Multimedia Reporter

While the national government has downgraded the capital region’s lockdown category from ECQ to MECQ to GCQ, a number of challenges—such as limited public transport—still stand as bumps on the road to recovery. Last week, SparkUp interviewed four business owners on what they had to say about this topic:

Joma Ablay, WaveDigital

Digital Marketing Firm

No.of employees: 13

“The worker’s point-of-view has to be considered when drafting guidelines. Not everyone has cars and some areas have no access to shuttles.”

“Prior to the ECQ, we worked in our office in Paranaque with flexible working hours and a work-from-home (WFH) scheme twice a week. Nowadays we WFH entirely, with team huddles and client meetings through Zoom. We plan to continue working from home and carpool when it’s necessary to report at the office.”

“I hope bus lines that provide P2P services can be helped in adjusting to the new normal so they can resume operations. We are gradually building new commuter behaviors. The authorities must ensure health and safety measures are well-implemented in public places. This is an opportunity for the government to implement progressive programs and policies on public transport.”

Karla Singson, Scalewind Corporation

Full-House Creative Production Agency

No.of employees: 30

“We [have] divisions in tech and support with 30 employees. Our creative team does the day shift; our call center  does the night shift; our tech team reports as needed. All our business operations have had to shift to remote work due to the pandemic. We are considering carpooling services as we have a transport allowance for teammates and we can use that to subsidize transport. We hire within the vicinity so most will just bike to work.”

“My suggestion is for NCR to have more bike lanes and better guidelines for mass transport. Most of our teammates can’t afford taxis and cars, and we’d rather put our transport budget towards better forms of employee engagement such as bonuses and perks. Though, if safe bike lanes existed, I’d personally support giving our employees a bike subsidy.”

Michael Galang, Intego Insurance Company

General Insurance Agency

No. of employees: 10 (full-time)

“We’ve been conducting our business nowadays purely via emails and voice calls with weekly Zoom meetings.”

“As long as public transport is suspended, most employees can’t physically report to work. A shuttle is impractical for us as they come from all over the metro; so is biking. Some are from Rizal and Novaliches. A practical solution is to allow back riding because I noted that most of our staff have relatives with motorbikes.”

Tina Khoe Ang, Platino 950 Inc. 

Retail Jewelry

No. of Employees: 45

“Our staff are mostly women with an average age of 30 years and above. It would be impractical for them to walk, bike, or ride a motorcycle. That’s punishing them. Pinipilit lang.

“We really need public transport to operate… Jewelry is a brick-and-mortar business. Customers need to try on the goods first before making a purchase. For basic operations, we need to have a few critical personnel come in.”

“Under the GCQ, public transport will open albeit at a limited capacity. As of today (May 29), buses and jeeps are still not allowed to operate. This means unless the government changes its policy, the first few days of GCQ will be a total shit show for one plain reason—bottlenecks. Everyone will be crowding to find public transport to get to where they want to be. Given the limited number of public transport available, it’s going to be a mess of epic proportions.”

“The best way is to do GCQ and allow buses and jeeps to operate, albeit in an organized manner, following strict social distancing protocol. Help the buses and jeeps practice social distancing by placing “No Sitting” stickers on the seats. Stick them on the seats you want unoccupied. Then ensure that the MMDA checks that these seats with stickers remain unoccupied. Problem solved.”

Limiting transmission vectors of the disease 

According to Department of Transportation Assistant Secretary Goddess Hope Libiran, it is the responsibility of employers and business owners to provide shuttle services or accommodations for their employees.

“Ang guidance ng IATF, kung walang kapasidad ang employer or business owner na mag-provide ng shuttle service o mag-arrange ng pansamantalang accommodation para sa kanilang mga empleyado, ‘wag na munang mag-bukas o mag-operate,” she said.

“We are limiting the movement of people, and one way of ensuring that is to limit the number of transport modes available. Primary consideration is health and safety. We do not want public transport to become transmission vectors of the disease.”

SparkUp also reached out to representatives from the DILG and DTI for comment, but neither department has responded as of publishing.

Moving forward, stringent sanitary measures have been set, and will be strictly enforced, for public transportation in areas under GCQ. The complete and updated Public Transport Guidelines and Protocols for the road transport sector may be perused here.