Transporation Secretary Arthur Tugade during a late night address of President Rodrigo Duterte (screengrab from RTVM video)

Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade denied the allegations hurled by Senator Nancy Binay that the government doesn’t have any plans for public transportation as Metro Manila eases its lockdown restrictions.

“Hindi ho totoo na walang plano. Mayroon hong mga plano. At sa aming paglunsad at pagganap ng mga planong ito, naturalmente, na mayroong mga taong nai-inconvenience,” Tugade said during a televised briefing on Tuesday.

Photos and videos uploaded in social media show stranded commuters found along major roads waiting to hail a ride to go to work while some individuals were seen walking to or from their homes to their destinations.

Tugade said the government’s bus augmentation system along Edsa can only cater to four stops for the whole 24-kilometer-wide highway.

Tugade received flak on social media right after the national government permitted businesses to resume its operations without guaranteeing enough public transportation.

“Sinasakripisyo ba ho natin ang mga manggagawa? Hindi po. Lahat po tayo dito sa panahon na ito ay may tama, may inconvenience, may moments of discomfort. Lahat ho tayo mayroon niyan,” Tugade explained when asked if he prioritized the economic status of the country rather than the welfare of the citizens.

“Ang pakiusap ko lang ay magkapit-bisig tayo at intindihin natin ‘yung estado ng sitwasyon pagka’t itong inconvenience na ‘to sa aking pananaw at sa aking paniniwala ay temporary lamang,” he added.

Tugade also clarified the government’s decision to ban public utility jeepneys (PUJs) from operating to observe social distancing, even when commuters were seen jam-packed into military vehicles and on flatbed trucks, saying the inconvenience is due to a ‘failure of implementation’ rather than the flawed banning of the PUJs itself.

“Kung may mga nangyayaring ganyan, hindi ho yan resulta ng pagpapayag but resulta ng tinatawag nating ‘failure of implementation’ at kailangan lang i-correct,” he explained.

Tugade also clarified that if the trains and buses fail to meet the rising numbers of passengers, then jeepneys may be allowed back its operations on the road as long as they are roadworthy. 

Binay earlier in the day said the government “clearly” is not prepared to answer the need of commuters for public transport while the National Capital Region is under GCQ with few public vehicles on the road since Monday.

She even suggested that DoTr officials should instead commute to work and experience for themselves the road transport guidelines they have put in place under General Community Quarantine (GCQ) since June 1.

“Ano ba talaga ang plano ng DOTr sa commuters? Three months under ECQ and still they have no clear plan in place. What happened to foresight? Mabuti sila’t aircon ang mga sasakyan. Eh kung subukan kaya ng mga opisyal ng DOTr mag-commute mula sa kani-kanilang bahay papasok sa opisina nila (sa Clark City o Ortigas)? Dapat maramdaman nila ang hirap na pinagdadaanan ng mga commuter. They won’t be able to plan well if they don’t feel and understand the people’s daily struggles,” she said in a statement.

Binay believes that commuters’ travel miseries will continue under GCQ or even MGCQ until “no holistic and realistic public transport plan is put in place.”

“Di po lahat ng pupunta sa trabaho eh sa EDSA o sa Commonwealth dumadaan. Yung pagba-ban ng jeepneys sa kalsada ay unrealistic, anti-commuter at anti-worker. Obviously, DOTr is favoring a certain segment of the mass transport sector, while ignoring and isolating the biggest public transport segment which the majority of the commuting public depend on,” she added.  (RJ Espartinez)