THE Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) has accepted the recommendation of the economic team to open up public transportation further to help the economy recover, Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua said.

“We proposed to the IATF recently is to shift from a policy of total risk-aversion to risk management and that is where we are going. The EDC (Economic Development Cluster) signed a joint position and presented it to the IATF and the IATF accepted it last Monday to further open up, safely and sufficiently, the public transportation system,”  Mr. Chua said at a Senate budget briefing by the Development Budget Coordination Committee Wednesday.

He did not discuss specific plans to reopen public transport.

“This will complement our rebalancing of the economy and open it up more,” Mr. Chua said.

He noted that the easing of lockdown restrictions, which started in June, allowed more parts of the economy to resume activity and bring back jobs, but the economic gains have still not been maximized as mobility remains restricted.

In August, he said visits to public transport stations dropped 60% despite looser restrictions.

“It is not enough just to open the economy to bring people back to work, it is also important to revive public transportation sufficiently and safely as possible,” he said.

The Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) late last month submitted recommendations to the Transportation department to improve public transport during the pandemic.

This includes allowing the rail system to operate at 50% capacity, similar to jeepneys and buses, from up 20% currently, and to equip public buses with speed limiters.

MAP also suggested the adoption of a congestion pricing scheme for private vehicles in Metro Manila over the medium term to address the capital’s congestion problems. — Beatrice M. Laforga