Transport sector policies ready for easing of restrictions in Metro Manila

THE Department of Transportation has assured legislators that guidelines are ready for the possible partial lifting of quarantine rules in Metro Manila by May 16. Samar Rep. Edgar Mary S. Sarmiento, chairman of the House committee on transportation, said transport officials presented the planned policies during a virtual hearing Saturday. “Handang-handa na po ang Department of Transportation… ’yan po ang sinabi nila sa atin kahapon (The DoTr is prepared, that is what they told us yesterday),” Mr. Sarmiento said in a radio DZBB interview on Sunday, citing all sectors — land, air, railway, and sea transport. Among the measures that will be implemented are allowing only 50% of passenger capacity for buses and ships, and reduced and shorter bus routes. “The public transport system, and I’m referring to the land-based public transport system, is in dire need of reform, even pre-COVID (coronavirus disease 2019) scenario. Part of that is having to improve the efficiency of our public transport system. What has happened in the last 30 or 40 years, the model of bus franchises is no longer relevant today and we have been saying that even at the start of this administration,” he said. A trial run of the new bus route system — without passengers — might be undertaken on Tuesday. — Genshen L. Espedido

MinDA seeks US aid for COVID-19 impact assessment on power sector

THE Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) has sought the help of the United States government for evaluating the impact of the quarantine protocols on the power industry in Mindanao. MinDA Deputy Executive Director Romeo M. Montenegro, in an e-mail to BusinessWorld, said Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol, MinDA chair, has submitted a proposal to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to “help in carrying out the impact study.” “MinDA, as head of the Mindanao Power Monitoring Committee (MPMC), would be making an assessment of the impact of the enhanced community quarantine to the island’s power sector in order to determine measures needed to support the industry,” he said. The MinDA official added that while the agency has noted the reduction of power demand in urban centers by about a third of normal usage due to the lockdown and suspension of operations of major establishments and industry, “the situation may be slightly different in the provinces” where electric cooperatives mainly serve residential consumers. MinDA, through the MPMC, has worked with USAID for a program that pushed for the establishment of renewable energy projects as well as an online-based facilitation channel for these proposals. Mindanao, which is not yet connected to the national grid, has a power capacity of about 2,500 megawatts (MW) with an 800-MW surplus. — Carmelito Q. Francisco

Eagle center faces financial squeeze due to lockdown

THE Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) is ramping up its call for donations online as it grapples with limited funds amid the lockdown prompted by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak. The Philippine Eagle Center in Davao City run by PEF has been closed to paying visitors since mid-March due to COVID-19 related restrictions as well as a safety measure following a confirmed bird flu outbreak in Luzon. PEF Executive Director Dennis I. Salvador said while the center, which houses 31 Philippine Eagles and 81 other animals, has a steady fund from government, international organizations, and private sector sponsors, “the expanse of work requires more funding.” Among the online initiatives launched recently are a crowdfunding campaign with wildlife cinematographer Dan O’Neill and the Giving Hero app, where people can donate a minimum of P50. The Eagle center has a P1.5 million monthly maintenance expense, which does not include costs for forest guards, research, and conservation efforts. “Additionally, we cannot move around to rescue eagles in trouble nor support our forest guards whose families are now likely to be starving,” Mr. Salvador said through messenger. Income from the center helps support 305 forest guards in different parts of Mindanao. There are also 125 forest guards in Apayao being assisted, although their salaries are paid for by the local government. Mr. Salvador said continued online fundraising activities are also crucial to ensure that PEF does not lose its “highly trained and passionate staff.” Meanwhile, PEF is preparing new protocols that will be implemented at the 8.4 hectare Eagle Center when restrictions are lifted by the government. — Maya M. Padillo