level,” Batan said.
“While we try to do our best to keep the same maintenance performance through this week, we would like to discuss with DOTr MRT3 office day by day, how much maintenance level we would be able to keep, in view of the number of COVID-19 infected people,” Masanori Honda of Sumitomo said.
MRT-3 reached its highest GCQ ridership to date on June 19, carrying 67,821 passengers at its reduced capacity of 13 percent (153 passengers per train, down from 1,182 pre-ECQ). MRT-3’s Bus Augmentation Program also reached its highest ridership on the same day, carrying 8,835 passengers.
To augment MRT-3’s further reduced capacity due to the quarantine of some of its depot personnel, DOTr will be boosting its Bus Augmentation Program and EDSA Busway service, in coordination with the DOTr Road Sector, LTFRB, and MMDA.
Per guidance of the IATF-EID, additional measures and precautions will be taken during MRT-3’s reduced operations, including requiring full PPE for stations and depot personnel, limiting movement of depot personnel to their immediate areas of responsibility, increased disinfection activities, and heightened monitoring and screening of symptoms among all personnel.
Meanwhile, the government will be having augmentation buses along Epifanio de los Santos Avenue to make up for fewer trains.
“Additional measures and precautions will be taken during MRT-3’s reduced operations, including requiring full PPE for stations and depot personnel, limiting movement of depot personnel to their immediate areas of responsibility, increased disinfection activities, and heightened monitoring and screening of symptoms among all personnel,” the MRT-3 management said in a separate statement.
Since the general community quarantine was imposed in Metro Manila, the MRT-3 has been operating with only 13 percent of its capacity and practicing health protocols imposed by the government such as physical distancing and wearing of face masks.
The management also came out with a policy limiting the numbers of staff and passengers to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The MRT-3 line, which serves 13 stations, commences at North Avenue and ends at Taft Avenue, serving the cities that Epifanio de los Santos Avenue passes through: Quezon City, Mandaluyong, Makati, and Pasay.
On Wednesday, the LTFRB issued its “Guidelines for the Operations of Traditional Public Utility Jeepneys During the Period of General Community Quarantine in Metro Manila through Memorandum Circular 2020-026.
The LTFRB emphasizes to traditional PUJ operators that they must provide PUJs that are currently registered roadworthy with the Land Transportation Office and with valid Personal Passenger Insurance Policy.
In addition, it must be noted that the existing fare of P9.00 for the first four kilometers and P1.50 for succeeding kilometer(s) should be followed. No fare adjustment shall be applied unless approved by the Board.
Operators and drivers are likewise required to comply with a series of safety measures prior to dispatch and during operations, such as checking of body temperature, wearing masks and gloves at all times, and operating at a maximum of 50 percent capacity, and distributing Passenger Contact Forms.
Failure to comply with the conditions set forth by the Board will incur penalties from imposition of fines to cancellation or suspension of the Certificate of Public Convenience or Provisional Authority.
In a related development, PISTON president Mody Floranda, reacting to the LTFRB circular, said: “This is very small compared to the actual number of jeepneys in Metro Manila. Many drivers and operators remain hungry.”
Of the approved routes, only 12 are over a minimum of 4 kilometer and 3 are over 9 kilometer.
“The LTFRB provides only short-route routes to drivers and operators,” Floranda said.