Out of touch?
A memorandum issued by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board allowing passengers to stand in selected public utility vehicles puzzled and worried some Filipinos.
The LTFRB on Monday announced that commuters of public utility buses and public utility jeepneys (Class 2) can now stand in the vehicle, provided the following conditions are met:
- Low-Entry/Low Floor public utility bus: Maximum of 15 standing passengers will be allowed, one-person apart
- Coach-type public utility bus: Maximum of 10 standing passengers will be allowed, one-person apart
- Modernized public utility jeepney (Class 2): Maximum of five standing passengers will be allowed, one-person apart
The agency said the policy is meant “to make the most of the spaces in the following public vehicles without violating public health safety protocols.”
However, the memorandum circular said operators should maintain the strict implementation of minimum public health safety protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
It drew mixed reactions from the public, with some perceiving it to be ineffective. According to them, commuters have long been standing in utility vehicles for the past months.
“Mga pasahero ng bus, mini bus sa Manila bago ilabas ang memo na to: [emojis of a man and woman raising hands],” a Facebook user commented.
“Mga bhe, ilang beses nakong tumayo sa bus for the last 3 months, tapos ‘di pala ‘yun pwede,” another online user wrote with emojis of a woozy face and a clown.
“Tayuan naman na talaga even before this,” Philstar.com news editor Jonathan de Santos commented.
“Nice of them to catch up finally, have any of them actually seen a bus?” Manila Times columnist-editor Ben Kritz said.
Others were not too sold about the policy change, airing their concerns that the easement would translate to a rise in COVID-19 cases.
“Huwag naman, tapos lockdown ulit. Mag isip-isip, maski konti,” a Facebook user commented.
“Sana hindi na, [maximum] capacity na lang… mabuti na ang nag-iingat kesa mabulabog na naman ang mga kinauukulan, lalo na’t hindi naman pinaglalaanan ang paghahanda,” wrote another Pinoy.
In November 2021, it was reported that the LTFRB backtracked on its earlier recommendation to allow standing passengers in modern jeeps and buses before increasing the transport capacity of public rides.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, commuters were discouraged from standing on public transportation to implement physical distancing.
In its safety protocols for COVID-19, the health department said that people must stay at least one meter apart in public. This is nearly equivalent to a length of a motorcycle.
The government has since allowed full seating capacity in public utility vehicles following the shift to COVID-19 Alert Level 1 as the country opened up from lockdowns.
Despite this, the public is still mandated to adhere to minimum public health protocols such as wearing of face masks and physical distancing.
The optional face mask policy does not apply to public transportation, according to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s previous memo.