PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) said it expects no changes in the number of public utility vehicles, and their passenger capacity, operating in areas under the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ). 

This comes shortly after the government placed the National Capital Region (NCR), Laguna, and Bataan under the less restrictive quarantine category which will run until end-August. 

In an e-mailed statement on Friday, the Transportation department said drivers and passengers in public utility and private vehicles in the NCR must adhere to physical distancing and health protocols during the period. 

“With the enforcement of the MECQ in the NCR, public transportation, and all other modes of transportation — privately-owned, with special permits, and/or dedicated service under the government initiative, etc. — will still strictly observe the prescribed physical distancing and health measures at all times,” DOTr said.  

Public utility buses and jeepneys can only operate at 50% maximum capacity, with a “one-seat-apart” rule. Passengers are not allowed to stand while the vehicles are in transit, and only one passenger can sit in the driver’s row of jeepneys.  

“As the threat of COVID-19 (coronavirus disease) and Delta variant cases soar, the public should remain vigilant, especially in using public transport. Just like during the ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) period, there will be stricter enforcement of safety measures to ensure that only APORs (Authorized Persons Outside Residence) are permitted to use public transport, as mandated by the Inter-agency Task Force (for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases),” said DOTr Secretary Arthur P. Tugade.  

Meanwhile, motorcycle taxi services and transport network vehicle service operations in the NCR are allowed to operate, while tricycles can only carry one passenger at a time. 

The DOTr added that the Philippine National Railways (PNR), LRT-1, LRT-2, and MRT-3 will continue to serve passengers during the MECQ. 

“Train marshals will be deployed to identify APORs and to help enforce strict health and safety protocols,” the DoTr said.  

Domestic flights and sea travel in the capital will continue during the MECQ, but this is contingent on the community quarantine restrictions of the passenger’s destination.  

The NCR had been placed under a two-week strict lockdown beginning Aug. 6 to stem a surge in COVID-19 infections which authorities believed to have been brought about by the highly contagious Delta variant. The lockdown was eased on Friday despite the increasing number of COVID-19 cases, which hit a record of 17,231 said the health department on Friday. — Angelica Y. Yang