“Late in the evening of August 2, authorities announced that Metro Manila would be returning to a modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) following a request by frontliners for a ‘timeout’ as they try to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Metro Manila’s shift back to MECQ kicked off on August 4, and is scheduled to last until August 18. The provinces of Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite, and Rizal all reverted to MECQ as well.
“The return of MECQ once again brought with it a public-transport ban, meaning there are currently no train lines (MRT-3, LRT-1 and LRT-2, and PNR), public buses, jeepneys, transport network vehicle services (TNVS) like Grab and Angkas, and taxis to ferry you around the city. Some tricycles remain operational, but this is subject to local government unit (LGU) and Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) guidelines. Shuttles for healthcare workers and other frontline personnel are also available.
“According to the Department of Transportation (DOTr), only authorized persons outside residences (APOR) are allowed to drive around in private vehicles. Cars are also allowed to carry a maximum of two people per row, so if you own a three-row SUV, that’s just six people. Company shuttles are permitted, but they can carry only up to half of their maximum passenger capacity.”
“The National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 has had a sudden change of heart with regard to the backriding ban in areas once again placed under MECQ. Joint Task Force COVID Shield commander Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar disclosed in a radio interview that the NTF made the decision late in Monday evening—a few hours before the reimplementation of MECQ in Metro Manila and some of its neighboring provinces.
“Of note, backriding or pillion riding is no longer exclusive to couples and domestic partners, as was the case before the reintroduction of MECQ. It will now be allowed ‘even if yung APOR (authorized person outside residence) o yung pasahero is not related dun sa nagmamaneho,’ said Eleazar. (Click here to see who is considered an APOR.)
“However, the NTF under Secretary Eduardo Año has set the following conditions for backriders:
- The passenger must be either a medical frontliner or an employee of a sector that is allowed to operate during MECQ. They must bring an identification card or employment certificate to show at checkpoints.
- The motorcycle must be equipped with a backriding shield, either mounted on the motorbike or a backpack-style barrier. These were the two prototypes approved by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.
- The rider must always bring a barangay-issued quarantine pass.
- The motorcycle must be privately owned.
“Eleazar said these guidelines have been relayed by the Philippine National Police Directorate for Operations to local police stations for immediate implementation.”
“Following the return to MECQ of Metro Manila and select provinces in Luzon, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) confirmed on August 3 that the Unified Vehicular Volume Reduction Program (UVVRP), otherwise known as the number-coding scheme, will remain suspended. Not that it should matter that much, as all non-essential workers are required to stay indoors at all times.
“If you do need to drive out—to replenish your supplies, for example—note that the government has also announced that quarantine passes are once again required. According to a report by CNN Philippines, Department of the Interior and Local Government spokesperson Jonathan Malaya confirmed that this will take effect along with the start of MECQ.
“Authorized persons outside residence (APOR), on the other hand, will be allowed to go out as usual. For a full list of APORs, you can check out our previous story.”
“With MECQ restrictions once again limiting travel and on-site work and office operations, the Land Transportation Office has announced that the registration validity of vehicles with plate numbers (or conduction stickers, if plates are still unavailable) ending in 6, 7, and 8 is extended until September 30, 2020.
“In a separate update, the agency has also confirmed that the registration validity of vehicles with plates ending in 9 and 0 have been extended to October 30 and November 30, respectively.
“With this, the registration of the indicated vehicles may be renewed until the new deadline without penalties and surcharges.”
“The LTO has confirmed that all of its branches located in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal will be closed until August 18, in compliance with the stricter quarantine protocols. If you were planning to drop by an LTO office within the next couple of weeks, you now have to reschedule.
“The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) is another agency that has suspended its operations in MECQ areas until August 18. It also reminded PUV drivers that the ban on public transport is back in effect during this time.”
“The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has installed new lights along the iconic Manila thoroughfare, spanning from the Welcome Rotonda in Quezon City all the way to Morayta—a total of 1.9km in length. Manila City mayor Isko Moreno took to Facebook to thank the DPWH and secretary Mark Villar for illuminating the busy eight-lane boulevard.
“‘Before and after: España Boulevard. Pinailawan mula Rotonda hanggang Morayta, 1.9 kilometers ang haba,’ Moreno said on social media. ‘Thank you, secretary Villar and the DPWH! Manila, God first!’”
“According to a post by the DOTr, it is now fast-tracking the opening of private motor vehicle inspection centers (PMVIC) across the country, with 113 of 138 inspection sites having already been awarded to private operators. It added that the PMVIC authorization committee is eyeing to have 32 sites up and running by the last week of August 2020.
“‘The [Authorization Committee] is targeting to activate the 32 PMVIC sites hopefully by the last week of August,’ DOTr Authorization Committee head Giovanni Lopez said.
“‘We have been conducting ocular inspections, despite travel limitations due to COVID-19, to determine the readiness of these sites,’ Lopez added, stressing one of the key requirements for site readiness is its connectivity with the LTO’s information system, which is already being tested and ironed out.”
Click here for a list of PMVIC sites that will be ready to operate within the month.
“The NLEX Corporation has refuted claims that motorists and passengers must present NPS (swab) test results at all entrances and exits of the North Luzon Expressway, via an advisory on its Facebook page.
“The post reads: ‘We have been made aware of the photo circulating on social media purporting to be a statement from NLEX Corporation. We would like to inform the public that the said statement requesting motorists to present swab test results at our entry and exit points is FAKE NEWS.’”
“On August 5, the DOTr sent out a memorandum circular making the use of face shields mandatory ‘for all passengers in areas where public transportation is allowed.’ The new measure will be implemented starting on August 15.
