Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade denied there were no plans on public transportation as the national capital region shifted to general community quarantine on Monday, June 1.
Droves of commuters were seen waiting for a ride along main roads, and many were forced to walk kilometers to or from their homes and workplaces.
“Hindi ho totoo na walang plano. Mayroon hong mga plano. At sa aming paglunsad at pagganap ng mga planong ito, naturalmente, na mayroong mga taong nai-inconvenience,” Tugade said during a televised briefing led by Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Tuesday, June 2.
(It’s not true that there were no plans. There were plans. And in launching and implementing these plans, naturally, there were people who were inconvenienced.)
Tugade cited the bus augmentation system along Edsa, Metro Manila’s main thoroughfare, which made only 4 stops along the 24-kilometer highway. It worked in the first day-and-a-half of its implementation and it will stay, he said.
But on social media and even during the briefing, Tugade received sharp criticism for the ordeal forced upon workers when the government allowed businesses to resume without ensuring there was enough public transportation available.
A reporter asked the transport chief whether the government was putting economic resurgence above the welfare of workers, on whose shoulders the economy itself stands.
“Sinasakripisyo ba ho natin ang mga manggagawa? Hindi po. Lahat po tayo dito sa panahon na ito ay may tama, may inconvenience, may moments of discomfort. Lahat ho tayo mayroon niyan,” Tugade replied.
(Are we sacrificing workers? No. All of us here at this time are taking a hit, are inconvenienced, have moments of discomfort. We all have those.)
“Ang pakiusap ko lang ay magkapit-bisig tayo at intindihin natin ‘yung estado ng sitwasyon pagka’t itong inconvenience na ‘to sa aking pananaw at sa aking paniniwala ay temporary lamang,” he added.
(My only request is we lock arms and understand the state of the situation because this inconvenience, in my view and in my belief, is just temporary.)
Tugade said the situation will be replaced by “a long-lasting convenience and connectivity and mobility of people.”
‘Failure of implementation’
Next, Tugade was asked what the point was in banning jeepneys from the road to observe social distancing, when commuters ended up crammed into military vehicles and on flatbed trucks anyway.
Tugade said the government did not intend for this to happen, and that social distancing must be observed on any mode of transport.
“Kung may mga nangyayaring ganyan, hindi ho yan resulta ng pagpapayag but resulta ng tinatawag nating ‘failure of implementation’ at kailangan lang i-correct (If those are happening, that is not the result of permission but the result of what we call failure “failure of implementation” and just needs to be corrected)," he said.
Tugade and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board chief Martin Delgra III then explained that jeepneys tanked low in the “hierarchy of transport modalities” because they are more cramped than trains and buses, and their dispatch is less organized.
But if the metropolis’ trains and buses are unable to match the number of passengers, then jeepneys may be allowed back on the road as long as they prove to be roadworthy, Tugade said.
Median lanes unfair to PWDs?
Tugade defended the “median lane” scheme for buses – limiting them to the middle lane instead of the previous “yellow” or rightmost lane scheme.
Tugade was then asked to respond to criticism that the median lane scheme is unfair to senior citizens and persons with disability (PWD).
“Kung mayroong mga grupo o mga indibidwal na nago-object doon sa paggamit ng median lane, mayroon din ho namang mga grupo na nagsasabi, ‘Yehey, panalo, naumpisahan na 'yung median lane….’ At ngayon ho, nakararami ho sa aming pananaw at sa aming mga natanggap na ine-endorso ho ang paggamit ng median lane,” he said.
(If there are groups or individuals objecting to the use of the median lane, there are also groups saying, “Yahoo, winner, the median lane has started….” And right now, we have seen and received more who endorse the median lane.)
Delgra said there are talks to improve overhead walkways with the convenience of senior citizens and PWDs in mind. The point, he said, is getting them across the road safely.
JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.