WITH the ongoing threat of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), public transportation has been limited. Only half of the total capacity of jeepneys are allowed due to physical distancing measures. The government has also not allowed backriding on motorcycles due to the possibility of transmission between the rider and the driver.
Because of the limitations on public transportation, this has become a commuter's nightmare. A quick look around town would show people waiting along the sidewalks hoping to get a ride home. You would see some rushing toward a jeepney or L300, hoping that they will finally get a ride after waiting for a ride for an hour or more.
Hailing a taxi is not financially viable for many of the Dabawenyos, some of whom are only being paid the minimum daily wage.
Under the modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), more offices and businesses have been allowed to resume operations. This resulted in more people going out of their homes to work. This means there are more people along the sidewalks waiting to get a ride on whatever public transportation is available.
Now that it is the rainy season, it is much harder for commuters to get a ride home. With limits on mass public transportation, there are few options Dabawenyos can choose from when traveling around town.
One of the viable options for most Dabawenyos is getting a ride on a motorcycle taxi or being picked up by a family member who has a motorcycle. However, this is currently not allowed under existing guidelines.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque did say previously that the Inter-Agency Task Force for the management of Emerging and Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) has approved back riding on motorcycles "in principle." But the guidelines for this have yet to be officially approved and released.
Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio said this week that the City Government will formally appeal to the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to allow motorcycle back riding as public transportation within the city.
The mayor said she understands the plight of some Dabawenyos who had long been urging the local government to allow back riding, not only for direct relatives but also as a mode of transportation especially in some areas in the city with few options for public transportation.
"Even mga households and families, naa sila'y mga motor, pero wala sila'y four-wheeled vehicles (Households and families own motorcycles but do not have their own four-wheeled vehicles)," she said.
Another option for commuters is to either borrow or purchase a bike. Because of the community quarantine, the local government unit has already made efforts to make Davao City friendlier for bicyclists. However, due to the high demand and low supply, the prices of bikes have been steadily increasing.
There are also free bus rides for some groups. However, not everyone will always be able to get a ride because it is always a first-come, first-serve basis. If you are unable to get on one, it is either you wait for a long time or find another way to get home.
A carpool is also an option but it is very risky too.
There is a need for the national government to adjust its guidelines when it comes to public transportation. Now that it has allowed more people to work, it should have also prepared the transportation sector to cater to more people.
Remember what happened when the city was placed under general community quarantine (GCQ)? On the first day of GCQ, only a few public utility vehicles were available because the Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board required operators to secure a permit. Unfortunately, these were not processed before the shift resulting in a commuter's nightmare.
Something similar is happening now. There are more people allowed to work but there are not many options for public transportation. Whatever available transportation there is, may not be viable for some workers.
The best course now is maybe to continue to call on the government to at least allow motorcycle back riding.