“The mandatory use of face shields on board public transportation is on top of the use of masks and other measures meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among commuters. Early last month, the DOTr suspended MRT-3 operations due to numerous cases of COVID-19 among its personnel despite the guidelines and numerous safety protocols put in place. The train line resumed trips as soon as enough employees for limited operations tested negative via swab tests.”
“It might not be as easy to notice if you drive past the construction areas on a daily basis, but a quick before-and-after gallery of Skyway Stage 3—courtesy of infrastructure buff dmitrivalencia—will show that there’s been major progress.
“Skyway Stage 3 was scheduled to be partially open in April this year before a fire in January that messed up a 300-meter portion of the elevated tollway. On top of that setback, COVID-19 hit the Philippines hard in March, putting construction works across Metro Manila on hold for a considerable while.
“Once it’s completed, the DPWH says that Skyway Stage 3 will divert up to 100,000 vehicles from the nation’s busiest thoroughfare. According to agency head Mark Villar, it will also cut travel time from NLEX to SLEX and vice-versa to just half-an-hour from the current three hours, and travel between Quezon City and Makati City from two hours to just 20 minutes.”
“The DOTr recently gave an update on the ongoing MRT-7 project, and it appears that the new rail line is starting to take shape. Once completed, it will connect with the LRT-1 and MRT-3 lines via a Unified Grand Central Station, otherwise known as the Common Station.
“Construction of this Common Station will begin later this year, but it will entail the temporary closure of the Roosevelt station along the LRT-1 line. The Light Rail Manila Corporation (LRMC) has announced that the closure will be from September 5 to December 28, 2020.
“During this time, the last stop headed northbound will be the Balintawak station. The LRMC is advising the public to monitor advisories regularly during this period. The organization initially planned to provide a shuttle train for passengers from Roosevelt, but decided not to go through with it due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation.
“That said, the company assures clients that it is coordinating with both the DOTr and the MMDA regarding the Bus Augmentation Program that commuters from the Roosevelt area may utilize for the meantime.”
“Latest update on the BGC-Ortigas Center Link Road Project: The Lawton Avenue side is now connected to Santa Monica Street in Pasig City. ‘When the BGC Ortigas Link Bridge is completed, travel time from Taguig to Pasig will be reduced to only 12 minutes,’ DPWH head Mark Villar said on social media, showing off an image of the newly connected bridge.
“Construction of the 961-meter link road began back in 2017, and it’s expected to be complete sometime in 2021. Currently, the DPWH is following what it calls a ‘catch-up plan’ to meet its 2021 target opening despite a couple of months of halted construction works due to COVID-19.”
“At least one member of Congress believes that service contracting is the answer to the country’s public-transport problem. Representative Ron Salo of the Kabayan party-list has filed ‘An Act Institutionalizing Transportation Service Contracting’ in hopes of providing commuters with a safe and reliable public transportation system, and driver and operators with a stable livelihood.
“Under the scheme, the government will contract out routes that need servicing to operators and drivers, compensating them based on their period of operation and distance traveled. Incentives and penalties will be given based on performance, and since drivers will not be pressured to meet a boundary, they would theoretically drive in a safer manner.
“The bill tasks the DOTr and local government units with serving as the scheme’s contracting authorities, while fares will be based on parameters set by the LTFRB—factors like fuel, maintenance, and return of investment will be taken into account.
“‘This framework or model has worked well in cities like London and Singapore. Locally, this arrangement had been deployed at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City, several years back already,’ a statement released on Salo’s official Facebook page reads.
“‘With the implementation of the quarantine measures, the DOTr and certain LGUs have already taken advantage of transportation service contracting in serving the mobility needs of healthcare and essential workers which proved to be more efficient as compared to the traditional boundary system.’”
“Motorcycle-based ride-hailing and delivery service Angkas is stepping up the game with free rides for healthcare workers. The motorcycle-taxi service will be rolling out this program starting August 8, until the modified enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila is scheduled to end on August 18.
“The ride-hailing app will be coordinating directly with hospitals based on recommendations from the Department of Health to find out which ones need this free service the most. A few hospitals have been picked, but the network will be expanding as the program goes on.
“Healthcare workers from the chosen hospitals will have to bring their own helmets with full-face visors for the free rides. Angkas also noted on Facebook that it’s open to coordinating with other medical facilities in need of the service for their healthcare workers.”
“San Miguel Holdings Corporation (SMHC) is in talks with the government to build two new road projects seen to ease traffic both within and outside Metro Manila, according to the DOTr.
“The first project, called Pasig River Expressway (PAREX), is a six-lane elevated expressway that will connect Manila to the province of Rizal. Measuring 19.37km long, the road will start on Radial Road 10 in Manila and end at a connection to the Southeast Metro Manila Expressway at C6.
“The entire project is seen to cost P95.41 billion and will have the following segments: R10 to Plaza Azul, Plaza Azul to San Juan River, San Juan River to C5 Intersection, and C5 Intersection to C6 Intersection. The first segment of the project will cost P25.5 billion and will have an estimated construction period of 24 months.
“The other project is the four-lane, 420km South Luzon Expressway Toll Road 5, which will start at Barangay Mayao, Lucena City, in Quezon, and end in Matnog, Sorsogon, near the Matnog Ferry Terminal.
“The toll road will have eight segments: Lucena to Gumaca, Gumaca to Tagkawayan, Tagkawayan to Sipocot, Sipocot to Naga City, Naga City to Polangui, Polangui to Legazpi City, Legazpi City to Sorsogon, and Sorsogon to Matnog. SMHC said the first segment is estimated to cost P26.3 billion and will take 24 months to complete.”