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Senate sets virtual hearing on resumption of transport operations under GCQ

By Javier J. Ismael/The Manila Times

THE Senate public services committee will conduct a virtual public hearing (live via Senate webcast) on Monday on the gradual resumption of public transport to serve essential workers and jumpstart the economy under the general community quarantine  (GCQ).

In calling for the inquiry, Sen. Mary Grace Poe, chairman of the committee, said that on March 16, President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire Luzon under an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) as part of the government’s efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus 2019 (Covid-19). The lockdown took effect on midnight of March 17.

Poe said that in the implementation of the ECQ, all forms of public transportation have been suspended to discourage people from leaving their houses, except when buying essential goods.

The senator added that a month after the lockdown, Google’s Philippine Mobility Report which used anonymized location data from users who turned on their location history found that as of April 17, there is a 79 percent decline in mobility trends for retail and recreational locations, 56 percent decline for groceries and pharmacies, 53 percent decline in public parks and beaches, 85 percent decline in transit stations, 71 percent decline in workplace locations, and 39 percent increase in residential locations.

With regard to air travel, Poe said the International Air Transport Association  (IATA) reported that the airline industry will see a 48 percent reduction in passenger demand due to economic decline and travel restrictions, and a 55 percent decline in passenger  revenue compared to 2019 data.

She said that some countries were beginning to craft their post-pandemic  transportation plans in anticipation of the reopening of the economy.

In the Philippines, in anticipation of the easing of the ECQ after May 15, various groups and individuals have come up with viable suggestions on how to enable mobility while still observing social distancing and health protocols.

Poe said there were two measures which the government could pursue to effectively implement social distancing: first, to reduce crowding by increasing the frequency of public transport vehicles; and second, to encourage active transport modes like walking and cycling by establishing a network of car-free “Safe Streets”.Poe emphasized that a data-driven, evidenced-based, and more lasting institutional post pandemic mobility plan must immediately be crafted in consultation with experts and stakeholders to lay down and converge important insights, concerns and issues as regards the use of mass transportation in the new normal.


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